Africa 2009 – 03 Morocco

ALGECIRAS / TERRIFA – Land of Wind

Ferry or no ferry? Unseasonal dramatic weather shows no sign of abating. Edmund gives news of snow in UK unseen in 18 years; Marlon says worst ever coupled witih recession, means no business coming through B&P door. As we drive the coast to Teriffa, we pass hills deep with wind turbines. So we are in land of WIND, and with good forturne, in that evenings bar we meet an English wind turbine engineer, who can tell the story. He is freshly arrived with 4 of his mates for a boys weekend of wind surfing. (if the weather improves – if not theoretical wind surfing, mainly taking place in Terrifa’s many bars..
‘Those you saw, are an early first generation- small and on top of traditional pylon posts; they cannot cope with winds more than 20mph, so have breaks on them to halt themselves, so that’s why you probably saw so many still. The next generation developed angled ends to cope with higher winds. The latest are two swimming pools wide huge, and lazer controlled. Wave energy is like wind was 10 years ago.

Stick with me, kiddo, I say to B rubbing it in. The bar is a great success. It was recommended by our worldly guest house owner, (Spainish bohemium, home of inner courtyard, walls full of bright and confident paintings, tables with objects gathered, plants growing, curtains layered) which in turn was recommended by the girl in the port who told us the evening sailing was cancelled. It all plays poignantly into my current campaign with B – RECOMMENDATION through talking and asking is golddust. Forget independence, control and Lonely Planets. Find and ask a stranger!

What I love about B is, come the evening, when i sometimes read the days log to him, immitatiing his voice, saying
‘This is not me…..I don’t do this..’ B chuckles away. Just as I do as her immitates me, ‘I’m not Having it’, with playful exaduration of the h.

MOROCCO – At last African soil

Phosphate rush (Green march) in Western Sahara. Mulslim, share roots with Alh al-Kteb (People of the Book).

We play a game, us drifters, as we enter another country, recalling what we know of this land and culture before we enter: word exchanged for word. Spain was dominated by both of us with food and wine (Rjocca, Temperino, Machago cheese, Barry got Bull fighting. We forgot about God.

Morocco: colours, hashish, berber culture, colonised by the French (1912-56), souks, and Barry came here 35 years back in a VW Camper van with Petra and Marlon aged 3.. They got as far as Agadir, where there was still evidence of a great earthquake in which thousands died. So we’re not yet on Barry’s virgin country territory.

Men looking. Loan men walking. Streets confusing with debris. Men with Jallaba hoods up, protecting against wind and rain, as well as keeping secret. Monk like. Furtive glances, hiden doorways. We hardly cover any distance the first day – landing at Ceuta we still have to go to Tangiers to get the temporary car insurance, its dusk when we exit the port. Perhaps we were taken for the obligatory ride by our first Moroccan or perhaps not. Mohamed rescued me from labyurinthine streets, got into Des and guided us to an empty hotel and equally empty restaurant. He did not know of B’s dread of emptiness. Hot soup and at last some vegetables, which gave me much contentment but to B’s chagrin!

MARRAKESH Rain soaked Souk

Rain (continues). Mud streets, bars of huddled men, all facing one way, towards football on the TV. Morrocan passtimes – the serious and exuberant art of conversation..

Raid Nejma Lounge has come from the Loney Plant. Expensive (Euro80), but clean and welcoming on such a filthy night, after we circled the medina countless times driving up streets intended for carts and horses, stopping drowned men on motorbikes, who go out of their way to point us or take us to where we want to land.
It is owned, as they all are, by a designer frenchman, the inside reminds me of River Cat: a banana tree growing inside, brave colours, carved painted cement niches niches, and generally not very comfortable or practical (hard metal chairs, basin not catching water, etc).
Lost in the Souk. Djmena Square (less populated than I remembered when i was last here with Pip for her 40th) timeless and universal: story tellers, magicians, snake charmers, and rows of food wallahs with their street wise picked up banter:
‘Better than Marks and Spencers! … Alll right Gov? … Come and take a butchers’.
Theatre, and they loved the Italians who responded with equal colour, beneath their umbrellas in rain and cold. Sheeps heads, cows stomachs, we settled more conventionally for brocheete of poulet and VEGETABLES. That evening we finally purchased an umbrella.
The next day, the sun shone.

Tisi N TEST – Sunshine in the ATLAS MOUNTAINS

It was the Hub who told me about the R203 – motorbkers know the best mountain roads. The road followed a river valley rich with Almond trees in spring blossom, the softeness of the blossom and the light after the rain was …….. . Villages on mounainside terraces, like Nepal, universal, near rivers, with trench chanels guiding water to their fields. Later we heard Richard Branson had built a villa up this valley, and had a good reputation with local people for fair treatment of employers.
Entering snow, at last, watching Moroccan kids play without fear, belly sledging down the mountain. Motoring across the high range, coming out the other side we saw Hotel. Snow around us, wind cold and blowy, sun setting, already triple layers of clothes, and NO ENSUITE TOLET. I am incredulous that Barry said yes. Love?

We met Mohamed on the mountain. Young and observant, the Hotel was his home. He took Barry’s broken Raybans, located the tiny screw and with the care of a man habituated by solving, set to mending them as we tourists took in the last of the sun and felt its fading warmth, incredulous we were here on top of the mountain. Our secret drinking up stairs was unnecessary, as after our meal Mohamed joined us with a beer and eventually a whisky night cap. What was the life for a young man, alone up here on the mountain?
‘For how long have you been here?
‘A long time’, he replied ‘It was my father and grandfather before’.
So he lived up here alone, taking care of the family business that he was born into. Occassionally he would go down to Marrakesh or Agadir, and then his father would take over. He was 30.
‘When i was 30’, said Barry, getting into the business case ‘I stopped playing around and started my serious business life’
‘May now I am 30 i will start playing, he laughed.
Mohamed was our first Moroccon we’d made more than surface contact with. Unmarried, he enjoyed his freedom, like me he liked the diversity of friends he met. Marriage was a prison he said, and for now he wanted to live freely.
He quiped at the madness of Hussain II, draining the purses of Morocco’s poor people dry for the building of a mosque. The only income comes from when tourists raise their heads to admire the great height of the mineret, the pick pocket can pick the pocket.

IFNI – LEGZIRE Mountain to sea

Down from the Atlas mountains we arrived at the Atlantic sea find a road parallel with green grassed dunes curving softly down to the meet the sea.
Mohamed had said ’10 kilometers from Ifny you will find a place where the sea has made holes in the rocks and there you will find a fine place to stay’. B disbelieving and I doubting, we rounded a bend,
‘If he were right, it would be right here on this rock!’, said B not hiding his disbelief, but as we turned the corner we saw the sign.
We had a room with a window that opened out to the ocean, and that night the crescendo of tidal waves advancing fully up the beach, with the full moon, felt as if the sea would come into the room with us. Both of us restless with the raw energy.
And yes, there were huge rock arches – more than three at low tide – where the sea has erroded the mixed of softer sandstone and harder rock. At low tide the water receeds to reveal and island of rockpools, and the muscle and shell collecters along with fishermen come out to harvest the trapped fish, octypus, and shellfish. The French tourists happily join in. For us who just play, like children, the rockpools are a place of fascination rich with life: ananomies, sea slugs, small fish, warm water.
Getting more scatty – left Des back door open, chair outside. B naturally perfect and exasperated.

ROI du BEDUIN (Layonne)

Driving south our green sand dunes came bare, desert arriving. Tan Tan road dramatic for flowers blossoming after rain, yellow andpurple suculents. As the local man (partnered with an Englishwoman) who stopped to give us a lift last night, said: the rain may be bad for touristm, but good for us and agriculture. Acres of greenhouses have been flourishing by road side. At Tan Tan land changed to flat sand land. After B took over driving, got a speed ticket immediately. I always get one, he laughs. First warmth, first camels, first ticket.

All my sources recommended Le Roi de Beduin. B habitually skeptical, but we drove the 4km off road, our first off road driving to find the modest camp site nestled in brush dunes and at end of salt lake by the sea. It is run by Belgium couple Luc and Martine. Luc, moving swiftly with small steps, welcomes us matter of fact, to our tent. Yes, late again, dusk falling. Although a dozen caravanettes there, only half a dozen people eating in the central tent, all bid us a polite bonjour as we enter. Its camel tonight, which B enjoys and i find tough, but delicious gravy, and a taste of the Belgium food we are to get here.Alex and Ann sat central, he a well built man, jovial comfortable and outward looking, speaking pleasently slowly in French, which i naturally eves dropped. They were both familiar with the place and people, enjoying the companyt of Jean Claude and Issbelle, unusally young for here in mid 40s, nimble, chain smoking, JC the joker. Luc swifly clearing away our plates, no sign of Martine.
It is from Alex and Ann we begin to hear their story. Why after all, would a Belgian couple perhaps in their 50/60s settle here in this touch scrub desert, with a ceaseless north wind, nothing for miles, to serve people on permanent holiday?
‘He came from Rwanda. He had a successful business there, and lost it all with the trouble’ From lush green Rwanda to desert? It turns out Luc was born in Africa, Belgium Congo, his father a teacher. Here because of the water source, the moon like landscape, not far from the road but in the desert, not far from Layonne, but far enough, always a wind coming from the north over the salt flats and so not troubled by the sand.

We walked to the ancent salt lake to the mountain. Looking at it, we thought 20 minutes away. Alex warned us over an hour. He was more right that us (walking separately by the way)
To feel the texture of the sand on our feet, the nature of the wind around us, the heat of the sun without the posiblity of shade, the nature that sustains here, the plant shurb, healther like, the suculent able to store water. Camel foot prints in salt film. Sand the final piece of the earths matter, ancient timeless, northing more or less. Desert. Walking walking to feel distance

Pate de fois melt in the mouth, poulet a la orange, mint tea. Moisure Sand Lover (he has a converted LandRover with Sand lover written in the landRover logo on the side) generously handed around slices of Manchego cheese. Alex came round to inspect our Quatre Quatre as the french call 4 wheel drives.
C’est le Mieux, le Toyota’ he affirms. He was a motor mechanic as well as farmer his working life. ‘Vous avez besois tourner le snorkle’ Those who have filters around this way are known as fools.’ Yes, indeed we are desert virgins.
B makes hillarious immitations of me harranguing him to put stuff on our roof. Slipping on the floor, another injury to the bad arm: ‘I am half the man I was and you are twice the woman!’

Meanwhile I am permently in a flux with my own stuff, having never travelled with so much.

I believe that children of the future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them the beauty that is theirs,
Givenb them a sense of price to make it easier
Let thechildrens laughter remind us how it used to be
Everybodys searching for a …..
Never found one who fulfilled my need
I decided long ago if I failed if i succeed and now matter what they take they cannot take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love is learning to love youself.

How is it working here with people on vacation?
Luc: The French do not do vacation – they are always in a hurry to advance, advance, advance…

It was like saying good by to a family when it came time for us too to advance, Martin and Ann waving good by from cleaning the toilet block, Alex beside his E500 Citroen with Peugeot disel engine.

DAKHLA

Dakhla is at the end of a penis of land off Africa. It’s our last stop in Morocoo. Flat land, with Eiffle tower telephone mast coming out of the sand.

It was not my suggestion. Luckily. The room was poky but the worst of all was the dreaded squat toilet. But it was late, and too late. Mr Happy was there, as B calls Jean Claude, already well oiled as was the Camping propritor, so we snaked out of Jean Claudes warmhearted invitation to dine with him on Magrit du Cannard, in favour of the city lights of Dakhla. We had a beer with him in moon light. B asks him how he makes money: Trading, he and Issabell will sell their old motor in Nouakchott along with a few cases of wine and mobile phones. It will pay for their vacation. Both separated with young children,
JC: I will never be content, always restless. I dream to sail around the world.
Tomorrow he will try kit surfing. Dakhla is famous for this. I already have the T shirt’ and he shows us.

There is a correct geographical term, sufice to say we are on a penis shaped piece of land jutting out frrom mainland, sea on each side and we wonder why it was ever colonised with such seriousness, for it is a puckha town.

Until 4 years ago, from Dakhla there was a police escort for tourists to the frontier, over the disputed Western Sahara which was once mined. Still evidence with an army barracks outside the city, and styaing in our hotel (where B moved us to for 2nd night) are 3 UN cars – which we uncover are here to continue to the final negotiations with local Polisario tribe of people who got lost (as they do) in the political dispute between Morocco and Mauritania. In 1976 Morocco won the phosphate rich north and Mauritania the potential iron in the south.

Come the afternoon we find out why the land was colonised: fishing big here. It is famous for both octopus and oysters
Come the evening the women come out and the whole town takes on a different feel. The men remain at coffee bars, while women play with children in park.

Progress on Des: Key and wine hidden, the key for us (me, for I am sure to loose it one of these days) and the other antipating the Islamic Republic of Mauritanian boarder. As we leave, JC (Mr Happy) presses gifts into our hands, a packet of French bonbons. He is both exuberant and generous.

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