Etched into my mind is the 4:50 call to prayer. The ‘etching’ is due to moments that shall not be contained in this book. Unfortunately, the vividness is trapped inside of my mind. Let’s just say that I spent more time with the bathroom than with Lauren on this particular night. With that past, we awoke to our ever friendly guides who had prepared a lovely breakfast. With stomachs full (mine not so much) we ventured off on our day of trekking.
The landscape constantly changed throughout today; firstly, we were treated to a cliff-view of the lush valley below. The river is the main artery that connects all of the Berber villages; it is their life-source. Crops for humans and animals alike are all grown along the river. To the children it is their equivalent of a theme park – the best ride is a water fight followed by a weekly hair washing ritual in the icy snow melt.
Our trek wound its way down the mountain, however, although we lost altitude we gained a greater picture of river life. Our lunch stop was over looking a gaggle of women who were participating in the river laundromat service. The river provides a steady flow of fresh cold water and you provide your own suds, washing rack and elbow grease. There was rug slapping, garment hitting and fabric flicking to be observed. Then begins the rigorous process of claiming the ‘best rocks’ for draping these well beaten garments to lie defeated and be under the venomous sun’s stare. Meanwhile, the laundromat is still open for business when the next load of customers come traipsing down from their village. For the kids, however, it is the usual routine of water flicking and hair washing. Quite mesmerizing, and certainly helps you to be thankful for the front end loader!
After lunch, the landscape changed its complexion to include red ochre colours, like it had applied too much blush for a night out. The colours drew your eye and covered your shoes in a dark ruby red. When juxtaposed to the lush vibrant greens that clawed their way up from the riverside it was like one was trying to fight the other. A beautiful battle of opposite colours fighting to be noticed.
Almost without notice or even a whiff of a hint, Ahmed decided that it was time Lauren rode on the Mule (aka. Harry – however by this stage, now called Harriett as we learnt that the Mule was in fact a Mule-ess). No ‘ifs’ ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’ were thrown back by Lauren and she straddled the noble stead like a queen about to enter a procession. Although, it was in quite sheer terrain that Ahmed decided for Lauren’s procession to take place an there were some shaky encounters with the cliff face. All the time, Ahmed was cool and collected and shouted his Mule-esk commands to ensure Lauren arrived in one piece to her destination.
With each new village we walked through there were always an orchestra of ‘Bonjour Madame’ and ‘Bonjour Monsieur’ thrown our way. The Berber children are taught to say there phrases to foreigners in the hope to gain a small coin, or in our case, some chocolate. The power of chocolate has never known such bounds. With the simple opening of a packet and handing out a single piece to one child, out or nowhere came a dozen more running instruments joining in the Bonjour symphony. It must be said, we went through a lot of chocolate. Their faces of glee and taking the first bite was electric. I wanted to set up a chocolate factory right there and then in the Berber villages to meet all of their chocolate dreams and desires.
A final treat was in store for us as the Gité had organized a Hamam session for our weary bodies. Now, you are probably picturing a luxurious, palacial building with warmed towels and scented water like wild jasmine. That is the Hamam for the tourists to gag on. Ours was as authentic as you could imagine. A raging wooden fire heated the floor of what can only be described as a jail cubicle that would be used do those in solitary confinement. The water came out from a small tap and we used a half cut Omo container to pour the water over us. My 8hour walked in boxer-shorts now played the role of the towel and as you dris yourself you had to continuously shuffle your feet to ensure they didn’t burn. However, all this aside, it was genuinely one of the greatest feelings to have the closest thing to a shower after three days and partake in a legitimate, non-package deal Hamam.
For now though, my Willy Wonka Berber dream would have to stay with me as we drifted off to sleep in our new Gité. Unfortunately, for me, the 4:50 call to prayer was one of the many prayer calls I heard that night. Most originated from a stomach-sick belly and the smooth whisper of Lauren as she asked each time how my toilet run had gone. Again, like last night, I slept with the bathroom more than with Lauren. I hope this ‘moroccan romance’ wouldn’t last too long.The new morning couldn’t come soon enough.