Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Travel Morocco 3/3

I got off the bus. It was nowhere. We were at a gas station with nothing else in sight. I looked at Jarrod with the same perplexity that had come to characterize our trip. We shrugged and crossed our fingers for a moment. And in that brief moment of uncertainty I felt the universe savor the dramatic irony.

Then a voice. In Arabic a man was talking about Chefchaouen. I mean, at least I thought he was. He looked at me, hailed me over and asked, “Chefchaouen?” I said yes and he smiled and started putting my bags in the car. I thought I would have a nice cab ride with Jarrod to some nearby destination.

That didn’t happen. Instead, the cab driver unceremoniously shoved my stuff in the trunk and hailed everyone getting off the bus to get in the cab. The five seater somehow managed to cram seven people into it. Jarrod and I had no idea where we were going.

We pushed ourselves into the vehicle. There was a woman who had a veil and a ton of gear. I don’t remember if she had a baby, but I think she had baby clothes or gear. The woman’s husband was with her. There were two talkative men that rounded out our traveling party. There was a short silence as we pulled out of the gas station and I was suddenly very sure we were being kidnapped.

The cab took a fork in the road; the small, windy, definitely not the highway road. And the feeling crept further into my throat. As the two talkative men started engaging the driver in a raucous conversation in a foreign language my inner calm dissipated. I started looking for escape routes and wondering if I had enough cash to buy my way back to the tiny little landing strip in Fez.

Fez’s airport was barely anything. I have seen larger mall parking lots. When we got off the plane and onto the tarmac, Jarrod and I cracked up. It was so small I could take an encompassing picture of it on my phone. Customs was awful. There really wasn’t much security; it was a long line to get a stamp. It seemed like an unnecessary piece of bureaucracy; it was obvious no one really tracked who was coming or going.

In that moment of panic, I thought how easy it would be to take a cab back to the airport and go back to Spain where I spoke the language and didn’t worry about being kidnapped by very nice men in robes.

I refused to look at Jarrod knowing that he was probably having similar reservations. Then people started getting out of the cab. Suddenly I was in the middle of nowhere in a country I didn’t speak the language to and I was scared out of my brains. It was just Jarrod and I. I was about ready to scream and beg the driver to take us someplace I recognized when the blue buildings came into view. We were definitely in Chefchaouen. My heart came off red alert and I started enjoying the car ride.

Until we were unceremoniously kicked out of the car. And Jarrod and I were standing in the middle of a city with only the name of a hotel to guide us.

I saw a policeman and felt that sigh of relief that comes with knowing rest is just around the corner. The police man did not speak English or Spanish, only French or Arabic. My heart sank. Then a drug dealer came up to us and said he could take us to our hostel.

Yeah, an English speaking drug dealer. That same sinking, “should we follow this guy through these dark abandoned alleys” feeling came over us. But we followed through some sort of sense of politeness, curiosity, and inertia. It paid off. Mr. Drug Dealer took us straight to our destination and we checked in. Before he left he offered to sell us some hashish. We thanked him but declined.

Later that night on the roof of the hostel we sat and looked out on the rooftops and the landscape. It was all worth it, even through the moments of complete uncertainty. The rooftops gave way to a large sweeping valley that extended south to the rest of the continent. The city lights barely obscured the deep azure sky. Stars peeked out as crisp white dots. Morocco was beautiful.