Day One – Marrakech or bust

Just to recap for those expecting pictures of the Himalayas, tales of sherpas and the faint whiff of rancid yak butter: the Foreign Office decided to advise against all travel to Nepal on Thursday night, citing some minor civil war or some such. 12,000 people had died in a decade, one of the royal family had machine gunned down the majority of the others (a concept ripe for importing IMHO) and the Tenth Anniversary of the uprising just happened to coincide with my flight touching down in Kathmandu.

Now, 12,000 people in ten years is something just over 3.28 people/day, and I quite fancied those odds. More people probably die opening umbrellas every day than that. The FO didn’t however and, more importantly, neither did Explore Worldwide, the organisers of the trek. So, they cancelled it on the Friday morning and offered me either a full refund or around 500 notes and the chance to go trekking in the Jebel Sahro mountains in Morocco instead.

Now, with Sara and I separating and her planning to move out over the next couple of weeks, going away somewhere seemed slightly imperative no matter how amicable things are. Thus I found myself flying South over Seville at ten in the evening and heading towards Africa, the city painted on the landscape like the Nazca Lines outlined in neon and fire. After landing at Marrakech and spending a couple of hours slowly winding towards the smiling, chatty, laughing immigration people (think Los Angeles, but more menacing) the airport disgorged me into what seemed like a full scale fight.

It wasn’t, of course, just some eager competition for my meagre taxi fare into the city. Choosing one driver because I thought he had the best moustache, we negotiated a fare and set off. For some reason, a very attractive Moroccan policewoman was installed in the front seat next to him, though whether she was cadging a lift and going off duty or just making sure he went the right way, I never found out.

Marrakech was flooded. A torrential thunderstorm had passed over a the city a few hours earlier, and the drains had been unable to cope. Three lane highways became a single lane snake of cars trying to find the shallow water, rooster tails arcing up towards the date palms by the side of the road in the moonlight. Luckily, given the camping nature of the trip, that was the only evidence of rain I saw for the whole fortnight.

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