Saturday 12th June, Tinerhir, Morocco.
Yesterday felt like an old Eagles song, stuck on 'repeat'. Kevin the Welshman and I sat around at Hotel Lahamada all day, waiting for any form of motor vehicle that could give us a ride into Rissani. By the time Assou the camel man had asked me three times why I wanted to leave, I'd started singing under my breath " Livin' it up at the Hotel Lahamada...You can check out any time you like, but you can never le-e-eave!" Some kind soul had woken us at five in the morning to let us know that the minibus was heading into Merzouga, but we both told him where he could stick his 5:00 a.m wake up call. Twelve hours later I was starting to wonder if that had been wise. The only vehicle we'd seen all day was the four wheel drive that had originally brought us there, and it was booked by an American couple who chose not to let us ride with them, preferring instead to travel with two empty seats. I have an opinion on them...
Finally the minivan returned, and for a semi-extortionate fee, the driver shuttled us into Rissani and some degree of civilization. (Actually the seven bucks each was pretty fair I guess, considering the state of the road- it's pretty taxing on a vehicle.) On the way into town, we were privileged to witness a rare Saharan downpour. Our driver said it only rains like that five or six days a year. The heavy rain was replaced closer into town, by a blinding sandstorm which reduced visibility considerably. All in all an exciting drive!
I must have been very tired last night because I recall saying to Kevin that I'd had just about enough, and that I felt like jumping on a bus to Tangiers and leaving Morocco. I was really fed up, but looking back I'm not sure it was all as bad as it seemed. It started when we reached Rissani and I went to the carpet shop to pay for my camel trek. Yes, of course you pay for camel treks at the carpet shop, they don't take credit cards at Hotel Lahamada. The carpet guy whacked me with a five percent surcharge for paying by card, something I had not been warned about back at the hotel, It was only thirty something dirham, but that's a night's accommodation in Morocco. Besides, it was the principle. Then the carpet dude tried to stall us so we'd have to look at some of the crap in his shop. Then- magically- appeared the manager of Hotel Panorama from around the corner. Presumably, he'd been notified by the carpet dude's brat offsider that there were two 'whities' in the store. Everything works on commission here I've come to realize. Guys will hang out at the main entrance of a hotel, and walk in with you when you arrive, telling the manager that they brought you there. I tell the manager that the guy actually tried to get me to go to a different hotel!
Anyway, this guy had just about the cheapest hotel in town. We'd already seen it in the guidebook, and couldn't really be bothered looking around at that time of the evening. We had planned to stay at the nearby Youth Hostel, but our new 'friend', with his repeated insincere ("Ah, big welcome to Morocco!") assured us that the Youth Hostel was closed. That of course turned out to be a lie. What else would you expect? Then when I tried to get some work done at the internet cafe, the connection was so slow that I wasted the first twenty minutes just trying to open my email page. When it finally did open, I found almost three hundred unread emails, and I wasn't about to start sifting through that lot with such a slow connection. I'd had enough. Keen to put the day behind me, I hit the sack, but not before discovering that there were no sheets on my bed. My request for sheets received a response as if I'd asked for a Versace silk dressing gown. I was given one sheet, on which I was lucky to grab no more than a couple of hours sleep, due to the racket that the townspeople carried on with all night just poutside my window.
The night wasn't a complete loss, though. As Kevin and I were ordering our dinner at a nearby restaurant, a local guy asked me if I was from Australia. I assumed he'd recognized the accent, but when he asked if my name was Steve, I knew it must be Brahim, a guy I'd been chatting to on the internet. I'd meant to contact Brahim when I reached Rissani days ago, but just got swept up in the chaos of getting to the dunes with Kevin and the other Aussies. Brahim works in the tourist industry, and after speaking to him for a while, I wished I had contacted him. He was polite and softly spoken, and would have been an interesting guy to go trekking with. He could have organized a camel trip for us, and probably saved us some money. But it was too late for regrets. We arranged to meet Brahim again in the morning.
Brahim is an interesting character. He's a qualified teacher, but had to give it up as he could only get part time work and couldn't live on the two hundred dirham a week that he was earning. To give you an idea, that's not even enough to buy one simple meal from a cheap restaurant each day. Now he drives a taxi, and helps to organize accommodation and camel trips into the desert. He's saving up to buy his own grand taxi and I wish him all the best. After a few hours just sitting and talking, and watching the world go by, Brahim walked Kevin and me to the taxi stand, where we took a shared taxi to nearby Erfoud. Both of us needed to get to a bank machine before we could afford the four dollar bus fare to Tinerhir. That's how short of funds we were!
We made it to Tinerhir through another even more spectacular sandstorm, and checked into the Hotel Oasis. I could feel a sore throat coming on, and blocked sinuses. Tracey, one of the Aussie girls had caught a cold the night we spent in the desert, and it seemed like I was just a day behind her. I hoped a nice hot shower might help, and was relieved when the hotel manager said the hot shower was included in the price of the room. It's not always, as I've discovered. Sadly, it wasn't hot at all and I feel I'm now on my way to a miserable time with a sore throat and blocked sinuses.