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Hellish fun in the Sahara

3/31/09


First of all let me say that Hanane is okay and thanks to all of you who sent your prayers and well wishes. We are back in Sefrou where she has a doctor who sounds like she actually practices good Western medicine, rather than trusting to some guy who might try to bleed her with leeches or cure her with monkey piss in Marrakech. She is going to the doctor today and at the moment seems to be feeling a lot better.

As for me, my head wants to explode. Morocco is making me a bit crazy and while Hanane and her family are fantastic, much of it is beautiful, and I actually love the place, the Rev is right when he says it is like living in the 7th century. The construction, sometimes the transport, and the mentality, particularly of poor, uneducated men and women is straight from the hellish times of yore.

What was supposed to be a pretty nice, cheap, little vacation from Sefrou was actually pretty hellish most of the time, not to mention expensive even though it shouldn’t have been . We made the best of it though and one night sat in a hotel room where the door of the room next door was being beaten down by the staff while the German couple who had lost their key watched from the hallway in horror as hammers with makeshift handles and rude chisels were used to batter the door down, I’m sure they thought that there would be an extra key! In any event, in concrete buildings the sounds echo loudly and we composed a list of 26 things that can ruin a romantic vacation, then we made a list of 27 things that we had enjoyed so far.

I find the list of 26 bad things funnier:
1) drunks fighting in the street as we left to catch the overnight bus to sahara at 10 pm (this is the first time I’ve seen this in Morocco)
2) Waiting for a very late late bus as it got unseasonably cold
3) Suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning in the bus
4) Sulferous belches resulting from the poisoning
5) Two severe cases of diarhea
6) no sleep on the poisonous bus
7) a very cold Sahara
8) Scorpion in the riad room we stayed in
9) flooding in the sahara
10) getting stuck in muddy sand in an algerian van and having to dig it out
11) greedy Berbers trying to charge us twice
12) washed out roads
13) cancelled buses
14) broken doors
15) german accents echoing
16) vomiting in the shower
17) vomiting in the bus
18) leering creeps too numerous for me to punch them all
19) vomiting in a nice little mountain town
20) (for me) having to force Hanane to eat crackers (it worked by the way and she was glad)
21) (for Hanane) being forced to eat crackers
22) bus drivers in training on narrow windy roads with no visibility from fog and huge cliffs beside us
23) being charged for too much for not just one but two crappy rooms
24) throwing up alone in Marrakech
25) not sleeping because Hanane was throwing up alone in Marrakech
26) Greedy, backwards, fake Muslim fuckheads that have no compassion

The list of the good stuff is pretty obvious from the pictures. In any event, here is the lowdown. The Sahara is beautiful and while the rain killed (for the moment) my dream of riding a camel to an oasis and sleeping under the desert stars, just being in the dunes, having time in the Sahara and seeing the caravans going out on the night we arrived was fantastic. Hanane has a network of friends that made the trip to the Sahara interesting and fun. Her friend Assou met us in Rassidea at 5 a.m. after the first busride from hell and walked us to the grand taxi (Mercedes designed by Germans for 5 but utilized throughout Morocco for 7 people .) Then we were met by his friend Said in elrissani with the password ‘Mother Africa’ , the password is necessary to prevent touts from saying “Yes, I am Said” and then taking us somewhere else. Said, walked us through the Medina and then we met up with Hanane’s friend Hassan who took us in another taxi to the middle of the desert where we got out and were met by a berber man on a quad runner, we loaded our bags on the front and he rode us through the sahara for about 20 minutes to an isolated medieval looking castle.

At this point we were sick and exhausted and opted to ride camels to the oasis the next day…but we did manage to enjoy walking in the dunes. The next day though was the rain and so we ended up leaving…frankly I think we should have been charged less because of the lack of oasis and camel time, but Hanane had arranged it with her friends in advance…incidentally, this excursion ended up being the most expensive portion of my entire journey for just 3 days and 4 nights, most of it miserable and unsatisfying…which I am fairly stressed out about, but I’ll be okay…)

So that’s when we left the edge of Algeria and rode in the crazy Algerian Berber van through the wet desert. At one point all fifteen or so people in the van had to get out and push the van out of deep sand while tinny berber music blasted on blown stereo speakers.

Then they tried to charge us twice, then the road was washed out, then we took another taxi, then we caught an alternate bus from an alternate town, then we arrived very late and another of Assou’s friends , Abdul (codeword: Africa Kiss). He led us to a hotel where the desk clerk demanded a marriage certificate but accepted Abdul’s word that we were married, of course this made my Hanane very upset because the clerk had effectively called her a whore, this is when she started to become very sick and puked on my feet while I showered. The door flew open and then there was puke on my feet.

We woke in Ouerzizate, the Moroccan Hollywood and actually had a pretty good day of walking, seeing the Kasbah, and playing in the Cinema Museum, we had a nice lunch of pizza that disagreed with Hanane’s stomach and when she threw up on the side of the road we opted to skip the Atlas Film Studio tour and instead caught another gassy bus to Marrakech where the asshole man charged us for two rooms and denied me the chance to take care of her.

The trip from Ouerzazate to Marrakech was stunningly beautiful. Marrakech, I am still not a huge fan of. The next morning after I left a written curse for the clerk, we caught the train back to Fez and then another grand taxi to Sefrou and a petit taxi to the Soudi house.

I’m going to be leaving Morocco in a few days. I’ll be back but I need to leave this country before my head explodes…besides, this trip cost enough that I can no longer afford to fly Hanane and I to Senegal to get married where it isn’t a retarded amount of legal paperwork….

There’s lots more of course, but you’ll have to buy the book for it later…by the way, the pictures are all taken during the good times…

Right now, I am becoming excited about April in Paris and leaving the 7th century for a while.

I’ve found the small door but I can’t find the cookie that makes me small enough to go through it, I’ll ask my white rabbit when I get back to Sefrou!

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Vago Damitio

Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

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