It has now been several weeks since 23 G4Funners returned from a trip to the exotic north of the continent of Africa. This blogger though has been struggling with a severe case of writers block, no doubt aggravated by the recent freezing of the cerebral region as Switzerland and the rest of Europe cope with the Beast from the East (Siberian weather)and financial markets react to the latest madness from the Pest from the West ( President Trump).
Firstly let me deal with our outward journey.
An early start for most of us on Sunday 04th February, which saw us leaving Zürich Flughafen and hopping down to Geneva to connect with our flight to Marrakech. One of our group had a slightly longer journey having attempted international air travel without a passport. In the end they made it on a later flight the same day, no real harm done.
Arriving in Morocco, having flown over the spectacular snow covered Atlas Mountains, and temperatures considerably higher than those that we had left.
Marrakech airport was an experience with immigration on full slow motion mode, and the golf luggage was locked out of the terminal, with the local Gendarmerie having to be contacted to unlock a door. The resultant delay was just as well as yours truly was having to file an incident report in the baggage department, after my Samsonite suitcase had failed to survive the trip and had incurred major damage, just held together by a mile of sticky back plastic.
Eventually we made it to the transit vehicles and it was off to our accommodation for the next 7 nights, the all inclusive Riu Tikka Garden Hotel.
Checked in, and unpacked we had time to explore. After a little while it was evident that the hotel had seen better days. But in its defence the staff were very friendly and everything was clean and considering the price we had paid offered good value for money. Top marks go to the orange juice at breakfast. The coffee however took me 7 days to get used to — I knew it was time to go home when it begun to actually taste ok.
Monday, and greeted with rain, wind and a bitter wind. Today we were playing Palmeraie golf club. One feature of this week’s golf was the possibility of hiring caddies for the round, which at a bargain equivalent of CHF 15 ,was taken up by a number of players and proved to mostly be a good experience. Luckily today we could have buggies as the conditions were decidedly inclement, and it was tough out on the course.
Tuesday-Samanah Golf – and a repeat of Monday on the weather front and possibly even colder, as it only took me to the fifth hole before I lost the blood supply to my fingers. The lost golf ball tally though was minimal, a vast improvement from Spain last year. The greens here were like linoleum and played havoc with my scoring.
The group was now getting into a routine, and most evenings pre and post dinner we would meet in the Zanzibar at the hotel. A bar with a slightly Derby and Joan feel, and one of the few warm rooms in the establishment. Waiters walked around with beams on their faces although this being a Muslim country you had to go to the bar to order, and once in a while the bar staff would break out into a traditional song and dance routine. Normally when they saw me coming.
One night Dawn and I and some friends ventured out to the Moroccan restaurant situated within the grounds, where we enjoyed a local delicacy of sweet pigeon pie and tried the national dish of Tajine. The evening also included some entertainment in the form of an octogenarian electric lute singer and player unfortunately slightly missing the X Factor.
Back to the golf and Wednesday saw us heading out to the Royal Golf club of Marrakech. A course steeped in history and one I had personally been looking forward to playing. Trees were certainly a factor here, and luckily today the big stick was behaving itself and I managed to mostly avoid the woodwork. I enjoyed the course, and the weather was appreciably better, though the recent rains meant today there no buggies. Other players felt the Royal a little boring and so our planned return for Friday was cancelled with an alternative venue to be sorted.
Thursday –Al Maaden – Again no buggies, but a vastly more open course, with just the odd palm tree to negotiate. The mercury had still not managed to climb to a comfortable level and layers were still required. Our Daniel though was still playing in shorts as he had done since day one –what a trooper.
Friday – and the alternative to the second round at the Royal. Today we were playing the Montgomery and a change to the normal Stapleford format and replaced with a Scramble playing mostly in teams of two. There were some initial issues with signage as the leading group played the ninth, which ran parallel to the first as their second hole. After a few shouts, whistles and Marshal Intervention the correct order was soon re-established. It proved to be a fun competition and congratulations to the triumphal trio of Nora, Carlos and Siegrund. Another positive was the weather was starting to improve and one could actually play a few holes in short sleeves.
Saturday –All too soon and it was our last day of Golf and today we were playing Amelkis. The sun was shining and the group’s spirits were high. The course signage was again confusing and by more luck than judgement we found the first tee box. The Atlas Mountains created a picturesque backdrop to this superb course, and the standard of play today was significantly higher.
Our last night and the group headed into town, and before dinner we had some time to investigate the delights of the Souk. A bustling place of stalls, street hawkers, shops and restaurants. The indoor market was a warren of passages and a positive fire hazard but hey it’s Marrakech.
Dinner was in a typical Moroccan restaurant, with Tajine featuring heavily, and some very palatable Moroccan red. There was an added extra as we were entertained by a duo of local belly dancers, as well as a lady balancing candelabra on her head whilst spinning around.
During the week there had been a competition running with the best three cards entered, resulting in a winning score for Peter S. –Well played Peter.
All in all, despite the cooler temperatures, it had been a good trip, and I am looking forward to next year’s adventures in La Cala resort Spain.
I will take away some lasting images of Marrakech. Firstly the traffic, totally mad, with overloaded Lorries weaving through flocks of motorbikes, carrying whole families, and the odd horse and cart adding to the mix. Secondly was the gentleman near to our hotel that whatever time of day and night it seemed was there to sell you a second hand washing machine –Priceless.
Many thanks to Nora for organising the trip and managing to keep the other 22 chickens on the relative straight and narrow, with all of us returning safely.
Also a big thank you to SWISS , who after some marathon E- mail communications ,have replaced my damaged suitcase with one of equal value –a most unexpected result.