“SALTY nuts … who wants a big bag of my salty nuts?” Oh get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about almonds. And cashews. And macadamias. And fresh figs, dates and dried apricots. All amazingly fresh, of superb quality and cheaper than a Tesco’s special (unless you accidently end up with 6 kilos worth because you don’t know Moroccan for ‘just a small handful’ – it’s Ù…Ø¬Ø±Ø¯ ØÙÙ†Ø© ØµØºÙŠØ±Ø© — I babel fish translated it).
That’s right — I was in Morocco bitches! And it was amazing, interesting, culturally diverse etc. It was also bloody hot, testing, loud and sometimes offensive. In between buying purple paper ‘shoes’ (oh you and your wily selling ways Mr Marketplace Man), I also spent an inordinate amount of time in an un-airconditioned minibus traversing the country and fighting with my travel companion about whether I did or did not give her my cold by not covering my mouth when I coughed. I deny everything (“I did not transfer viral particles to that woman!!”)
Two things I have therefore learnt about Morocco:
- Never travel to the desert for a camel ride when in the throes of what I now call camel flu.
- I am worth two camels on the local bride market. My friend is worth one hundred. I won’t quit my day job (which is, at this stage, still…this).
So our ‘Moroccan odyssey’ starts with one of those drives up a very windy one lane highway in a country where road rules are slightly more….relaxed. Where all you can do is look down the sheer drop edge and imagine your own impending death, caused by the minibus you are in overtaking yet another oil tanker at 90km/h around a sharp bend, colliding with a goat herder, careering through the flimsy barrier and tumbling you and 16 other backpackers down a mountain, the oil tanker following you down and turning the minibus wreckage into a fireball of twisted, tangled metal and cooked goat, from which you’ll only be able to be identified by the trail of phlegm you left on the way down. Yes, these are the things I think about on long bus rides.
We’re indulged a brief stop at the 16th century town where they filmed Babel and Prince of Persia (yes,Morocco does look like it is in the movies), and after some sort of gorge (don’t ask me anymore — a gorge is a gorge) we arrive at the desert. At this stage, its three days since first contact, and the cold has mutated inside me like a human petri dish into a virulent virus form of the Antichrist. I am a coughing, sneezing, snotty, sweaty version of someone who used to be a functioning member of society. And I am about to get on a camel. To ride through the desert. In the sun. For two hours. On a camel.
We start riding to the camp and I quickly realise what spending the night in the desert means. It means you were meant to bring supplies for the night with you. I have one tissue and one half full bottle of water. The dunes are stunningly beautiful, and of course I get the obligatory photo of the shadows of our camel convoy against the rich yellow sand, but I am slightly more distracted from the fact my tissue has quickly taken on the consistency of a masticated spitball chewed by a fifth grader. And I am sweating from my eyeballs, from my ankles, between my toes and from inside my ears. And I am on a camel. An animal that is essentially a malfunctioning horse.
And 20 minutes in I am already out of water. I spend the next 12 hours making that dry mouth noise where you sound like you’re chewing on an old thong, because turns out, there is no water in the desert. And my travel friend needed her water to wash her feet.
Yes, yes, it was still awesome. We got to camp, and the sun set over the dunes that reached up like mountain peaks above the tents. The stars were amazing, and our guides cooked us chicken tagine we ate from collective earth-ware pots, and serenaded us with some classic Berber oldies on their goat skin drums. But the point is: Camel + Man-flu’s more virulent female equivalent + Desert…It just doesn’t work.