Nice sunset view as we pass over London, England, on our way to Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Shkodra, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Hiking the Peaks of the Balkans, June 13-24!

Monday, January 23, 2023

Introduction to the group

The rest of the group arrived at various times overnight, some as late as 4:00am. We went down for some breakfast at 8:30am or so and there still wasn't anybody up yet. But, we met everybody gradually as they came down over the next couple of hours.

Ruth and I wanted to go back to the ATM. We forgot that we were going to have to pay for our room in cash. Then we wanted to find a SIM card for the phone, and do some shopping to find some snacks that we can take on the trip.

(NOTE: There is still some kind of problem with the clarity of the photos on today's post. However if you click on the photo to make it full screen, you get the original quality. Then when you go back to the blog, it is good again. I don't have an explanation of why, but it works!)

Since we had already been to the ATM the day before and we knew where it was, we invited anyone else who wanted to join us.

Some of the group standing outside the ATM booth.

It turns out that the ATM will not work with a debit mastercard, but a debit visa card is fine. So there are a couple of Americans in the group that will have a problem, although our guide knows of another machine that we can stop at when we're out on tour today so we'll see if that works.

We stopped in at a fairly large grocery store. Again, things are more expensive than we expected them to be. Anything imported is pricey. But the selection was quite good. You just need to be prepared to pay for it. Couscous is popular here, and Ruth found a box of gluten free couscous.

From there, Ruth and I continued on our own to find a SIM while the rest of the group went back to the hotel.

The Morocco Embassy.

We are located in the "better" part of town. Lots of embassies and consulates are located in this area.

The main roads are paved, but you are often walking on the Sahara sand.

The side streets are not paved.

Because I didn't have cellular access, I lost track of where the cell store was located on my map. So we stopped into a fairly high end hotel and we found a girl who spoke English so I could ask where it was located. She thought it would be closed on Sunday, but she said "I can get you a SIM card". 

She called over another fellow, they had a conversation in Arabic and then she asked me for 200 UM ($7.35 CAD, $5.50 USD). I gave him the money, and he disappeared. We took a seat and waited. And waited. And waited. Ruth figured he had gone with the money and wasn't coming back.

A girl appeared with a tray and brought us some bottled water and glasses. 

After about 45 minutes the SIM card guy appeared and I inserted the card in the phone. It connected right away without any need for adjusting any settings. Always good when that happens!

The girl at the counter explained how to check our balance, and that was that. Very helpful. 

However, we only have 1 GB of data! Which is not very much. But if we're careful with it we can stay in touch with the outside world for the next week whenever we have a signal. Which our leader Johnny says won't be too often. So there will certainly be days where you won't hear from us and we'll have to catch you up on things later.

We walked by a barbershop. I needed a haircut badly! But the place was packed It would have been like an hour wait for sure. So we just kept going.

We went into a new, modern grocery store. Just to check it out. Very surprisingly, we found gluten free bread! And a big bag of gluten free snack mix that would surely do for the week. But most items had no prices on them. So we picked up a couple of items and went up to the cash to see what they cost. The guy at the cash spoke almost perfect English, and he was from Morocco. Very friendly guy and we spoke to him for a few minutes. He even showed us a couple of places in Morocco we should go that we didn't know about. 

Anyhow, it turned out that a loaf of gluten free bread is 280 UM ($10.30 CAD, $7.70 USD). Ruth doesn't need it that badly! Reminded us of the time in Barbados when we found gluten free bread at the equivalent of $28 a loaf! The snack mix was also too expensive for our tastes.

The next barbershop we came to only had one guy in the chair, so we sat and waited ten minutes for my turn.

There was a price list up on the wall, but we couldn't figure it out. It looked like it was 1,000 UM ($36.80 CAD, $27.50 USD) for a haircut. But it couldn't be! Then I remembered that there was a change of currency here in 2019, and many businesses still use the old currency rates, but you pay in the new currency which has one less zero.

So really, the haircut would cost $3.68 CAD.

Me, in the chair. Draped in the American flag!

Scenery along the way.

There is quite a lot of new, modern construction.

We think this is a a huge hotel complex.

Back at the hotel, we had a rest and then went down for our 5:30pm group meeting. Johnny introduced us to our head guide Alioune, and gave us a rundown of what to expect for the next week.

Alioune and Johnny.

In the photo above, Alioune is wearing the traditional mens clothing here in Mauritania. However it's not only for show. I'd say about 60% of men you see out in public are wearing this clothing. 

The rest of the group are...

Cathy from Northern Ireland
Thomas from Netherlands
Mike from Chicago
Lauren from Albany, New York
Emma from Melbourne, Australia
Amanda from Toronto
Marissa from Missouri (but now lives in Australia)
Ambia from London, England
Anfal from Kuwait
Muna from Kuwait
Mathewos from Ethiopia (but now lives in London)
Aidan from Edmonton
Latifah from Kuwait (but now lives in Virginia)
David from Chicago
Rónon from Ireland
Marissa from Seattle

There are ten women and eight men, plus our leader Johnny. They seem like a great group of people. Of course anybody who takes a trip like this has something in common... love of travel! The youngest is 23, and the oldest is Ruth at 61.

Our leader Johnny has been to every country in the world including the ones that aren't countries. I think the total is 210 countries... something like that. And two of the guys, David, and Mike are on a mission to do the same thing at some point in their lives.

Heading off to the restaurant for dinner.

Sat down for dinner.

Ruth and I shared this plate, plus we ordered a big Lebanese salad.
Total was 500 UM ($18 CAD, $12.50 USD) for the two of us, and we found that to be enough food.

Today is our city tour and lunch at the beach. Gotta go down and get some breakfast so we can get going at 9:00am sharp!


And in Canada...


  1. It's very disrespectful of the American Flag to wear it as a piece of clothing. It makes me think that perhaps the barber is demonstrating that disrespect as a piece to collect hair.

    1. It's not an actual American flag. It's a barbers cape made out of American flag like material, with an eagle on the front which you can't see. And, I don't think he meant anything disrespectful by it... I think he probably figured it was cool!

  2. Glad to see that this restaurant served salad! They do seem to like fries there, though...haha. Glad the haircut was reasonably priced, if not the gluten-free foods. Not too surprising on the latter, as they can be quite pricey here in the US as well.

    1. The other restaurant also served salads, we just choose to have the curry which we thought would have had some veggies in it but it didn't. Yes, they like their fries just like they did in Tanzania and come to think of it when people eat our back home in Canada or the US they have of fries a lot of the time too!

      The haircut was very reasonably priced, especially considering the amount of time he spent doing it.

      We knew that the gluten free food would be expensive but we were totally surprised to see that they even had some.

  3. This is going to be interesting. I hope you meet a lot of great people, make new friends, try all kinds of new and different foods. We're excited for you. People where Mexican flags in other countries. We see it as a sign of unity and the fact that they like us!

    1. We are definitely meeting some great people. Lots of good travel stories and lots of interesting life stories. We don't think that they have lots of different foods here, the norm seems to be camel stew and couscous!

      I think that Gene in Ohio was thinking that the cape itself was an actual American flag but was in actual fact just a haircutting cape made to look like an American flag with an emblem on the front. Lots of people wear t-shirts or other clothing with other country flags on but they don't make the clothing out of an actual flag.


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