Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fabulous Fez

Anyone watching ABC television last night at 6.30pm would have seen the start of a series of programmes called Shamwari - A Wild Life.  Set at Shamwari games reserve in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, it gives the viewer a bit of an idea of what goes on behind the scenes at a private game reserve.  Certainly last night's episode would have dispelled any thoughts of game reserves being like zoos or safari parks.  Those lions killing the warthog would have seen to that.

Shamwari and other Eastern Cape game reserves are malaria free, like Madikwe and Pilanesberg.  This means you don't have to worry about some of the unpleasant side effects that some anti-malaria tablets have.  The game reserves around Kruger still have malaria, though I must admit I can barely remember seeing a mosquito there during my very many visits.  Still, better safe than sorry.  Take your doxycycline or whatever your GP advises and wear long sleeves and trousers in the evenings.  Personally I think you're more at risk of catching something nasty from a mozzie here in Australia, especially if you happen to live in the tropical or sub-tropical regions and more so if you are in one of the current flooded areas of Queensland.  There's dengue fever, Ross river virus and Barmah forest virus to name a few.  In other words - go to Africa, it's safer.

The afore mentioned TV show showed an unfortunate vet being chased by a cape buffalo calf after he had darted a big adult male.  It was a good illustration of just how dangerous these animals are.  In his book "Whatever You Do Don't Run."  Aussie game ranger Peter Allison who worked in Botswana's Okavango Delta admitted that he was scared of buffaloes, but that he was somewhat ashamed of being frightened of a "cow".  However he was right to be wary of them, at least if you are on foot they can be deadly.  Old lone males will charge without warning.  No mock charges with them.  If they catch you on foot without a tree to scuttle up they will kill you.  By the way, have you read his book?  I thought he had some funny stories but I was rather annoyed by his rather disrespectful attitude to his guests who were after all the reason he had such a fantastic job.  Anyway, maybe it's just me.

Alright enough TV and book reviews.  I want to recommend that you visit Fez.  Yes that's rights Fez in Morocco.  Yes, it's still Africa.  Granted there's not much wildlife there apart from the taxi drivers of course, but it is a wonderful city nevertheless.  In fact I don't just recommend that you go - I insist.  Fez has North Africa's largest undercover souk and it is fascinating.  Just make sure that you employ a local licensed guide if you're not there as part of a group tour because on your own you will get very lost.  When I was there a couple of yours ago I met a pair of Greek tourists who'd been looking for a way out since March 1973.  Boy did they need a shave!  And they were women.  Seriously, take a guide.  It's worth the money.  The souk is an incredible labyrinth of crowded alleys.  It's a journey back a thousand years.  The shops and stalls aren't there for the tourists - well mostly anyway.  There are one or two touristy shops but on the whole they cater for local needs.  There are tanneries and spice shops, carpet sellers and butchers advertising their wares by sticking camel heads on a spike above they shop and shoving some sort of green herb up their nostrils - the camel's nostrils that is, not the butchers.  That would just be silly, not to mention uncomfortable.

Seen from outside the old city is a sea of flat roofs and minarets scrambling up a low hill towards what is usually a beautiful clear blue sky.  Nearby is are the roman ruins of Volubilis.  Here you will find some of the finest mosaics in northern Africa and the location is quite spectacular with a backdrop of muscular rolling hills like a great ocean swell. Don't miss it.

Geckos Backroads of Morocco 11 days Tour  From $1295 per person twin share.

Morocco is considered one of the most romantic countries in the world. It boasts a heady mix of European, African, Moslem and Berber cultures along with legendary cities, ancient mud-brick kasbahs, rolling sand dunes, snow-capped mountains and an extensive and largely undeveloped coastline.

It is so colourful that first-time visitors might be excused for thinking they have walked into the middle of a Hollywood movie set. Indeed, Morocco has long been a favoured location for the film industry, due in part to an accommodating local bureaucracy. As we travel through this amazing country we are hit with an overwhelming sense of unreality. Is it really possible that a place can be both so exotic and so improbably picturesque? This, then, is the secret of Morocco, a destination that bombards the senses as we take the backroads from Casablanca to Marrakech.

From Casablanca we travel by train to Meknes, to explore the beautiful old medina. A little further on we reach Fes, where time seems to have overlooked the ancient streets and alleyways of the old quarter. We spend two days here, immersing ourselves in this splendid medieval city, and then travel south to explore the great sand dunes on the western edge of the Sahara.

A dramatic change of landscape finds us in Todra Gorge and nearby we explore the picturesque Dades Valley. We then travel along the fabled 'road of 1000 kasbahs', visiting an amazing family home at Skoura and the outstanding mud-brick town of Ait Benhaddou. Our final destination is Marrakech, where we spend our last evening in the great square - Jemaa el Fna - the heart and soul of this fine old city.

For more information call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447 or email me at peter.emery@ucango.com.au
Alternatively call the friendly staff at Ucango Travel - 1300 822 646

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