It's kind of hot
and I'm kind of in a bad mood and Juliette
and I are kind of not getting along and we're
kind of traveling in Morocco but kind of too
wrapped up in ourselves and our problems with
each other to do anything more than kind of.
That was an attempt to kick start some writing.
A traveling moment, a slice of life. Fortunately
not all the slices taste the same.
Waiting for the bus.
They said there would be one, but then they also
said it would take half an hour. We should have
known better, we admonish ourselves. They just
wanted us to take their bus, so they told us
what we wanted to hear. So now we're at the bus
station between two five hour rides, sitting
on plastic chairs at a plastic table drinking
thé de menthe and cafe au lait until the
middle of the night.
The bus depot is huge, filled with big modern long
distance passenger buses parked in diagonal rows
until they're full. "When does the bus leave?"
one might ask, and the answer is always "Now."
A young man in a blue running suit gets up from
the table nearby, where he's been chatting
for a while with a man waiting for a bus. Blue Suit
carries a board with red cloth, on which is mounted
an array of cheap jewelry. Astoundingly, the waiting
man appears to have bought something. An eight-year-old
boy approaches me and asks if he could shine
my shoes for one dirham, ten cents. I smile and
show him my sandals. Again he asks for a coin,
fidgeting with his baseball cap. I jokingly offer
him a dirham, tapping the bill of the hat. He gives
me a perplexed smile and wanders away, muttering
in arabic about the crazy foreigner. The waiting
man appears to have bought a gold watch from another
vendor. It's a little large for his wrist, but he
doesn't appear to mind.
In two days
we'll start the difficult portion of
the 6000 kilometer trip from Germany to Senegal.
What makes it difficult, exactly, we're not quite
sure -- that's the most difficult part,
emotionally speaking. The twenty hour bus ride
to Dakhla, the southernmost city in Morocco,
shouldn't be too bad (except for the blazing
heat of Western Sahara in the hottest part of
Summer). In the past there's been some risk of
Polisaria activity, who would prefer if Morocco
would get their greedy fingers out of their
country, but it seems to have quieted down
enough that a few years ago they discontinued
the military escort to get to the border.
Like our trip into Tibet, we're going an
unconventional route into Senegal through
Mauritania. It's not an uncharted route by
any means -- it's actually supposed to be the
most common trans-Saharan route these days --
but there's not much published information
about backpacking through the country -- like where
there are bus services, guest houses, and even
roads through the Sahara. "Of course there are
buses," the man at the consulate said, as if
we'd suggested that Mauritania were a third
world country consisting of little besides
endless desert -- which it is, as far as I know.
The land mines across the northern border will
keep us on the edges of our seats for the
first eight kilometers, assuming we find some
sort of transport to take us half way through
the country where the paved road starts.
After the land mines, it's a simple matter
of sitting back and watching the scenery
go by; counting sand dunes must be fascinating
for the first few hours, but the trip is
supposed to take at least 30. This is the
part we know the least about -- even if, as
many people say, there is some sort of bus or
4WD service to take us the 1000 kilometers along
the Atlantic coast, how likely is it to get
stuck in the sand, is there water along the way,
are there oases or villages, and exactly how
hot will it be, really? There was a heat wave
recently in the hottest part of Algeria, a neighboring
country, where the temperature never
dropped below 105°F for three weeks straight.
We're not likely to be anywhere near those extreme
conditions, but how worried should we be about
so much uncertainty? So far I've been
cautiously optimistic about the trip, and Juliette
has balanced my apparent foolhardiness with
uncharacteristic nervous pessimism. So together
we'll survive, carrying our twenty-seven
liters of water on what should be a three day
trip through a country that's all beach.