Marruecos, Part 2

Considering how tired I was the evening before, I was most worried about the early-morning call to prayer waking me up and making me even more cranky on Day 2 of my Moroccan adventure. I was pleasantly surprised when I was woken up by the softest loudspeaker I had ever heard. I listened to the call to prayer for a little bit, and then happily went back to sleep. Shannon and I eventually got up and went down to breakfast to find the most American food ever: scrambled eggs, coffee, bread, and pastries. We all loaded up the bus (there’s that bus again) for our interminable-feeling trip of the day.

 

Once again, as we moved from one area of Morocco to another, the landscape changed on us again. The day before we had been in Ireland, but today we left all the greenery behind to enter Switzerland. We drove up in the bus into the Middle Atlas mountains and drove through some (there’s no other word for it) quaint little towns. One had a really swanky university, several had ski slopes . . . and they all had frost on the ground and leaves changing colors. I fell in love with every place we passed; again, that’s just not something you see a lot of in Southern Spain. It really made me miss home, actually, although I hardly live in what you would call a mountainous region.

Another thing you don’t see a lot of in Southern Spain: snow! We were promised snow and after seeing the frost on the ground, I couldn’t wait to snap a picture of some snow drifts. After some slight disappointments involving tiny patches of dirty ice, we came around the bend in the mountain to see a whole field of snow! I didn’t even have to worry about snapping a picture in time, because just then, the bus stopped and Toba announced that in addition to the snow, this area was also home to some wild monkeys, which we could feed. Surprise! Snow was instantly forgotten as we piled off the bus and bought peanuts. My first attempt at monkey-feeding was less than successful, at least from a picture-taking point of view, because the dang monkey snatched the peanut out of my hand, I threw up my hands in fright, and my friend took the picture. I was able to feed several other monkeys though, as well as pet the cutest dog in the world (next to Charlie, of course).

And back on the bus for another change in landscape. If we were in Switzerland before, when we came down the other side of the mountain we landed in Mongolia. There were enormous peaks in the distance, and between us and them there were just huge expanses of grassland, often covered in snow. We even saw some nomads tending goats and sheep next to tents. I resisted the temptation to mention Mongolian Ping Pong.

Lunch on Sunday was at a very nice hotel/restaurant where we had chicken tangine (slow-cooked meat) and couscous, along with a salad that contained rice and avocado. Outside the hotel though was the best part: a clear, gorgeous view of the High Atlas mountains. I made sure to sit by the window so that I could get a good look.

Another great thing about the hotel was the bathrooms. We had been advised to bring a roll of toilet paper along, which I probably would have done even if we had traveled within Spain, because I cannot count the number of times I have gone to a public restroom here and found it out of tissue. But, depending where you are and in what places you stay, Moroccan bathrooms are very different from Western ones. By this I mean that Moroccan toilets consist of a hole, whether you are male or female. I had already had the pleasure of using a hole toilet at the port in Tangiers because I didn’t think I could wait all the way to Rabat. I hope you all know that I’m using pleasure sarcastically here because when us girls have to pee in a hole, there is always a high probability that urine will end up on our pants. So going into the bathroom in this hotel and finding not only toilet paper, but also commodes, made this probably the best place for miles, in our opinion.

We could probably have never seen another tour bus in our lives and been happy, but after lunch we got back on the bus for another few hours. New leg of the journey, new landscape. We left Mongolia to drive through the surface of the Moon. I am not exaggerating here, the landscape just got weird and craggy. We watched the sun go down from the bus before we were finally able to get off at our desert hotel. We weren’t actually going to be staying there Sunday night, but the reception area had snacks and tea and music and dancing, so no one complained too much. The hotel was just a staging point for us to drive out into the desert.

Yup, driving in the desert. There are roughly a squintillion fewer roads in the desert, so we all piled into Jeeps and just drove out wherever we wanted to. It was bumpy and fast and hilarious. Probably the best part was when our Jeep pulled back onto the road halfway through the journey before any of the other cars, and one of my fellow passengers said excitedly, “Are we winning????” Our driver got so tickled and couldn’t stop laughing, and his laugh was so infectious that the 6 of us in the back started laughing, and basically we laughed the whole rest of the way to the camels. (We totally won though. It was like MarioKart).

And then camels. We had about a 20 minute camel ride to get to the tents where we would be spending the night. Shannon and I made our way to some camels and got on them more or less gracefully. Riding a camel is way easier than riding a horse because there is nothing you need to do. You just sit and the camel follows the camel in front of it. Riding a camel in the dark in the middle of the Sahara was all kinds of cool. I have never seen that many stars all at once in my life. Someone on a camel further back shouted, “This was totally worth spending 15 hours on the bus!!!!!” We all laughed and took pictures and the camels made funny noises and soon we were at the tents.

I learned from all my cabin trips that back in the olden days, people sat around in the dark and cold quite a lot. So I wasn’t surprised to be cold, or to eat my dinner in the candlelight. I also wasn’t put off by the bathroom facilities, although I was pleased to see they contained an actual toilet (which I took 2 pictures of in my attempts to find it in the dark. Don’t worry, I erased them). We had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows and lit sparklers, all of which was complicated by the fact that there were 89 of us. Finally the cold did me in and I somehow found my way back to the tent to crawl in and put on all my clothes and all my blankets. The goal was to wake up for the sunrise . . .

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