May 25, 2015: Compromised Cards and No Cash

Today is our day to return from Morocco to Spain. I do not have to be “back at work” until tomorrow afternoon but we figured that trying to get back to Cáñar tomorrow would have just way too hectic and risky and not worth it.  So instead we have a semi-leisurely day today to work our way back with the expectation that we might not get back to our village until after midnight.  Going back today also made it so that Shawn and Rachel can return the rental car easily tomorrow afternoon.

We started the day at the riad.  We had breakfast around eight thirty.  The same delicious bread selection and eggs that we had yesterday.  Dominica and Luciana were not able to join us while we ate but came up around nine to eat.  When they came up I went down to settle the bill and take care of that stuff.

As with nearly everything in Morocco (and many things in Europe) just because they have a credit card sign on the door and advertise that they take credit cards doesn’t mean that they take credit cards.  We needed cash, and a lot of it, to settle the bill.  We had been working very hard to have our cash down to zero so that we could leave Morocco this morning.  We had been calculating this carefully.  We were very, very short on paying the bill.  This was very frustrating.

Thankfully the taxi driver covered the tab for us and we were able to pay him later.  This is the same taxi driver with the SsangYong that we have seen every day.

It took a bit yet to get everyone ready and into the cab.  Then we drove to the ATM and got cash to pay for the hotel and the driver.  I could not get enough from a single ATM transaction to cover the train, though.  We figured that we would have to just get our tickets with a credit card at the station.

Our driver dropped us at Gare Fes.  There was plenty of time to get tickets and get on the train.  Rachel and Shawn stayed with the girls while Dominica and I went to buy the tickets back to Tanger.  And thus began our next adventure in travel woes.

We went through the entire line for tickets where they had a sign that they took credit cards and when we got to the front, again, they did not take credit cards.  Pretty much the entire line was people there to pay with credit card and getting turned away when they got to the front.  They sent us to an ATM across the way.

When we got to the ATM there were Americans there from Maryland complaining that the ATM did not work.  We tried it and, the moment you put in your pin the machine went blank and did nothing.  Thankfully, eventually, it spit the card back out.  But it made no attempt at getting you cash or anything.  So, we knew instantly that there was a skimmer on this machine and our data had been stolen.  Wonderful.  Now on top of everything else we know that we have a compromised debit card and we need to deal with that super fast or our bank account is going to be drained.  What a morning.  Now we have no money, no access to money and no way to get train tickets.

We tried some automated ticket machines but they did not work either.  We spent at least fifteen minutes trying to buy tickets that way.  OCNF customer service even came over to see if they could help.  Nothing worked.  The station we wanted would cause the machine to restart.  There was no way to get kids’ tickets.  Paying didn’t work.  Nothing.  Just did not work at all.

Finally, after thirty minutes of trying one thing after another customer service finally took us back to the desk and took our debit card there.  All of this could have been avoided and tons of our time, our compromised debit card and customer service’s time had they just done what they said that they would do in the first place when they advertised that they took credit cards!

We got tickets, first class again, in cabin number nine (the very last one available) on the train heading to Tanger and pretty much had to run for the train.  To make things more hectic, once we were on the platform someone gave us directions in the wrong direction to first class.  So we had to traverse the length of the train twice.

Once we were on we were quickly underway.  At least we were on the train, in first class and in a cabin to ourselves again.  The worst of things was now over.

I immediately set about trying to cancel the debit card.  It is a holiday in the US which will make that more complicated.  I tried calling the customer service number but, of course, the foolish bank only gives an 800 number which, of course you cannot call from outside of the US!  How short sighted is that?  Why use an 800 number which saves no one money when they could spend less and actually protect customers with a normal number?

I texted dad.  It was five in the morning where he is in New York but he was awake and in a little bit was able to call in and cancel the card.  That was a relief but it would not be until tomorrow morning before we would be able to look at the account and see if any money was taken out before we were able to stop the card.

The train journey was quiet and uneventful.  We had no cash to get food from the cart because every bit of cash that we had was necessary for getting the taxi from the train station in Tanger to the ferry terminal.  We were running very, very lean and as it was were going to have to tip in Euros.

We all just relaxed on the train.  Everyone napped a little bit except for me.  I got to watch all of the scenery again, which was fun.

It was a good time when we got to Tanger.  We were able to squeeze into a Grand Taxi again and zip over to the port.  We emptied out all of our Moroccan cash, tipped in Euros and were onto the ferry in no time.  We made it for the four o’clock boat and were the very first people to get onto the ferry so we had every seat to chose from.  We actually chose the exact same seats that we use two days ago.  We all even sat in the same ones.

We tried to get food on the ferry, but their credit card machine could not connect.  Will this ever end?  My card is cancelled now so even with an ATM I cannot get cash.  We were stuck on the ferry too, without any food or drinks.  At least the ferry trip is a short one.

This time I convinced Dominica to go out on the deck as I was sure that she would feel better.  She did and she did.   Much better.  I stayed inside with the girls where it was warm and uncomfortable but the motion of the ship really did not bother me.

Once in Tarifa we got through security and were back in Spain.  We got out to the parking lot where I was able to prove to Dominica that the people two days ago had been lying to her about discounted parking options to get her to go away.  It was full price, no exceptions.  We tried paying in the automated caja but that did not work.  Thankfully there was an attendant and we were able to pay her the something like one hundred and twenty Euros to get our cars!

We were off and on the road home.  We had a great time in Morocco but are glad to be back home in Spain too.  Everyone is looking forward to getting home and getting a rest.

We went east out of Tarifa towards Algeciras and I pulled into the mirador that has a refreshment stand there.  I have been past there twice before and always wanted to stop and was very happy that we managed to stop this time.  The views from here to Mt. Moses and Morocco are amazing.  The snack bar there had big sandwiches, ice cream and other food so we had our meal there since finally someone took credit cards!  Ah, Spain.

The food was actually good and now that all of our challenges of the day are over we were pretty excited to just sit for an hour and relax.  We sat outside to eat at first but it was way too windy and we eventually moved inside once some other people left and the space was free.  We took lots of pictures while we were there, it is a very unique view.

It was early evening when we got on the road and started the long drive from the mirador back to Órgiva.  This was uneventful and being tired we just took the toll road to speed things up.  We encountered no problems and were back in Órgiva before it was super late, but nearly everything was closed.  We stopped on the main drag and I took Dominica’s credit card and got as much cash as we could out of the telebanco hoping that it would still work and hoping that if someone was still attacking it that we would at least have that much less money in there for them to touch.  It worked and we got cash and were very happy.

Up the mountain we went, parked and were home.  Finally back home.

It was late enough that all of the bars in town were already closed.  We thought that it was an emergency but Rachel discovered two bottles of red wine in the house and I found a white one in the fridge.  Rachel, Shawn and I went up to the terrace to enjoy the quiet views of the twinkling lights down in Órgiva and polished off the last three bottles before retiring for the night.

Today was our last day with Shawn and Rachel.  Their time in La Alpujarra is now down and they are nearly three months into their European adventure.  Tomorrow they are getting up and getting straight onto the road to return the rental care to Granada Airport and from there they are getting a bus to the north and moving onto their next location where they will be for almost two weeks before figuring out how to get to Montepelier, France where they will be for almost a month, I believe.  They are now working each place that they go with WorkAway instead of couch surfing everywhere that they go.

It was late when we finally turned in.  This past weekend was quite the adventure, but now it is over.  With Shawn and Rachel gone we are going into our final week in Spain ourselves.  Tonight, when we went to bed, is almost exactly the one week mark to our time leaving Spain.  We leave late on Monday night, a week from tonight, to head to Malaga airport so that we can fly out in the wee hours of Tuesday morning to go to Norway.

It is very sad to think of our time in Spain coming to an end.  We have all really loved it here.  Shawn and Rachel will actually still be in Spain about one week after we have left.  But all of us are wrapping up our time on the Iberian Peninsula for now.