The weather suddenly changes – a strong wind picks up and there is a silvery grey atmosphere that makes even nearby mountains look hazy. We don’t really know what this is – it doesn’t look like rain. It is cold enough for snow to fall, or maybe this is a kind of sandstorm? The change of weather has knocked us out a bit. Frank is in bed once more, nursing a cold and I use the time to catch up with our blog and admin.
It would be great for nature if there were some proper rain. The oasis of Tafraoute looks well parched, although some farmers are hopeful and have ploughed their fields in readiness for water.
One day I take a walk through the oasis. The rock formations are different to anything we’ve seen in Morocco so far. Huge boulders lie around in between Argan trees, as if the gods have been playing marbles.
The shops in town sell Argan products at hefty prices. What has really taken our fancy though is Amlou, the most delicious almond paste I’ve ever come across. We buy a big pot and eat it on fresh flat-bread, with a smattering of Frank’s Lemon and Bergamot marmalade on top – yummy!
Here’s a photo of Frank on an early-morning stint of ‘marmalading’.
Near our campsite, there is a large open part of the Oasis where many campers have parked up. It’s quasi wild-camping, with a man from the commune passing by every day, charging 15 Dh, but for once I’m not keen to join the wild campers and I can’t put my finger on why that is so. The front of the campsite is dominated by French campers, of the ‘plastic-fantastic’ variety, while the hippies have spread out several hundred metres into the Oasis. There would be plenty of space to park up in between and not be bothered by anyone, but somehow this place gives me the creeps. As soon as Frank is well enough, we get out of here.
(Later, we find out that there’d just been a huge techno rave with abundant use of drugs. Maybe that contributed to my feeling of discomfort)
About 20km from Tafraoute, we pick up young Sala who is hitchhiking back home to Agadir. At age 22 and an economics student in his final year, Sala says he’s a bit confused about what he wants to do with his life. His English is surprisingly perfect, considering he learnt it mostly from films. As with so many young men, his view is towards Europe, but he listens attentively to our warnings that Europe will not give him the reception he dreams of and for once, our encouragement to find his vocation here in Morocco seems to fall on fertile ground.
As we drive along chatting, the landscape suddenly opens up and we decide to stop for the night – tonight’s moonrise is special, it being a super, blue-blood moon and we appear to have found a perfect place to see it from.
As the light fades and we light a fire in Emma, a shepherd passes by with a very well nourished heard of sheep and goats. Some of the goats obligingly stand on their hind legs for Frank to take the photo of ‘goats in Argan trees’ that he’s been looking out for, ever since we came into the area and found a crumpled postcard depicting such a scene.
The shepherd has a lovely, bright-eyed smile, but communicating with him is difficult – he only speaks Berber, which we don’t. Nevertheless, we somehow show him our appreciation of the good-looking animals, and he nods proudly. This is a young man who seems very happy with his lot in a rural, isolated landscape, looking after his herd all day. He doesn’t seem in any hurry to abandon his life here and find another one in Europe!
The moon indeed makes a spectacularly bright appearance, though sadly we are not in the right part of the world to witness the eclipse. We get the first inkling by an otherworldly hue on the underside of clouds, and then the moon climbs over the mountainside, spilling its milky-white light across the landscape.
We invite Sala to stay for dinner but he wants to hitch another lift, having run out of money and needing to get back to Agadir. However, the sun has already set and after a little while Sala reappears at our door, glad to accept the dinner invitation, having found a little cave under an Argan tree where he has spread out his rolymat and sleeping bag for the night.
We share a lovely evening exchanging stories. Sala is inspired by our campervan life. When he leaves, we give him one of our hot water bottles for the night and arrange to continue our journey together after a good night’s sleep. The next morning we share our last bits of bread and leben with Sala and drive on with the sun on Emma’s back.
That’s Young Sala, holding a sign which says ‘no excessive grazing’. We found it lying down, probably trampled by sheep…
For more photos of this chapter, click here
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