Tag Archives: Atlantic

… Morocco adventure, fourth part …

31st Dec 2007 … The dogs must have eaten something unsavoury during their beach run. Ulla worries. Ali is unwell, though recovers during the afternoon. After fresh prepared fish meal for lunch, I consult the I Ging. It’s tempting to veer decades back into the past, a time I consulted the oracle daily during my solo trips through Italy in my VW Bus. Such free strands of associations would easily make a novel of this report.

Anyway, the I Ging brings up ‘determination. What the heck for?’ Not having to make decisions is a fascinating experience for me, if slightly unsettling. I reckon Ulla’s moods slow my futile attempt at reducing ruminating thoughts, like I puzzle over how frequently she marks events in a negative frame. ‘I knew it was going to be a bad day,’ that sort. I made the decision (ha ha, I made a decision after all)  to trust in her powerful guardian angel. The sharp way she sums up the occasional unpleasant person we meet, I fully admit, creates an instant emotional clearance, which I like, as long as an analysis of my congruence follows. I was born that way, and too easily succumbed to my mother tabooing cuss words from my vocabulary. Further, with vital exception in cases of injustice, or when pushed too far by idiots, which sparks pure anger in me, I tend to neutralise my attitude when negative reactions towards people perk up. That is to say I trained myself stepping into other people’s shoes, even when they pinch. I fully own the torture of this tricky ideology. I’d not recommend the style. Phew, that was a droll effort at self-observation.

1st January 2008 … Last night was a non-event, though a hilarious late TV show diverted me away from sulking. We wait ages for a camel dish. I’m unsure about eating the mutton of such useful and loyal creatures. The dish tastes fine, but scenes I witnessed of how animals are treated before slaughter always trouble me. Just then Ulla storms off in disgust as a truck with cramped chicken cages arrives at the restaurant. She eventually returns. Our waiter friend packs up the content of her plate for us to take along. On way back to Bou Jerif we almost turn around when another troupe of four-wheel drivers showers us with clouds of dust. Short of time, we call the fort and order a tent for me. All turns out well. I get a tower room for the price of a tent. And the manic French group leaves shortly, for whatever reason.

2nd to 3d January 2008 … After a walk following a parched river bed with patches of blooming desert, we return to an Oasis below Bou Jerif. Later Ulla takes the van to the fort to recharge batteries, while I have a hot shower, and read. Tomorrow we’ll head up the Atlantic coast.

4th – 5th   January … We get meat for the dogs in Goulimine and drive on to Sidni Ifni for a late lunch at Suerto Lorca. My choice is octopus. I’ve run out of colour film and have been using a spare black and white film for a while. We plan to shop in Tiznit. I access my email to check whether Julio has answered my query re: a room at his Marrakech Riad, Dar Pangal for the day before my flight back to London. No luck so far. Off to Tiznit. After I rent a room for the night, we have lunch and go shopping. Ulla strikes a bargain for a beautiful hand-embroidered Kaftan, intended for cushions. She frowns when the trader asks her to smile. A deal that is not sealed with smiles seems to signal disapproval here. The trader relents, is forgiving, ‘Inshallah.’

Near Agadir we stop for the night at a place called Paradise de Nomade. I’m impressed by the fresh sheets in my Berber tent. And the massive boulders in the dry riverbed nearby are an epic sight. Unfortunately the night turns noisy from 11:30 pm onwards. Four wheel drivers arrive, dogs bark, music, jolly talking … until 3 am.

Next morning we hear the sudden influx was due to a desert rally being called off at short notice, because four French tourists were murdered in Mauretania. The locals, it was said, asked the party for some money and were refused, so they killed them. Sadly, past political grievances, lack of deep listening, arrogance, and the refusal of dialogue can have terrible consequences. Morocco has a complex history and a hard won independence.

6th Jan … Images along the road to Essaouira, and some reflective thoughts … As the light, colours, food, scents, the warmth and hospitality of ordinary people in Morocco grow on me, I ponder on how outer impressions oscillate with my inner pilgrimage. Sound plays a powerful role in stirring the unconscious. The tunes I hum unawares, I realise, include folk themes, lyrics from German romantic poets set to music by Schubert, even Kurt Weil songs; melancholic echoes from childhood and teen days. Yet even then I probed the meaning of home, of belonging. Being a stranger seemed more exciting. There is a kind of accord with other strangers around the world, due to a gap in narratives, demanding keen attention, shaking up perceptions and allowing for the unfamiliar to astonish.

On this stretch of road, the predominant sound, whenever Ulla stops the engine, is the rhythmic surf of the Atlantic, Sea of the Atlas, into which many rivers flow, and which, through a narrow strait, connects to my beloved Mediterranean. The high and low tides of this expansive body of salt water, dividing Europe from North America, and Africa from South America, make up the drone to dreams criss-crossing cultures from East to West, with ancient legends adding a shimmer to images that present themselves each day. To these inter penetrating worlds a constant wind adds turbulence, creative chaos.

Approaching Essaouira, we’re both a bit tense. Neither of us slept well at Paradis de Nomade. We search a hotel for me, after Ulla missed the earmarked camping place. She has the beach in mind, to give Ali and Leila their deserved run. Her stress and impatience adding to mine, I accept a hotel at the outskirts of Essaouira. The receptionist makes to pretence about relishing my embarrassment when I mistake E120 for 120 Dirham. A shock, considering my dwindling finances, but I can’t just walk out and sit on the curb. Overcoming the inner struggle, I decide to switch attitude, enjoy a hot shower and have sublimely quiet night.

7th of Jan 2008 … I find my kind of place, affordable and relaxed, in the Medina of Essaouira. At Hotel Souiri my inner harmony is restored. Ulla and I meet at 2 pm for a meal of irresistible fresh-smoked sardines at the harbour. The dogs enjoy a walk along the fortress walls, but are less pleased when we trundle through narrow streets in search for bargains. We both find items after appropriate spans of haggling. I buy a carpet runner to cheer up my kitchen at home. The labyrinth Medina has a lively and friendly atmosphere, and a well sustained patina of hippy charm, inviting a longer stay, but not this time, since I must catch a plane in two days.

Ulla offers to drive me to Marrakech.  In hindsight, I should’ve made the decision to refuse and organised a bus. Marrakech does not welcome dogs, which traditionalists consider unclean in Morocco. We were rejected at the outside table of a restaurant at central market place, Jemaa el-Fnaa,  even while sitting on the fringe, because our lovely friends, Ali and Leila were unwelcome. It was a sad downer.

In all, the journey reminded how moving to England in 1978 marked a departure from my crazy life in Germany, with all its professional successes and private failures, opening another crazy section of my life, with equal successes and failures, coinciding with a change of my name. The bridge I crossed then, offered a deep learning, and it allowed me eventually, through another language, to find my way back to writing. But that’s a story in itself.

My friend and travel companion, I must add, while inclined to retreat into her shell, is to my heart an iridescent pearl. I’m grateful she suggested the pilgrimage, and thank her for her companionship during these remarkable weeks.

Note: Please ignore grammar quirks in this spontaneous sharing. Thanks .Also, the underlined blue words in this text open safe links to Wikipedia, and bring up a separate screen.

Blessings for 2021. Wishing you, us, a better year ahead, one that makes pilgrimages possible again.

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… Morocco adventure, third part …

27th Dec. 2007. Instead of committing to another night at Bou Jarif, we decide on a day trip to Plage Blanche and perhaps return for the night, or the next day, depending on whether I can occupy one of those deserted cottages at Plage Blanche we heard about. Turns out I can. The former manager of the dilapidated Hotel, if it ever was a hotel, sweeps out the layers of sand from one of the cottages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s a loner, let-the-world-go-by kind of man. Ulla speaks French with him. I get the gist. The planned facilities for the hotel got stuck, were too unrealistic, never happened. The plot was apparently sold to another developer.  Our hermit says he bides his time until the machinery moves in … probably never. His story has holes. Truth balances on a thin edge around here. Still, having apparently resisted threats and bribes, he holds his fragile station and is cheered to have visitors. The splendour of the dunes settles it. Our stroll along the beach is crowned by the brilliant orange sun slipping over the horizon. Not for the first time, I wonder if by photographing such  moments I diminish deeper absorption. Yet here I am, sharing the image of a sunset with you, my readers, who have seen many fabulous sunsets in their lifetime, if only to re-spark such beauty in your memory.  Even without water in my cottage, and no toilet use, the minimal décor appeals. I make myself an oasis with candles and a red shawl for colour. The steady sound of the Atlantic surf rolling in and out is softened by the dunes. The clear night ocean above me sparkles with galaxies. Bliss.

28th Dec. 2007, Ulla has taken the dogs for a run along the beach. I furtively look for a spot to dig a hole for what finally stirs in my intestines, since I never use the chemical toilet in the van. The spot I find looks upon miles of surf before the Atlantic horizon. The occasion allows for a most spectacularly relieving bowel movement, certainly with the best view ever. The argan oil I soaked yesterday’s excellent local bread in must have worked the magic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argan oil is harvested and processed via many small co-operatives, run by women. Goats treasure its fruit and climb high into the trees for it, a surreal sight. They remain natural harvester in some areas, since kernels containing the valuable oil remain unharmed in the animal’s droppings, which are then collected.

I see Ulla returning from miles away. I ask her to take the above photo in the dunes of me. Later we walk along an estuary teeming with birds. A young man on a moped sells fresh fish to Ulla, filleted on sight. I set up a folding chair along the sacred line that marks the boundary between reality and dream, a place of sweet solitude.

 

 

 

 

 

The world intrudes. An elderly English woman parks her caravan near Ulla’s van. She, too, has two dogs. Based on that association she relates a horror story to us, of how her husband was killed (murdered) near the area some years ago by a ten year old Moroccan boy. Since then the woman makes a yearly pilgrimage. The boy, she says, drove his bicycle down a hill at full speed and rammed into her husband while he locked his car, on purpose. Their planned coffee break never happened. I wonder about the truth of the matter. Ongoing legal proceedings are swallowing up the woman’s savings. Consumed by this ghastly event, fate teases with endless plots crowding her imagination, a horrific trauma that seemed to have no absolution, apart from finding listeners. We listen.

 

29th Dec 2007. Ulla and I share a grief from way back for the untimely loss of a dear Sufi friend. Though every grief has its own constellation and depth, improvised travelling, demanding total presence, tends to soothe sorrows. As for me, hardly did a grunt or a sigh escape me on this journey. Daily a new horizon open, like the breath-taking rock formations found along hidden beaches. Each obstacle requires a surrender to circumstances. Western visitors fare best when adopting the shoulder shrug which is second nature to Moroccans, signifying their readiness of trusting in God’s will, ‘Inshallah.’ While I enjoy the sense of being lost between dream and reality, I drive Ulla crazy with the tunes I hum unawares. The melodies arrive from nowhere; old songs from the 70s, or themes from symphonies and operas. Brought to my attention, I try to place the tunes and can’t rest until I do. This peculiar habit of mine taps into an unconscious matrix where emotional memories find fresh connections, a kind of dark and invisible womb in which experiences are recorded. I feel embarrassed when Ulla admits irritation, though I thank her for bringing this habit to my attention. I learned to value this unconscious process as a mnemonic tool in the process of writing.

We drive an hour back to Goulimine and enjoy lunch in a restaurant with a familiar friendly waiter. He accepts and arranges for the fish which Ulla bought from a young man in the dunes to be prepared. I later get two bottles of wine for the next four days from the known secret corner in the souk.

Driving toward Tan Tan Plage, we divert to Ksar Tafnidilt, yet another nerve wrecking track leading to a 5star desert palace that includes a camping area. Like Bou Jarif, the abode was built to accommodate French tourists. A few four wheel drivers blast their horns and impatiently overtake us. The passion of these people is racing their sturdy vehicles at high speed along the sandy coastline at low tide. It’s a noisy hazard, and worth keeping in mind when paddling unawares in the surf.

I inspect a lovely tower room at Ksar Tafnidilt, but my budget is dwindling. So after some dreaming of luxury, it’s back to the main road. The four wheel drivers have churned some nasty holes in the sand. At one point we collect rocks to make a passage. Ulla’s bondage to the van conjures up her fears that we’ll get stuck. The scary possibility sparks my usually drowsy determination into action, physically and mentally. All went well in the end. We continue towards Tan Tan Plage.

A fourth part of this journey will be coming next: Tan Tan Plage, New Year, TV, dreaming in the philosophy zone, worlds within, symbols, returning via Goulimine, Bou Jerif, Sidi Ifni and Tiznit, before heading up the coast towards Agadir and Essaouria, a lovely small town. I think as an old hippy I could live there 🙂

These are spontaneous posts, so please ignore possible grammar slips.

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