March 29, 1998

Morocco: Diamant Vert Camping, Fez

In the truck, rain pelting on plastic around me, a long lazy day (except for cooking duty) ahead. Just what's needed after a fairly frenetic few days. Nice green campsite, lights, hot water, tous les conforts de home.

Narrative: Another day of waiting in Rabat: roved the medina, read a paper, drank coffee, returned to the Bukimans, no BYT. Walked/taxiid/walked to hypermarket to get 'em a case of beer as a peace offering, toured the jewelry shops of Sale medina and ate w/ Tony + Heidi, returned & drank & chatted & crashed in Phil's tent.

Next day - 24th - went for a walk up the beach & breakwater with Heidi, returned to find, drum roll, the big yellow truck. Lunch & rejoicing. Changed money in town and returned to the now-familiar Camping de la Plage. Clare of the Bukimans shaved a couple of heads and we said our goodbyes. Filled in some visa forms and played some guitar.

Day trip to Casablanca was next, a needed break from Rabat. Casa is big, ugly, noisy, poor, and frenetic, but otherwise OK. The colossal deserted majesty of the seaside mosque. Free oranges and compliments for Heidi's hair. Beggars at the outdoor tables. Garbage piles and crumbling concrete in the medina, blocks from the huge gleaming mosque. Sheer drop from the mosque perimeter to the sea. Curious looks on the train (which reminds me - women carrying all their goods under their clothes from Tangier-Rabat, waddling like overstuffed ducks). Back for thankfully-final night at the campsite.

Morning, long lie-in, called home, drank coffee, went for lunch w/ some people, then packed the truck up and set out. Immediate mechanical problems, but got out of Rabat and bush-camped by the road. Tent skills returning.

And off in the early morn, and hour's drive to Meknes and a two-hour stopover, largely spent finding Heidi a toilet and Gavin a sleep sheet. The twisting narrow maze of a medina is already so familiar that I hardly notice. Oranges by the hundred, spilling off the carts. Thick piercing smells of the spice stalls. Teeming crowds. Prices that fluctuate by the minute.

And off to lunch and a stroll through Volubilis, an extraordinary Roman ruin, once the furthest outpost of the Empire. Roofless walls and hints of walls, pillars and archways overlooking the crumbling stone, faded mosaics peering up at the sky, feeling not so much abandoned as neglected, as if the Romans might come back in a century or two and get the place back in shape. The view from atop the central hill, a field full of an empire's gravestones, surrounded by rolling hills of farmland and placid streams. The lonely entrance arch. Sewers, undercutting the rooms, choked now with weeds.

Off to camp in an olive grove; seemed like a good idea at the time. The truck got stuck in the claylike mud. Shovels and sand mats out, and after much digging and wallowing in mud we managed to catch the back axle on a stump. Gave up, ate, crashed.

Next morn - last morn - spent another hour digging the truck out onto the road, left the olive grove looking like WW1 no-man's-land, flattened the sand mats again and headed off to Fez. Guided tour of mosque entrances, tanneries, overpriced restaurants, carpet shops and trinket shops, part of the genuine Moroccan experience. "There is no obligation to buy." Amazing medieval city, tunnels and shortcuts and alleys, layer built on layer, donkeys shuffling past with loads of pottery and wood and Coke bottles, street stalls hawking food and leather and trinkets and cloths, kung-fu movies at the crossroads cinema, Luke Skywalker swings into the stalls.

Stocked up for today's food at the Makro before Fez trip, too - cooking duty today. Trucked in rain from Fez to here, ate, washed up - eventually, thanks to Heidi - drank and played some guitar, slept in the truck (guard duty).

Rain comes and goes in waves. Talk of driving the truck off to stock up. More later.

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