Help is always close at Hand

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We leave the farm mid-afternoon, winding our way back up this beautiful valley. It often seems like the mountains in Morocco go down into the earth; you’re driving along on a plain, often quite arid, and then suddenly the road drops down into a lush valley and it’s quite mountainous (which makes me think that this landscape was carved out by huge rivers a long time ago). After half a dozen hairpin bends, we’re back up on the arid plain. A few hundred yards more and the valley is hidden from sight – our three days there slip away into memory like a dream that you try to hold onto upon waking.

Our next stop is Khenifra, some 70km further South. We stop on the outskirts and it’s my turn to lie down not feeling well, while Frank goes shopping. Maybe it wasn’t the figs after all…

Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. Two smiling policemen on motorbikes are outside. Do you want to stay here for the night? Don’t stay in this car park, come and park outside our station, you will be safer there. When we arrive, there isn’t a lot of space, but somehow they manouvre us into a tight spot. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a quiet night here, but I really need to lie down, so I don’t care. We may well have caught Morocco belly somewhere – whatever it is, I’m feverishly tossing and turning all night and the outside noises mix and mingle with half waking dreams. A group of people wrapped in shawls and Djellabas stand outside our van for hours, talking loudly. Maybe one of their family is in police custody? At 4am there is a veritable concert of Muezzins calling the faithful to prayer. I seem to hear 8 separate voices in my fevered state. At 7am, however, I wake up feeling much better, in fact I feel like the fever has cleared not only my illness but some other stuff too. Somehow this morning, I feel more part of Morocco, part of my surroundings.

It is really cold this morning, we have to scrape the ice off the windscreen before we can get going! We have decided on a smallish road into the mountains to a lake called Aguelmame Azigza (the Green Lake), after consulting with the police on the state of the road. We leave Khenifra at school rush hour – there are children everywhere, school transport sometimes consisting of an open-backed pick-up truck, fenced high, sometimes ‘double deckers’ (the kind of structure they also use to transport sheep), ram-packed with children, other times, mothers on donkeys with a child in front and one on the back, or children running across the fields, mud flying all directions, towards school. The road leads us up a very nice looking valley, some big houses, lush vegetation and many waterways. Then we reach the forest. First, there are evergreen oaks, and then we are back in the cedar forests. They are amazing, magical. There is a hue of frost on the ground and as we get higher, little drifts of snow too.

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For a number of kilometres we don’t see any other vehicles and then, as we turn a corner, we see a plume of smoke by the side of a truck. Getting closer, we see a guy who’s lit a fire and is attempting to jack up his vehicle (a beautiful old Bedford, says Frank).

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We stop to see if we can help. I look at the road – a long metallic scratch is leading all the way to where the truck is now leaning, nose first into the muddy ditch, and scanning the hillside, we see the wheel lying some 50 metres ahead, the tyre in perfect condition.

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This brings back a memory… about 25 years ago, driving from Plymouth to Totnes at 50 miles an hour, suddenly the left hand front of my car dropped down to the road and ground its way on for another 30metres, while my wheel overtook me and hopped up the bank. It’s a horrible feeling, I remember it well. This happens if a wheel gets too tightly fixed to the axle. You are lucky that it was the left hand side, not the right hand side, I say, pointing to the hill dropping away from the road to the right. No, I’m fine, Allah looks after me, he says.

Some other people stop by, tumble out of cars, giving advice and, taking some of his produce to deliver to wherever, fold themselves back into their vehicles and disappear. We stay to help, offering our jack (first ever use – touch wood) and our spade. The man, Hussein, tries to refuse our help, but eventually gladly accepts. Is there any help coming? Oh yes, a friend will be with me in 15 minutes. We hang around and there is no sign of any friends, just further phone calls and ill-sounding people on the other end giving excuses as to why they can’t come and rescue him. But he’s relaxed. We share some Tea and Tangerines and try to communicate with the help of our dictionary, then Frank and Hussein go in search of wood for our stove, which they take turns in sawing up.

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It’s a gorgeous morning and I sit in the sunshine and enjoy the silence up here. Eventually we move on, Hussein insisting that we should (two days later we pass by the same spot once more and the truck is gone, so someone must have helped out in the end).

For more picture of this beautiful ( 😉 )old Bedford, click here


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