Life and death among the dunes; Out of the desert on camel-back; Mad dash for Marrakesh; Night train to Tangier

Milie and I woke early in the morning, just before the sun came up, and realized that we’d slid a few meters down the face of the sand dune, and that we’d lost Sheryl. We looked in the sand and under the blanket, but couldn’t find her. Turns out she’d went down to the tent during the night because she kept feeling things crawling on her.

Mounting up on the camels, we began the trek out of the desert. It was a short trip - it seems that we did three-quarters of a circle the previous day, and today had only to close the circle to return to the hotel. The desert in the morning is a completely different place than it is in the evening - cool and luminous. People call it the “trackless desert”, but everywhere I looked there were the marks and prints of small animals: snakes, lizards, cats and mice, and even the occasional bird. Following the weave and intersection, it was possible to reconstruct the life-and-death struggles of all the tiny creatures - the wobbling line of a beetle intersected by the tire-tread-like track of a snake at a circle of scuffed and disturbed sand, or the jerky line of tiny mouse prints ending suddenly in an spray of sand and wing-prints. The desert at night must be simply teeming with life.

We arrived at the hotel and had a quick breakfast, and then loaded up the van and headed out. The British girls, Kaori, Akina and Kato were dropped at a taxi by the side of the highway - they were making for Fes instead of coming back to Marrakesh. A chance inquiry of the driver revealed the fact that we weren’t planned to arrive in Marrakesh at 6pm like we’d been told by the woman at the riad, but rather at 8 or 9. This was a huge problem, because our overnight train to Tangier, for which we’d already bought tickets, left at 9, and we had nowhere to stay in Marrakesh. We tried to explain this to the driver, who had only partial English and French, and he agreed to break speed limits to get us there in time. The rest of the day was spent driving at a breakneck pace, hell-bent for Marrakesh. I felt bad for the driver, who was obviously exhausted and unhappy, and who was probably skipping all the stops he was required to make on the trip back so that people could try to sell us things. But he got us to the city by 7, for which I’m grateful. We gave him 300 dirhams (about CAD$35) for his trouble, said a quick shukran, and left to pick up our baggage. I’m sure he was very happy to be rid of us.

We picked up our packs from the riad where we’d left them, grabbed some food and a bag of dried apricots, and flagged a cab to the train station where we were in plenty of time for the train. Unfortunately we didn’t have the compartment to ourselves - there was an older British man in the fourth bunk. Unfortunate for us, but especially unfortunate for him, since we hadn’t had a chance to shower since the day before and positively reeked of sweat, unwashed clothing, and camel. With three of us in such a confined space the smell was nothing short of appalling - the more so since the train was unbearably hot and stuffy. Our compartment-mate was kind enough to say that he’d been living in Morocco for fifteen years, and “one does become used to it, after all”. We took turns to wash as best we could in the little train bathroom nevertheless. The girls fell on their faces immediately, but I was unwilling to relinquish the last shreds of romance and sat up reading by flashlight for a little while before giving in.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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