April 11, 1998

Morocco: Past Laayoune, Western Sahara

Our lives revolve around food. We wake early in the mornings, just past the crack of dawn, and have our tents down before breakfast. Drive for a couple of hours and stop for today's and/or tomorrow's cooks to shop, while the remainder have cafes au lait and watch the baked streets and houses or guard the truck from endlessly enthusiastic hustlers selling fossils or racks of semi-precious stones. Drive on, playing cards, listening to music, staring out the window, until we stop for the night. Pitch tents, wander for half an hour, and mark time until dinner. After dinner we crash almost immediately.

Spent more days in Marrakesh than expected, due to mech problems. Cafe au laits and a long sonorous night next to Tim + Nick + Mattias, the Place Djemaa el-Fna, usually a riot of people and noise and food stalls and orange juice stands and trinket vendors, cigarette eaters, snake charmers, acrobats, henna tattooists, hasslers, hustlers, and a seething mass of tourists and Moroccans. Hitching in with a fellow EE and walking the 13K back to the campsite. Leonard Cohen drifting over the IHT.

A few long trucking days since. Agadir, closed for the day, so we bush-camped on the beach, played rugby for a bit and huddled out of the wind. Two days through the Western Sahara, police checkpoints spaced sometimes by minutes and sometimes hours, landscape shifting from scraggly trees that look unnaturally placed atop mounds of sand to long flat cactus-strewn scrub to ragged plains of rock and gravel to occasional folded dunes of Hollywood desert. "Objects in the desert may be much further away than they appear." And the wind, varying direction but constant force, lashing the tents and truck, catching clothes and caps, scattering a thin layer of sand on our food and dishes. The shoreline we drive past is dotted with shipwrecks and the surf sounds like thunder.

Stop in the middle of nowhere, and half the time a few old men appear from thin air and crouch near us, shaking hands or smoking silently.

Last night - the 10th - by a wide salt plain like a lunar crater, six inches of salt and earth crust above six inches of muddy water, moonrise ahead and sunset behind peeking over the rims of the crater, bands of purple in the sky and the salt plains glistening in the mingled lights, a dessicated goat's skeleton slumped in a depression in the middle, the omnipresent dry wind hanging over the tableau.

400K to Dakhla and the military convoy bound for Mauritania.

14 April money:
cash francs 5,000
cash pounds 100
cash dollars 250
TC pounds 250
TC dollars 700

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