Sunday 21 April 2024

Casablanca - day 1 in the White City

It didn't take long to decide what to put on today ... only one choice! After a good night's sleep and an amazing array of food on offer for breakfast we had a free day ahead of us.

A small group of us set out to find an ATM and a supermarket. Cashed up with dirham (1 dirham = 15 cents AU) we headed to the Carrefour Gourmet supermarket in search of essentials like razors and deodorant (just in case our luggage doesn't arrive today) and snacks.

Casablanca is very French with street names in French, lots of patisseries and most people say Bon Jour. I even saw men with bread sticks under their arms! 

The big hotel in the centre, the Onomo City Centre, is home for three nights.

This afternoon most people have gone for a walk and I've stayed home to blog. Noel and our local guide hope to be able to collect our luggage too. Fingers crossed.

Several hours later:  A big day of walking was thoroughly enjoyed by all, the highlights as passed on to me were the ex Sacre Coeur Cathedral and the surrounding gardens with fountains, a group of North African singers who meet regularly in the park to sing and enjoy fellowship, and the friendliness of the locals.

Unfortunately Rick's Cafe based on the bar in the film Casablanca was closed. Even more unfortunately, any attempt to contact the airport proved futile with regard to lost luggage.    

Thanks to Jen B. for these four photos

At 6 pm we had welcome drinks and nibbles in the attractive outdoor eating area of the hotel. Very nice typical Moroccan finger food, lots to drink and our guide gave us an introduction to the tour and himself. 

A second rescue attempt, a foray to the airport 25 kms away, happened after the Welcome as Marg had a luggage tracker and it was showing that her case was at the airport. A long story but Noel, Kelly and Marg faced up to a huge area full of lost cases  and checked them all several times. One by one they retrieved all the ten suitcases through dogged determination, with help from red Bunnik labels and straps, What'sApp communication between the searchers and group back at the hotel ... and several small miracles.

Some photos, with thanks, from Marg C.

Three hours after setting off (10.30 pm) they were welcomed home. Marg, her luggage tab and her two co-searchers were HEROES.

Bon soir.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Moroccan Discovery - our Travellers group set off for Adventure

At last the 18th April had arrived and our Travellers met at the train station in high spirits and ready for adventure. Sadly one couple were late cancelations so our number was down to seventeen. We had seats on the reduced size train thus avoiding a bus trip, the transition to the airport was seamless and we had plenty of time to check in and relax.

But some things just don't go smoothly, as we were about to discover! The Emirates flight was of the usual high standard but as soon as we arrived in Dubia at 5.15 am we realised there were problems. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates had suffered a horrendous storm several days earlier. 25 cm or 10 inches of rain had fallen in 48 hours, in one day they had more than twice their annual rainfall. The runway had been under water and many flights were cancelled. Dubai is the world's second busiest airport and there was chaos with large numbers of passengers stranded for days.

These photos were before we realised what was ahead. Our leader Margot showing the way.

We arrived at our gate for the onward flight to Morocco to be met by what looked like hundreds of Muslim people trying to get home. Ramadan had recently concluded and we discovered that most of them had been on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and had large amounts of excess baggage (read, shopping!)

As the crowds built, time for deparure grew close and no check-in was happening, the crowd grew tense - much pushing and shoving, high pitched noise, heat and pointy elbows in action, not at all fun. The staff had no control and we feared things were going to become more unpleasant as fighting and arguing started. We discovered that many of these people had boarding passes for previous days so their behaviour and emotions were understandable.

Finally they started to let people with passes for that day to go through.  Understandably our group of seventeen was no longer 'a group' and it was a great relief when we finally all got through. We arrived at out seats to find an old woman curled up asleep on them.

The plane was due to depart at 7.30 am and finally left at 11.30. Of course that meant a very late arrival into Casablanca, Morocco. And that is where the next nightmare experience began. After waiting an age for luggage at the carousel it was announced that no more was coming today and we needed to go and report our lost luggage. That meant 11 of our people were without luggage.

The totally chaotic process of claiming and the strong minding and argumentative women ahead of us meant that after more that two hours of trying to hold our positions in the melee, we escaped with one claim form for all our luggage. I am sore and bruised from the pushing and shoving. Australians certainly don't have elbow skills ... either using or dodging them.

We did eventually get out of the airport building where a massive crowd was gathered with floral arrangements and gifts to welcome back the pilgrims. We found the rest of our group and our tour leader Driss and then collapsed onto the coach where we could barely keep awake to listen to the plans. At 10.30 pm we arrived at our very smart hotel.

It has been a long two days.

Monday 1 April 2024

Sofles Creates a Car Park that makes People Smile!

 The under cover car park at the Benalla library was not a place you really wanted to go, but since Sofles has spread his magic it is now a place of great joy. Every person that I saw walk through the space, no matter how fast or slow, they did it with a smile on their face.

A stunning mass of colours, shapes, symbols and names, everywhere you look you see things that please the eye. It is a photographer's dream. How many photos are too many?

Go visit this amazing space, or enjoy my photos of this huge 'wall' sprayed by Sofles, who is known as Australian graffiti royalty.

Sunday 31 March 2024

Benalla Street Art Festival 2024 - part 2

 It is now eleven days since the Benalla Street Art Festival began and the town has been abuzz ever since. Most of the walls are finished but there are some artists still at work, the photos included here show the finished work or progress as at 1st April.

In order that they appear on the map:

No. 1  Merda

No. 2.  Buff Diss

No. 3   Sofles

Sofles work in the car park at the library is worthy of a full post so just one photo here. See my next post!

No. 4  Minna Leunig

No. 5  Melanie Caple

No. 6  Tommy Day

No. 7   Lisa King

Lisa is still hard at work on her large wall.

No. 8  REKA 

No. 9  David Bromley

No. 10  David Lee Pereira

No.11  Tim Bowtell with Sam Bowtell


No. 12  Neryl Walker

No. 13 Amanda Valdes

Amanda is working on all four sides of the Denny Street car park toilet block. It is a huge job and she is doing spectacular work. She still continues on with no time to talk.

No. 14  DXTR

No. 15  Travis Price

14th April - the finished works

Amanda Valdes

Lisa King