Dodgy Moments, or Serendipity?
Generally we have felt super safe in the whole of Morocco (admittedly, we skirted the big cities, but big cities anywhere in the world are places where crime is more likely). So what I will describe in this chapter is a rare occasion.
We’re on our way to a park4night spot by a lake just north of Oued Zem. It’s been a long day crossing the countryside on small roads through the middle of beautiful nowhere.
As we approach Oued Zemm, Google Maps leads us around the centre but just before we get to the road that will take us to the lake, there’s a level crossing that is out of action, so we have to retrace our steps and pass through the centre of the town. It looks like quite a rough town. At some point, I notice gangs of teenage kids having stone fights, some of them going across the road we are passing through. It feels a bit dangerous, even though they are not aiming for us, but it feels like we could easily be caught in the crossfire, and the stones are not small. There is a lawlessness about this place…we are glad to get away from the town unharmed.
Several miles further on, the countryside takes on a rather forlorn character. We go down a bumpy road into a valley that’s out of phone reception, the GPS stops working and we seem to be the only ones around. Then we pass a dutch campervan and they motion us to slow down. We stop and meet up with them. They are on their way out of this region, having been warned by a local to go any direction for at least 25 km as it isn’t safe here. In addition, they say their van was swarmed by about 30 kids in Oued Zem on the main crossing with no-one coming to their rescue and the kids getting quite agressive, climbing the van and doing things to it. They were visibly shaken by this experience and wanted to know what our experience in the South and further inland had been. As we only had good things to report, we were able to calm them down and reassure them that going further South was ok. Frank and I debate for a little while whether we should heed the local’s advice and not stay by the lake. In the end we too decide to leave. We have a rule that if one of us doesn’t feel safe with something, we heed it, no matter if concerns are rational or not.
So we get back in the van to drive another 25 km in any direction. On the small roads that takes about one hour. When we reach the big road, we pass by an Afriquia fuel station. Frank remembers Jose’s advice that if we ever are desperate to find a safe place for the night, to ask at the gas station, so we turn in.
It’s late and there’s just one guy in the station. He says no problem, park up anywhere you like. By the way, it looks like you have a flat tyre and indeed, one of our tyres looks very flat. Just as well we didn’t stop at the lake in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception and a flat tyre! Instead, we park up by the airpump, so that next morning we don’t have to drive at all before checking the pressure! Five minutes after settling in, there’s a knock on the door – Abdelghani, the guy from the fuel station, delivers two glasses and a teapot full of berber tea…
We retaliate by bringing him a bowl of our piping hot lamb and prune stew, which he responds to by turning up with some mandarins. We deal the final blow by bringing him some dates from Ouazarzate. Each time, we chat a little. I think he’s never met foreigners like us, people who bring him a meal to eat…
He shows us pictures of his family and tells us of a souq nearby that is taking place tomorrow. Well, we know where we are heading for tomorrow then…
What a day! Again, we feel like we’ve been tossed one way and the other by this country – from spectacular vistas to fighting teenage gangs, from dodgy town and lakeside to the safety of a fuel station. And, quite unrelatedly, heeding the warning about safety brought us to a fuel station and an air pump just when we needed it.
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