31 October 2012

leave village
walk rain
no taxi

Making bread has not changed in thousands of years

In the morning, we were a bit freaked out about last night.  Lahcen acted as if nothing had happened, and even had the nerve to ask Anna if she had a good sleep, which she did not answer.  In reality, without the incidents, it would have been fine.

As there was no privacy for conversation, Anna could not impart what had happened.  Still, I knew we needed to go.  It had nothing to do with the family, as they were fantastic, but we were worried about Lahcen now.
We told them we wanted to go back to Taroudant, but as the rain had eased up a little, they said we should have a look around.  We did not want to make a big deal about last night, in front of the family, so went with Aziz, Omar, and Lahcen to check out the area.

Making bricks has not changed in thousands of years

Our first stop was the kiln.  Omar has two.  One traditional one, with the fire in the bottom, and big thick clay walls.  You stack the things to be fired in the top, and stoke the flames in the bottom.  It takes about a week for this process.  He also has a gas kiln that is a lot newer and faster.  Then we were shown how to make bricks, and tiles.  There is a very large space where they can set out thousands of bricks.  Let them dry and then fire them.  He does have a few helpers when he gets big orders in.  His main bread and butter is the bricks, and the rest is the cream.  However we found out that the bowls he makes are sold to the shops for about 5DH (60 cents) each, and these shops can sell the same piece for upwards of 300DH.  He fells a bit ripped off about this, and I do not blame him at all for that feeling.  If he had anything at the time, we would have bought it!

From here, we wandered up the hill behind his house.  The views would have been stunning.  However there was low clouds shrouding everything in white.  You could see and hear the river though.  It was rushing away and having a merry time throwing rocks about.  Further up the hill, we saw shepherds, rugged up tight against the weather.  Argan trees dotting the landscape, and fields with olive trees in the valley.  The area is divided up into family groups, but when it is harvesting season, everyone pitches in to do the work.  All the neighbours working together to get the job done.

As we wandered further away, Anna and Omar decided to go back to the house.  She had breakfast and tea with the old man.  It was nice and relaxed.  Andrew, Aziz and Lahcen went down the other side of the hill, and over to the river.  Here I got offered some home brew spirits, as I sat under a tree.  This was made from figs, and very strong.
The rain was coming in patches, so we headed back to the house ourselves, for some nice warm tea and Bread with honey.

Rain, rain rain and more rain

There was more Arabic lessons, and as lunch appeared the rain eased up again.  Not wanting to be ungrateful, we had lunch, thinking we could be missing our one shot to get out of here without another night.  Again, we want to make it clear that the hospitality was second to none.  We just did not want to impose on the family any more than we needed to.  We also REALY did not want another night with Lahcen (Anna had filled Andrew in on all the details by now).

Luckily, the weather seemed to hold out.  The water from the gutters was just starting to trickle, rather that the flood being blown sideways as it was before.  After a reasonable time had passed, we again pressed that we needed to return to Taroudant.  This time it was accepted, and we walked down through the village.  The small narrow streets were now awash with water, mud and detritus from the storm.  Huge channels had been carved out of the ground, and it was treacherous to walk down between the buildings.  We found out there had been a death in the village last night, and Omar had been up since 4am helping.  Some of the houses had collapsed in the storm.  As we went through the town, Aziz and Omar stopped to talk to everyone, sometimes giving condolences, and other asking what the condition of the river crossing was.  It was a no go.  At the base of town, we started heading upstream.  Crossing fences made of brambles, and through muddy fields.  Eventually we came to the river, and kept going upstream.  After about half an hour we came to a spot where we could wade through to the other side.  Anna and I took one look at it and said no!  It was moving very quickly, and we do not know it.  Although the water was only supposed to go up to our thighs, we did not want to risk it.

First time in three years the river is running

Our next option was a 45 minute walk to the barrage.  We worked out this was a dam, and we could cross there.  It is where Aziz crossed last night.  We decided to try for it.  As we thought we were going to have a hot shower when we got back to Taroudant, we were not too worried.  It was muddy, windy and cold.  Still, it was also enjoyable in its own way.  You can put up with a lot when you know there is a shower waiting!
The fields turned into mountainside, and the clear air turned back into rain.  But we made progress.  Scrambling over embankments, following old aqueducts.  Then scrambling up cliffs and along the sides of landslides.  It was surely an interesting journey.  Sorry we have no photos of it, but we don’t want to ruin another camera from water!

In this way we made it to within sight of the barrage.  The place is under construction and massive.  However there was no easy way to get to it.  We had to scale the side of the mountain, until we got to a half constructed road, which we could follow for a little bit.  Until it turned into quickmud (like quicksand, but stickier)  Then rock hopping down the newly formed gulleys back to the base.  From here we could walk across the bridge.  The other side was a lot easier, as we now had a proper bitumen road to follow.  It did go up and down a lot, but we didn’t have to watch our footing, or trees.  Much easier.  As we were completely soaked by now, we didn’t worry too much when the rain got worse.  Aziz gave Anna his umbrella, and we thought that was a nice touch.  Even if somewhat pointless now, but made things a bit better.

You don’t really want to cross here

After hiking for over four hours to do a 45min walk, we arrived at the town across the river from where we had started.  The most annoying thing happened then.  I had managed to keep my shoes dry all the way somehow, but the metre from the road to the footpath proved to be too much, and the water went almost to my knees!
But we had arrived!!

Sitting down in the crowded cafe next to the bus that would take us back to town we had a celebratory cup of tea to warm ourselves, while we waited for the bus to be ready.

It wasn’t until an hour later that Lahcen decided to tell us that the bus would not be going due to the rain, and damage to the road.  So now we were stuck here.  Less than a kilometre from where we started.  Soaked to the bone, and nowhere to stay.

Aziz stepped in then, and said that we could stay with his family over here.  We were not sure what he ment, as we were not spending another four hours to go back to Omars.  He meant his Sister in Law.  This was a fair walk from where we were, so we got started.  To Aziz’s credit, he stopped every car going past to see if we could get to Taroudant, but to no avail.  It was not possible, but maybe would be in the morning.
Cold, half frozen and soaked to the bone (our wrinkles had wrinkles, we were that wet) we made it to his wifes family.  Covered in mud and bedraggled, we must have been a sight.  However his sister in law took one look at us, and dragged us inside.  Being invited to sit on the couch (we really didn’t want to, as we would get it wet, but had no choice) and wait while they worked things out.  It must have been a bit of a shock to them, but they didn’t show it.  A minute later Andrew was whisked into one room, and Anna another.  Here we were told to strip and given clean dry clothes to wear.  And lots of them!
From there we were taken into another room, and given blankets.  This was heaven!  Tea, Coffee and biscuits quickly turned up, and we got to meet the family properly.  There was Habib (Father) his wife (Aziz’s sister in Law) and 4? sons.  Habib is a real estate developer, and we had another good time chatting away in multiple languages.  Ali, one of the sons, understood english, but did not speak it, so there was a bit of help there.  My pages of Arabic had not survived the trip, but was carefully spread out to dry.  More paper was provided, and we started again.  If we were to stay a week, I think we would be able to hold a proper conversation!
Now we can count to ten, and give thanks properly.   They all had a good laugh at how I tried to say words, as I could not pronounce some of the sounds.  Anna had no problem due to her multilingual abilities.  We got to see the Moroccan news as well.  The small storm that we thought was only here, covered most of Morocco, but Taroudant was the worst hit.

A magnificent dinner of couscous was brought out, followed by fresh apples.  More coffee, tea, fanta and biscuits as well.  Luckily we could now say in Arabic “I’m full, thankyou, no more, it was delicious”  For some reason, they kept trying to give me more…  “Cool, Cool” was shouted at me!  “Eat, Eat, you are too skinny!”

After a long and tiring day, we were looking forward to going to sleep.  Another room was prepared for us.  Two mattresses were put down with lots of blankets on top.  Lahcen was expected to sleep in the other room, which made me happy.  However he insisted on staying in our room.  Habib’s wife then threw a blanket and pillow on the floor for him and bid us good night.  He went to sleep on the far end of the room, and Anna by the door.

During the night Anna woke up as there was someone sleeping on her left side.  She thought it might be Aziz, but when he “rolled” into her, it turned out to be Lachen.  Anna jumped, and woke Andrew.  Lahcen got up (It was amazing he had the room to lay down, as the pile of pillows and blankets were there) and we were treated to another midnight show of getting up, lights on, off, going out of the room, coming back in.  more lights.  Just go to sleep already, and over in your corner!
Another restless night after that.

In the morning, we were up.  After breakfast I went to get my cigarettes out of our bag, to find them missing.  When Aziz offered me one of his, Lahcen pulled my lighter out of his pocket to light it for me.  This had been put in my bag with the cigarettes last night.  I had been sharing them, but expected him to ask for one, rather than go through our belongings to find them.  This set of a small panic, as we went through our bag to make sure nothing else was missing, like our money, or passports!

The weather was not too bad, so we said our goodbyes.  Anna gave them the soap she had been given, as we had nothing else to show our appreciation, and we headed back into the village.  On the way, we could see how destructive the storm had been, even here.  The road was completely washed away in one section, and the power pole that provided electricity to the entire village was being propped up with a few stout branches.  People were trying to fill in the creator created by the rain with large rocks and bushes.  One of the houses we had passed was also partially collapsed, and there had been deaths in this village too.

Last night we got the rundown on the different types of buildings.  The traditional mud and clay buildings, that were good as long as it didn’t rain too much, and the newer balsablock and cement buildings, where the water did not affect it as much.  However even in these buildings, you could see the water seeping through creating dark stains in the render.  Cement is expensive here, and does not provide good insulation, and most people use a combination of both, or just the traditional way.  Patching it up as necessary.  Storms like this are few and far between.  There was one three years ago, but the one before that was another ten.

On the main road, we waited for a vehicle to go past.  It was still drizzling, but not too bad.  We had been told to keep the dry clothes until we got to town, and Aziz would bring them back with him.  When the first bus pulled up, we were relieved to find that it could get to Taroudant.  We piled in.  Even though it was still going a few villages up.  I think the consensus was get in it now, before it fills up on the way back.

The trip was slow going, as there were a lot of sections where there was rubble strewn over the road, or parts had been washed away.  But we made it in the end.  It had taken us most of the day to get back to town.  When we got there, the sun shone through a bit.  It looked like the rain was coming to an end.  A tea with Aziz and Lahcen, back to the hotel to get our bags and check in for the night (they had kindly kept them for us).  A quick change, and we brought them down for Aziz.  It was kind of him to escort us all the way back to the hotel.

At the end, Lahcen had the nerve to put out his hand and ask for money.  We had made it clear we wouldn’t be able to pay him, and he had said he wanted to do it to show us Morocco.  We would have much prefered to give money to Aziz and his family, if we had been able.  He was the one that did so much for us, considering Lahcen dropped us in his lap.  I do hope he or a member of his family can make it to Australia, and we can repay the debt tenfold.

The day was not that interesting, but that night there was a large commotion going on in the street.  Popping our heads out the window, we saw a large gathering.  Music, kids and a guy on a horse.  A vehicle was unloaded onto carts.  It looked like chests, and large bouquets of flowers.  It was a procession, and we assume it was a suitor bearing gifts for the family of his bride (we assume this, as tomorrow is Friday, and in Jordan, you got married on fridays).  There were trumpets that were about two metres long, and made an awful din.  Tambourines, drums and incense filling the air.  As the procession got into order, they headed off with the suitor leading the treasure carts away with the band behind it.  Lots of cars honking their horns, and people celebrating.


P.S.  It kept raining!



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