Eleven am comes a lot earlier when your going to bed at four, and as my alarm rang, I didn’t have the same skip in my step as usual. But today was the waterfall day, and my hopes where high.
The bus was prompt, and I barely made it on before its doors shut, and we were on our way. In an unconscious stupor last night, I laid on my iPod, and wasted the majority of the battery, so I didn’t know how long it would last during the ride. Even so, I put my headphones on and laid my head into the chair, and starred out the window at the scenery.
For me, there’s something truly majestic about bus rides in foreign countries. I watched the old stone buildings and small groups of people quickly appear and disappear, as brownish-red sand filled the horizon. I sat very humbled, thinking about my size relative to the untouched land that past by out the window. As more miles passed, and I continued to contemplate life, I had a crystallizing moment where all the pieces of the world seemed to be in place. Maybe it was the mix of the music playing while seeing the world pass by that brought it. I had to fight back tears in this moment when I began to think about the beauty of life, and how great it has been in the past few months.
My mind stayed in the moment for as long as possible, but as soon as it started to drift from the present, the moment was gone. The high began to fade, and while my mind balanced itself out, the euphoric thoughts weren’t as easy to grasp. But I knew that they existed, and that small glimpse was enough for me to strive for that happiness each day.
The bus stopped at a fork in the road with two signs. One said Ozued, and one said Azilal. I saw a few westerners hop off the bus, and I figured that this was my stop. I grabbed my luggage, and followed the group across the street to a stop. It turns out, two were from Italy and the one with the British accent was actually from Holland. His name was Dowa, and he was the true definition of bilingual. He was traveling alone, and had just met the Italians. The four of us, as well as three Moroccans, haggled with the taxi drivers for a ride to the waterfall. Altogether, we fit 9 people in the small sedan, and for seven dirhams apiece, made it to the waterfall.
We were dropped off at the mouth of the river, where we found the campground guide, who kindly showed us how to get to the falls. I followed the river blindly, not knowing what to expect all the way to the fall, until I stopped dead in my tracks. What I saw was amazing. The fall itself was about 90 feel tall, and dropped down two cliffs, before reaching a pool, which lead to a smaller river, with smaller cliffs and pools, that continued as far as the eyes could see. At the base of the waterfall was about a thousand vacationing Moroccans, swimming and jumping of cliffs, as loud and fast as all the Moroccans I’ve met. The valley was amazing, with lush greenery, complemented by sparse rocks, and brown sand. There where small primates running around, dubbed Ozued apes, as well as donkeys and stray cats. We followed the guide away from the edge of the cliff (after snapping a ton of pictures) and he led us down the mountain trail to the water where our campsite lay.
The place was called Camping Panard, and for 20 dirhams a night, one could stay on the covered terrace on a mattress. The group of us decided this was the best option, and found a few mattresses. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring our surroundings. The place was a maze, with paths leading you in any direction, and pools and mini waterfalls for miles. At the bottom of the main fall was a massive pool totally packed with Moroccans, as well as huge makeshift boats for tours, restaurants and vendors. What I’ve always loved about waterfalls in Africa is the fact there are no rules, so as high as you can climb and as close as you can get to the waterfall is up to you. Dowa and I walked up the steps half the height of the waterfall, then climbed until it got a little to steep and slippery (though most people climbed till the could bath in the falling water). We talked about the usual things, until he began to explain some laws in the Nederland, which blew my mind. It was amazing to hear more about the laws then just the obvious fact of legal weed.
When the night fell, we ate in our campsite, and watched the staff play drums and smoke hash. Apparently this is the nightly ritual. Though the camp was quite dirty, especially the bathrooms, at night everything was candlelight, and gave it this pseudo-romantic sense. Even squatting to go number two in a hole seems more pleasant when a candle illuminates the bathroom. I followed the twinkling path, brushed my teeth, then took in the incredible night sky. The stars were in abundance and the night was clear, just like a winter night at the cabin.
All my friends left the following morning, so for the price of one old pair of nikes, I took a two hour-long hike to caves and good cliff jumping. My guide was my age, and considered himself Berber not Moroccan (which has an interesting historical background for those interested.) As we walked, he pointed out random sights, and across the river we saw a few monkeys running through the trees. After about an hour of hiking, we reached our destination, and even this far from all the camp sights, there was still one little old lady selling soda. To get to the caves we had to cross the river on a pretty rickety bridge. I wish I would have taken a picture, but basically it was to logs held together by some rope, with sand bags used as footholds. The caves engulfed the river, where the water dropped into a dark crevasse, and out the other side. We found one above the river, where no water ran through, but you had to scale a bit of a mountain to get in. It was pretty exciting, and after we took pictures, we ended up climbing to the top of the rock structure to return to the river. On top of the cave I took a few pictures. It was an incredible sight to see how far the valley stretched, and I thought about how this would be a very fun destination for a few days of hiking and backpacking. There were less people down this end, but even the pool under the cave was still pretty full and wild.
On the way back, I decided that swimming was worth the possibility of stomach problems the Chnucks warned me about, and I found a nice cliff to jump off of. It was about twenty-five feet high, and after checking the depth, I climbed to the top to meet the Moroccans sitting near its edge. They spoke French, and bragged about jumping off it, but this pride seemed to disappear as I looked at them from the water below, soaking and pumped up, asking when they were going to meet me in the water. All declined my offer, and looked a little surprised I jumped in without haste.
I retuned to camp with my guide, where I rested for awhile, then played soccer with a six-year-old resident. I figured we were at about the right skill level, so this would be fun. The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming near the bottom of the falls, until night when I met a few Britts and French kids. We decided to go for a night swim as the sun was setting, near a cliff I had yet to jump off. It was a little over twenty feet I would say, but it had a prime runway for flips. This afternoon I was scared to flip off a ten or so foot cliff by myself, but immediately, with some male encouragement, I found the courage to flip of a cliff more then twice the size. Its funny how the male brain works.
I dine that evening with the French kids. There were four of them, Edmound, Nicole, Samuel, and Tiphanie. Edmound was the one I talked to the most, and he offered me a ride the next morning back to Marrakech in the car. I nearly turned the offer down because they were leaving at eight, but figured a free ride in a big Euro van at 8, seemed more appealing then a squished taxi for one hundred dirham at four. Nicole was quiet (and a guy for the record) and Samuel, even with the language barrier, proved to be the group sleaze. In only a few minutes, I found out that saying a little bit in English, referred to a small penis in French. I feel like that’s something our teachers should warn us about!
The van the next morning, was a typical, top heavy, white Euro van. Instead of having three rows of seats, it had the front seats, and then an emptied out back with only a love seat bungeed down so it didn’t fly out the open side door. We listened to French reggae on the way back, and for a four-hour drive, we switched places three times. When it was my turn in the back, I passed out, only to wake up to a few silly photos. When I sat in the back with Edmound, he explained how him and Tiphanie used to date, but broke up because he moved to college in a different city. Now her and Samuel are dating, Edmound’s best friend, and he is going to be gone for 10 months, and they are going to stay together. Edmound had a girlfriend, and talked about being faithful, but it was obvious in his eyes that he still cared for Tiphanie, and as I thought back on the awkward PDA moments between the couple, I almost cringed for Edmound’s sake. What crazy things love can do.
We arrived in Marrakech, and after a long lunch and market stroll, we all parted ways, but not before exchanging names to find one another on facebook. I spent the rest of the blistering hot day hiding out from the sun in my hostel speaking with a few guys from the UK. Its funny because even though I speak French at a six-year olds level, this conversation made me think I understood more of the conversations with Edmound then what was coming out of these guys mouths. Maybe it was the accent, or the weird word choice, but as the conversation went on, I became more of a spectator then a participant. There really is a huge difference between the English language, and the American Language.
Another night on a terrace, and another rude awakening by the sun.
After taking four buses, countless taxi’s, walking, and one massive Eurovan, I decided I would take the train to Rabat. My ticket was printed for five o’clock, but as I showed the guard the stub at 12:45, he seemed to be fine with letting me catching the 1 o’clock train. I sat in a compartment with one other man….at first. We both had our feet up and were speaking the little bit of French we both knew, when another person came in. My new friend’s feet hit the floor, but mine were still up…until another person walked in…then another. Before I knew it, there were four people on each bench, and the slightly air-conditioned, spacious, cool train car had turned into a stuffy, hot furnace.
The ride lasted for four hours, and to keep myself occupied I read, failed at napping, walked the aisles, and wrote. I spoke a little more French with some rando’s, but everyone else on the train seemed to be pretty entertained by their music…my ipod died a week ago.
As we began to approach Rabat, I remembered receiving an email from CIEE saying which train stop to get off at. There are two in Rabat, and one is next to the train station, and one is not. I asked my friend in the car, and he said Rabat-ville is where I want to go, so as we passed Rabat-Agdal, him, a nice stranger, and myself grabbed my three bags. The train stopped, and I talked to both, and we realized that we had got off at the wrong stop. My friend felt bad, and decided he would hop in the taxi with me, and as we pulled to my hotel, he quickly reached in his wallet, before I could in mine, and paid the driver. I tried to give him the money, but he wouldn’t let me, shook my hand, and went on his way.