Saturday, December 23, 2006

I know that this update was expected somewhat earlier than it is arriving, but that is the way of Peace Corps. It isn't as though I have a good excuse. I was at In Service Training (IST), and just found hanging out with my friends to be a higher priority than banging around Agadir and looking for a cyber cafe so I could type about souk buses and grand taxis. Im sure you understand.

Quick Facts about Agadir: It was mostly destroyed by an earthquake, and has been extensively rebuilt. This means everything feels 1960's modern. They can proudly boast not one, but TWO, Pizza Huts. They are unable to brag about their good Mexican food, as they do not have any. The grand taxi station is rather poorly located.

Grand Taxis: The final part of the triad of Moroccan long distance transportation. Also known as a "Taxi of/by Agreement", because all the passengers have agreed on a common destination.

The Grand Taxi is a pretty straightforward concept. 6 people cram into a Mercedes-Benz and go to a common destination. That comes out to 4 people across the backseat, and 2 riding shotgun. The driver gets his own seat. Grand Taxi's tend to be clustered together at the Grand Taxi stand, but they can be sometimes found in areas of high tourist concentration, or at a ad hoc renegade stand. The grand taxi is a great option if you and 5 friends want to take a trip. You can quickly charter a taxi, and assuming you have some idea of the price, will not get ripped off (badly). If you are traveling solo, it is still a quick option, you just need to wait until the taxi is full. This can take upwards of 3 hours, or as quick as 10 mins. Just depends on your luck. The major plus to travel in this fashion is that the taxi will not make unexpected stops before your destination, and will drive at a higher speed than either a transit or a souk bus.

Example Trip: My house to Marrakesh. There is no regular taxi service in M'ssici, so any trip would start at Rissani. GT to Erfroud, or Errachidia depending on where you think will fill up first. It is probably better to wait for the Err taxi. Then west to Tengrir, or if you are very lucky, direct to Ouzzazate. Then Oz to 'kesh. Long trip, but small segments with new closer friends in the backseat. A good time would be to make that in about 12 hours.

The downside is that you are often sardined into your seat, and a large amount of patience needed to wait for it to fill up. I have heard tell of PCV's buying an extra seat to either move the taxi quicker or gain more space. This is not a bad idea, but will make your trip cost double. But, if you are traveling in a group of 5, it is not totally unreasonable to spread the cost out amongst friends.

Some unscrupulous taxi drivers will attempt to charge you for your luggage. This is not common practice, and unless you are bringing sooooo much stuff with you that it is causing some problem no money should be paid. You may also find taxi drivers who attempt to take your entire group to the destination, but at a higher cost due to your relative ignorance. Your best bet is to make sure you are dealing with the official taxi stand of a town, and when in doubt check with other passengers or drivers.

Taxi drivers on the whole tend to be fairly good drivers. But, like most all taxi drivers they amount they drive is directly proportional to the money they make that day. So speed is often the primary concern, with your relaxation and peace of mind being second. The taxi's themselves are in good condition, often with amusing upholstery.

Overall, a good way to travel. It is often the quickest route, but it can also be the most expensive.

In the above post I have badly misspelled many towns in Morocco.

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