It takes about 1 full day of work to produce one entry in the Travel series. Enjoy.
Part 8 of the Morocco backpacking series: Backpacking through Morocco
Day 8: Drunk on laughter
By dusk, the silence of the sand is absolute. When the wind stops and the last drum beat still lingers in the air, I was suddenly aware of how alone we are in the middle of nowhere. Nobody said a word as we each became aware of the deafening silence. Then, one by one, as if drawn by instinct, we looked up towards a familiar yet alien sight that none had seen before. The crescent moon is upside down.
I was finally able to fall asleep under the desert moon. It was a clear Arabian night invigorated by its upside down crescent, the moon beckoned to my primal instincts in a foreign whisper. Nothingness just IS, the sand consumes all but the heaven.
When I finally woke up, sand had gotten into everything. Wherever there’s moisture the sand follows. My eyes, my armpit and every pores of my sweat gland that dared to secrete anything resembling water… and my crotch. They drink with the thirst of souls trapped in hell and I wondered how the American couple fared in their attempt to have sex the night before…
The shot I used to enter a photography competition, now that I have a nice big monitor, I can see how edited it looks for people with good monitors.
Ania, our protagonist of the day, with Band of brother type effect
Also starring: Dorota and Mark
Oranges split: 1 Dh
Bus to Fes split: 220 Dh
Water split: 3 Dh
Bread split: 8 Dh
Hotel split: 60 Dh
Phone card split: 20 Dh
The couple deserves a mention, not because Americans are so rarely seen in this part of the world, but because of the fundamental changes in my perception of them caused by the two. They met during the peace corp training and were sent to different parts of Morocco to serve the American image. The problem with the peace corp in Muslim country is that you can’t have sex. If theft is punishable by cutting off the thief’s hands, one can only imagine what the punishment is for adultery. Since they were both American and can both keep a secret for mutual benefits, they reunited illegally here on this trip to enjoy some much needed privacy. Even though the woman gave Mark her contact info, I have already forgotten their names, but I remembered them clearly not as the arrogant self entitled bitches I was led to believe. Then again, I am basing this view on a subset of groups that is known as backpackers.
We first met Ania and Dorota at the breakfast table. I was particularly interested by Ania’s professional camera and exchanged a few conversation with her about it, but left it at that after I get a weird vibe from them. (I understood later why this is the case) Later, after breakfast, we all set out to climb the huge dune mountain behind our camp. It’s only when I have been there, did I understand the nuisances of the desert. Yet it still calls to me in a primordial way. The wind on top of the dune cuts my skin like a thousand little knives, but I trotted on, failing only after I exhausted my muscles with my amateurish way under reduced oxygen condition. The sand dune, is larger than it appears… I will never forget the fact that the desert is a master at misdirection.
The sand dune I climbed and my footprints being erased by sand. This is a new style that I am developing which has less of the rugged scorched earth effect of my previous entries in this series.
Our campsite seen from above
After the trek back on the camel, I discussed at length with Mark about this weird desire to one day attempt to live in the desert for months at a time, because there seems to be something about it that fits my personality just right and that it is calling to me. But after 3 days and 2 nights in the desert, I think we’ve had enough of the wilderness for the current condition we are in. The dutch girls decided that they want to look around the supply town and we parted ways in order to hop on the bus straight to FÃ¨s. According to the information our localÂ But guess who decided to show up and head for FÃ¨s on the same bus? Yep, Dorota and Ania.
Road Trip on a bus… desert, snow and a brick
The day was still young and we had a long road trip ahead of us with great company. They were friends in Poland, Ania is studying French in France while Dorota is studying Journalism. We laughed all the way through exchanging adventures and experiences as we enjoyed each other’s company. We learned how different a woman’s experience is while traveling through Morocco, or perhaps any country based in the middle east. Where if they were traveling with men, they get ignored as if they don’t exist whilst if they are by themselves, they get marriage proposals almost everywhere they go from aggressive young men.
I was especially impressed by Ania’s ability to barter her way to doing almost everything for free. Ania, in my judgement, is the epitome of hardcore backpackers from my point of view at that time. I now know better and realizes that the circumstances of their achievements is very unique and should not feel bad myself for not doing anything near her level in the future.
What the countryside looks like.
Somebody decided to throw a brick into the bus’s window at the beginning of the trip. The driver was bleeding slightly and he just brushed the shattered glasses off of him and continued driving while we were thinking in 1st world country that the trip needs to be delayed and the bus changed. Nope, gotta do his job and get paid. Mind you, the trip crosses the Mirzana mountain and therefore above the treeline. At one point in the trip, the temperature dropped to below freezing inside the bus just like the winter in Canada. All the while we were still dressed in our Tshirts shorts and sandals for the desert. This is what that kind old Canadian engineer in day 2 meant by Morocco having 4 seasons.
Rest stop. The market is very similar to Taiwan’s traditional market, except everything’s dry.
Morocco is filled with inconsistencies like these. A mud hut in the middle of nowhere out of random, disconnected from everything.
Then all of a sudden we entered a lush green valley just as the sun is about to set.
We had no idea of the chaos that awaits us.
Now that I am sitting safely here reflecting back at that night. I was sure that we have possibly pissed off quite a few of the locals. I am not really certain how we got out in one piece. We were basically swarmed by a group of aggressive young local false guides the moment we got off the bus. As we continues to decline their offer to help guide us to a hotel, they become more and more aggressive. People were throwing fruits at us as we go from hotel to hotel to let Ania does her thing to get us cheap lodging. Dorota and I started holdings hands to pretend that we are a couple so that the younger ones can stop harassing her. As you can probably tell, things weren’t working out well and Ania’s glances were telling us that her persuasion isn’t working with the hotel owners and she’s blaming us for it. It became increasingly clear that since we are with them, the hotel owner were trying to engage the negations with us, the men, while ignoring whatever Ania has to say. Mark and I agreed that we are probably crimping their traveling style and had made the decision to part way with them, but appears to be impossible due to the swarm awaiting us wherever we go. The chaos continued until it took a surreal turn. A French colonial general (I am not kidding, the guy has the mustache and everything), rescued us from them and took us to a good hotel. Did I say I don’t like French people while traveling? Well, they just saved our arses. Tips to self, try not to arrive late at night to destinations again, the false guides are hungry to meet their daily quota and things will get out of hand.
The night belongs to the locals, the day to the tourists.
Surprisingly, we bumped into Balarge again (the guy on the hashish trail pilgrimage) at the entrance to the hotel we are staying. He was there just to exchange money while we were observing Ania and Dorota’s expert skills at bartering our lodging price. Coincidences like these happens and will continue to happen on our trip and I later coined this term the traveler’s aura, which I will get into later. We ended up getting cheap lodging on the terrace and then went out with Balarge into the Souks to find the elusive restaurant Cheville. Of course, the night’s lesson still hasn’t took hold in our head on what could’ve gone completely wrong.Â So we promptly went too deep and got lost at close to midnight in the souks with angry and aggressive local brats who threatens to fuck us over in broken English, we thought Balarge’s broken Arabic might ease that tension a little. We were wrong.
Mark mentioned that the guy who was harassing us, was probably a good representation of the case study here. They want our money yet they swear at us. “It’s like they don’t understand good customer service and that it will get you the money.” I replied with my own revelation for the day before dozing off to sleep: “WeÂ got a glimpse of how real hard core travel Ã -la-Ania is like.