Travels with Children
Plans do not get thrown out the window when travelling with small children but they do take on a whole new perspective. Recently I spent 3 weeks traversing Morocco with my delightful family which included a two and four year old. Before leaving Australia my Michelin map had been spread over the dining table for over a week to give a rough idea of places, distances and driving times. I wanted to share ‘my’ Morocco, my friends, my Magribi family, as well as see a few touristy icons.
Touchdown at 01:00am after 15 hours of flying, a 12 hour layover, and a 5 hour time difference, it was on the cards that our first day might be altered. Oblivious to the new time zone, I aroused the slumbering newcomers just after midday outlining a reverse travel plan over remnants salvaged from the breakfast buffet. An hour or so later we set out in a northerly direction for the composed city of Rabat just 100kms away and not cacophonous Marrakech 226kms to the south.
I had forgotten the time it takes to organize young children so it took me several days to become used to a ‘clock’ that varied even more than ‘Moroccan time’ which can be more than a little casual. Deciding when to meet for breakfast each morning became a rough idea and craving my early morning coffee, I would often breakfast alone. What I had considered might be a short drive tested attention spans to the limit so plans were frequently altered. On the many days of driving to our next destination, it seemed we had only just gotten into the car when it was time to get out again; sometimes less than 2 hours before a snack stop or a toilet stop. Once stationary we would take a vote to stay longer or return to the road; We had unscheduled mini picnics sitting under farmers’ fig trees and lunch under the cork trees at Eco Centre Bellota so the children could play for a short while. Two hours later with samples of discarded cork bark added to the cars crammed interior, we abandoned Moulay Idriss in favour of Fes and a longer stay.
While we still had a goal on our driving days we often altered the time spent on the road and our destination for the night. This was actually a bonus as we discovered some great places. La Perle Azrou in the pretty village of Ait Ain Amer just outside of Azrou, had a huge orchard, free range chickens and a playful puppy. Ksar El Khorbat at Tinjedad intrigued with its dim passageways and its’ piscine (pool) which you found after manoeuvering several stairways and turns inside the ksar. The serenity of Oasis Fint uncovered the leftover remnants of film sets, turtle and tadpole colonies with the added bonus of fabulous drumming sessions after dinner. Our hosts were wonderful with aesthetically pleasing homes, the locations were fantastic for the children, all served delectable meals either at dinner, breakfast or both.
It was not only curious but often caused a great deal of laughter to see things from the children’s perspective. In Rabat it is obvious from my photos that eating their snacks in the shade of giant flowerpots outside the Kings’ palace was much more fun than looking at the beautiful doors. Seen through childrens’ eyes, ancient Chellah conjured up numerous games from counting storks and walking in water channels to sitting astride fallen Roman columns (now imaginary canoes) for afternoon drinks.
Stopping at pretty Asilah to see the artistry on the walls of the medina we tracked giant artistic ant colonies climbing the walls and I suspect it won’t be too long before at least two walls in their home become a creative palete on their return.
We stopped at several touristy mineral shops, not so we could bargain for pieces of meteorite or fossilized tribolites, but because the children wanted their photos taken with the giant skeletal dinosaur models. In my desert home of Ramlia, it was the most natural thing in the world to join the village children on raiding parties in the gardens followed by snacks ‘alfresco’ munching into freshly pulled spring onions & beetroot; as they said in the good old days ‘a little dirt won’t hurt.’
Even though travels with the little ones taxed even my patient nature, our adventures were an absolute delight. The car was always full of ‘stuff’; It was never ‘tidy’. Each day we said ‘good morning new rubbish bag’ to what else? Yes, a clean rubbish bag. We invented so many new games we could probably become millionaires if they were patented. An impromptu stop to clean up a projectile of vomit on one of the most scenic roads in Morocco and an emergency dash to the clinic from the dunes of Erg Chebbi after a scorpion bite are not on my list of ‘things to do on holiday;’ But I loved every day with my family and would not change a single moment.
Actually that’s not true - I never want to see another scorpion.