Turns out Morocco is a very small place.
No matter where Melbourne hipster and I venture we seem to run into the same people.
Take Essaouira on the coast for instance, we end up sharing a dorm with a English couple we met in Marrakech shortly after they made the rash decision to buy a tortoise.
Nearly a week had passed but nothing had changed, they were still trying to work out what the hell to do with it.
We then managed to run into the three Spaniards and the two German girls from our Sahara camel riding tour and… the Latvian Carl Williams’ lookalike.
He is possibly the funniest person I’ve ever met and his stories are pure randomness, such as the one about his friend who started a black-market donkey importing business and the one where he recalled beating his young neighbour with a belt because he didn’t realise Latvia and England have quite different policies on child discipline.
We also shared a fancy Riad with the other two Germans from our Sahara tour – and a bathroom which got a hammering as I’m pretty sure we all had a case of what I’ll call ‘tagine tummy’ from the fish grill.
It was a deliciously cheap seafood feast but it’s never a good omen when your plate is still wet with a brownish water when you arrive, there’s a feral skinny cat rubbing against your legs and flies so fat they hardly get airborne when you swat at them.
Come to think of it I’ve had a slight case of ‘tagine tummy’ the entire trip and think Morocco is the first country where I’ve actually lost weight backpacking.
It’s also the first country I’ve been to where the western imitation of their food is actually better than the real thing.
It’s a minor miracle we made it though, given we missed the bus and had to share a taxi with three other travellers in the same boat.
We agreed on the price of 200 dirhams for the journey but that got us as far as around the corner where they pulled over, other Moroccan men appeared out of nowhere and then demanded 1000 dirhams.
We eventually agreed on 600 and hit the road for what turned out to be a horrifically hot two-hour journey where the mercury rose into the high 40s, a thick film of sweat glued my leg to the Aussie detective sitting next to me, we all developed a bad case of what Melbourne hipster likes to call ‘swamp arse,’ and the driver regularly took his hands of the wheel and began thrashing his head around in a sign of joy to the Moroccan music playing on the radio.
But Essaouira was worth the near-death experience because I always feel at home when I can see the ocean and adore the fact that it doesn’t matter where, or who you are in the world – the joy of the beach is universal.
But it wasn’t exactly a sunbathing beach, it was Wellington-style windy, to the point even the hearty donkeys had trouble negotiating it.
Despite that I could have stayed much longer if it wasn’t for the fact I was fast running out of time to make my way to Valencia in Spain for the tomato food fight Tomatina.
So we opted for a epic travel day which included a un-air-conditioned train trip where a vat of what we think was home-made chicken stock in the overhead luggage rack dripped on my head.
Luckily I moved before the drip turned into a waterfall, though not far enough away to save our legs from being splattered in the meaty liquid.
Our day then went from bad to worse in Fez.
Firstly, we discovered upon arrival that the place Lonely Planet recommended we stay in the medina was actually a 45-minute walk out of the medina.
Secondly, the hostel we then booked online didn’t actually have a room for us when we arrived, instead putting us up for the night in what I’m pretty sure was just a spare room of a minted local’s house.
And thirdly, so hungry and tired we made the mistake of letting a local guide us to dinner only to find ourselves half an hour later deep in some dodgy back alleys of the medina in what felt like a ploy to rob us.
I freaked out, we did the bolt, got a can of coke on the walk home, gave up on dinner and went to bed on an empty stomach.
The next morning we ditched Fez altogether and tried our luck in the blue hilltop village of Chefchaouen.
And, in what was becoming a norm for this trip staying at our hostel was the Dutch and Spanish couples from our camel riding excursion.
So to celebrate our last night together we headed out in search of beers – no easy feat in a dry Muslim country, though mine soon ended up all over Melbourne hipster as I giggled mid-swig as the Dutch girl was telling us about how a Moroccan in Fez insulted her by saying – ”my penis looks like your head. It’s the same size as your head. It’s the same colour as your head.’
Brutal – the worst we got in our fortnight here was a kid saying ‘fuck you’ when we politely declined to buy some tissues off him.
The next day it was time to say goodbye to Melbourne hipster, something I can’t say I enjoyed.
I almost cried, travel has been so easy with him, he’s been like a brother I like to bicker with.
And before long it was just me again, sitting in a bus very near a little girl who was soon became violently car sick and opposed to her parents cleaning it up they just poured water all over her, turning the aisle into a cat jellymeat-like spew slushy.
But in many ways it was the perfect way to say goodbye to Morocco, which goes down as probably the most randomly fun country I’ve ever visited.