We managed to get our well deserved rest. This is what we call a vacation from our vacations. Believe it or not, backpacking is hard work. You have to wake up early, walk a lot, party hard, it is just exhausting some times. So here in the comfort of our Modi'in home, we are enjoying the luxuries that we can get while it lasts.
We took the opportunity to get some of our paperwork together. I had to get my Israeli passport extended and Rebecca had to get a Russian visa for her Canadian passport.
Apparently, if you are married (male or female) you have to send the certificate to the Israel Consulate. This I failed to do back in Canada. The Consulate decided to return my passport with a little note saying that they have only renewed my passport for one year (instead of 10 years) until I send them the Marriage Certificate. Unfortunately, our time in Canada was running out before the trip and the cost to send "important" papers via mail is quite expensive. So we decided to do the paperwork here in Israel.
Well, the passport officer here did not like my Marriage Certificate because there is no official stamps (nobody told me that I needed to get it stamped!). Anyways, we decided to go the Canadian Consulate to asked them to get it stamped. When we arrived the officer told us that he won't be able to do that for us because he can only stamp Federal documents and a Marriage Certificate is a Provincial one. What the f***. What do we do now? My Israeli passport will expire before the end of our One Year Trip. To wrap things up, the nice passport officer at the Israel's Ministry of Interior gave me a one year extension free of charge so I can get back to Canada and send my forms to the Toronto Consulate.
On with Rebecca's Russian visa. This was kind of a nightmare. We started by going to the Russian Consulate. This was a complete mess, full of people. We weren't even able to get into the consulate. The people at the door would not give us any information. We finally, sneaked into a side door and we got someone to talk to us. We just wanted information about a tourist visa. The very nice woman (sarcastic) said and I quote: "it is impossible", and I said "but how do we get into ..." cutting me off she said "it is impossible", she turned around and left, that was nice. This whole ordeal took about 3 hours just so we can hear that it was impossible to get the visa. By this point we were just thinking of paying the penalty and changing our flight so that we don't fly to Russia.
Anyways, we decided to go to a travel agency to obtain our visa. This is another method to obtain it if you don't have an invitation from a citizen of Russia. Yes, you need one if you don't go through an agency, crazy!
Our intention was to go to Moscow and then St. Petersburg continuing to Riga, Latvia and then back to Moscow. For that we need a multiple entry visa, which the Consulate denied it to us. They are really a pain on the ass! I really think that their country is still a little bit behind in time. So we probably will have to cancel our Latvia section of our trip.
So, we are staying in Israel until the 19 of May when we have our scheduled flight to Athens.
We will keep you posted.
I now finally know what The Clash were singing about - a Kasbah is a fortress and Morocco is full of them.
We started our Morocco adventure when we arrived in Marrakech, an imperial city. We walked in the main square of the Medina (old city) and we were greeted by snake charmers, acrobats, fortune tellers and peddlers of all kinds. We also were greeted by very helpful young kids that don't want to do anything but help you find your hotel and take you money afterwards. I gave some but apparently I was a "crazy man" for not giving him enough of a tip...
The Medina is really crazy with lots of people, souks (street markets), donkeys and motorcycles and it almost impossible to find anything. We got lost many times but it was wonderful! We even made it to the Mellah which is the old Jewish quarter of the old city. The Jewish cementery seems to be super old with tombs that don't even have names attached to it.
We decided to take a 3 day tour to the Sahara desert. The tour consisted mostly in driving through windy roads across the Morocco's mountains in a little van. We stopped in a Kasbah where the movies Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator were filmed. Appartently Morocco is booming with the film industry. Many movies are filmed here such as The Mummy, Sahara, etc. And you can find entire replicas of Mecca and Jerusalem on the road.
The second night of our tour was spent sleeping in the Sahara desert. We took a sunset camel ride guided by Berber men dressed in their traditional desert clothes. At our campsite, we climbed the sand dune only to miss the sunset. Our calves were burning! We spent the night drinking Berber whiskey (actually a tea), eating, singing and drumming to the beats of the desert. The tour ended the following morning with the final camel ride back to the van and a very long drive back to Marrakech (12 hours of it).
We spent a final night in Marrakech before taking another long train ride to Fez, another of the imperial cities. Fez seems to be a calmer city that Marrakech and it has it on charm. People seem to be friendlier and the artisans are truly authentic. We had the time to explore the city and we ran into old friends of our Sahara tour. One recommendation, don't take pictures of the Royal Palace. The guards don't seem to like it and made me erase the picture from my camera.
We will go now hunt for a place to eat and decide where to go next. Our plan is to make our way north and then on to the south of Spain until Madrid. We want to make it to Israel before the 28 of April for Yom Ha'atzmaut.