posted on Friday, March 16, 2018

Taliouine


All guests survived gas inhalations and frost and saw the light of another day. More accurately we saw the sunshine piercing through a thick fog bank, a blanket covering the rest of the mountain below; unlike Morocco, it was still bitterly cold. We were back having breakfast together, fighting for warmth next to our beloved fire. Energy restored, glowing in fluorescent yellow I dived down, disappearing into the soupy mist. In an icy drizzle I witnessed the appearance of my second messenger. This time he was not a local, rather it came in the shape of a chubby cyclist with a northern British accent. He emerged like a hologram from the fog, faint shadows giving ways to more definite contours; his long grey beard touching and flowing around the handlebar was collecting water that slowly trickled down forming shining beads. I exchanged a few words with this fairy, wondered where the heck he was coming from or going in that desperate weather. Surely, he must have had the same thoughts about me and my little folding wheels. As I descended lower the fog eventually lifted but the road disappeared instead. Ten kilometres of road works had been scheduled in order to bring Morocco to the twenty-first century when to me old twentieth century tarmac would have done just fine. I crawled through the dusty road works, into the Souss plain, finding myself into a much sparser vegetation of hills scattered with clusters of argan trees. Prices needed some updating this side of the Atlas. A picture of a Berber shepherd with goats cost 10 Dirham. When running low with small change, you could get a Berber only photograph for 5 Dh. As always GoPro filming was free. My camera clamped to a chest harness and protruding mysteriously out of my chest was ready to film at the push of a button. A small red light would start flashing but nobody dared asking any question or risking to be insensitive . For what they knew it might have well been some kind of medical device giving some warning signal or a portable spare lung. As far as road signs, there was little concern; next to Arabic and the familiar French a new unintelligible hieroglyphics appeared, Berber. I hoped they wouldn’t drop my French or I would be totally lost. In my vast ignorance I didn’t know that goats climbed trees. You can imagine the expression on my face as I spotted a tree full of goats, a goat tree. It cost me 5 Dirham to convince the Berber shepherd to approach them and take some pictures of the incredible feat. Interesting has it seemed to me, in this part of the world it was simply routine. Goats just climbed trees. After a few hours of passing by goat trees along the road, the novelty wore out and I could hardly notice them myself. There were some hints of desert as I approached Taliouine, the world biggest saffron growing area. Undoubtedly, together with Argan oil, the most useless ingredient to the wandering cyclist.