Marrakech seems a sharp contrast to the Morocco we have come to know and love. It is big and busy and loud. The beautiful caring Moroccans who yesterday were inviting us for food in their family homes are now shouting at us, grabbing and dragging us in every direction. Both Tanya and myself are experienced in large busy cities like Delhi and Bangkok but something about this city makes me feel slightly uneasy – though perhaps it is just my utter exhaustion after such a long day. It was with great joy and relief when we see Oulliam’s smiling face great us, like an old and familiar friend! We have a rather delicious (if not exactly traditional) dinner of sushi as we chat away together, mostly in broken French. The following day he takes us out for breakfast where Tanya and myself (rather embarrassed!) walk into a very fancy restaurant wearing our very unfancy backpacker clothes while Oulliam insists we look lovely. After breakfast he takes us for a tour of some of the sights of Marrakech. It seems much calmer and safer in the bright daylight with our local host than it did when wandering around lost and alone the previous night. Marakkech is infact a beautiful colourful and buzzing city – when you go to the right places.
Unfortunately Oulliam must head out to work then back to Casablanca but insists we stay another night in his home to have time to explore the city some more and even relax by his pool.
Feeling we have had enough of Marrakech and craving the sea air we get on the road early for Essaouira. After a few short rides around the outskirts of the city we have barely raised our thumbs when a bus pulls in. “Autostop – Makenis fluss!” I shout over the busy traffic and wave them on. “Ok, no problem” calls the driver and out jumps the conductor to open the luggage compartment then ushers us toward the bus. We look at each other. We’re not paying for it so still hitchhiking – right? Tanya’s smiling nod confirms my silent question. So we squeeze into the tightly packed bus bound for Chichaoua.
One more ride and we are at the coast. As Achmed pulls into a view point for us to take a photo I feel the fresh breeze against my skin. Essaouira is living up to it’s local title – ‘The Windy City’.
After a quick tour of the town it is agreed that we will stay with Achmed for the night (which soon turns to 3). He is a young, though very successful, business man who seems to find our lifestyle and lack of financial motivation in life almost unbelievable but yet rather intriguing. He goes as far as to offer to pay for our transport and accommodation for the remainder of our time in Morocco, which we decline with thanks, explaining that we have enjoy travelling this way. Tanya and myself spend the days exploring the slow paced city while in the evenings we are together with Achmed drinking local wine and smoking shisha.
I find it amazing how we have stayed with various different people each with very different backgrounds and lifestyles yet all happy to share their lives and homes with two unknown backpackers.
Arriving in Mirleft the sky is ablaze in fiery reds and oranges but as the sun quickly disappears into the ocean we are aware that we must soon find a safe place to pitch the tent. The young doctor we were travelling with asks where we are going to which we reply with a shrug and tell her we can just hop out where we are. She tells us if we need anything we can ask for her at the hospital where she works in the next town. Waving goodbye we head off in the general direction of the ocean, hoping to find a secluded spot on the beach. A lot of chatting with friendly locals while walking we are soon invited to stay in a guesthouse for free as they do not want us camping on the beach. We agree to pay something towards costs and settle in for an evening of laughter, music and, of course, tagine. We will spend the almost two weeks together with Karim (who amongst other things is a surf teacher!) and his many friends who come and go from the house.
Tanya and myself had two attempts at fishing in Mirleft and, technically, we got fish each time – though just not with our lines. The first day I got chatting to a friendly young guy who studies in Mirleft, Hassan. As we sit getting battered by the waves with increasing ferocity we chat about life and travel. Having both been unsuccessful with the mornings fishing we agree to meet up later that day where he will show me the best spot, only accessible when the tide is out. I clamber back up the rocks, soacked to the skin, to Tanya who is basking in the afternoon sun. When I return alone that evening I am disotintated by the dramatically changed coast and unable to find my new friend so choose to perch myself on the cliff and enjoy the cool breeze and the magical sunset. As the sun disappears into the horizon I turn back to town before total darkness encompasses me. Hearing heavy footsteps running behind me I suddenly feel very alone and far away from town, perhaps I should have returned sooner. As the footsteps come to a stop next to me I turn to see Hassan’s exhausted face smiling at me. He had been fishing and caught sight of me climbing up the cliff edge.
His evening’s fishing was more successful than the morning and he has four fish so we are invited for dinner at his house he shares with 5 other students. We wander back to collect Tanya and head off through the village. As we enter his small house his roommates all imadiatly jump up to politely greet us. The evening is spent enjoying Bèrbère singing while Hassan plays the guitar and learning new card games while one of the guys cooks up the fish in a delicious tagine. Later they escort us back to our house and exchange numbers, agreeing to meet another day for some fishing. Our other attempt at fishing ends when a local fisherman tells us it is not possible to catch where we are at that time and passes us two fish. Yet again the kindness of strangers helping us along.