Moroc the Partyby Samora Chapman / 15.01.2010
It was October, the last of the summer sun rays had soaked into the concrete. The trees shed their leaves. Businessmen on the tubes clutched their newspapers whispering ‘crisis’, the madmen in Camden clutched their Stellas and spat in the cold.
I was working as a painter/decorator in Shoreditch, sanding floors for 8 hours a day. I had to seal each room so that the dust would not spread around the house transforming my world into a sandstorm. Dust got underneath my eyelids. My tongue and throat were forever laced with mud, and my stomach was laced with cheap kebabs from the Turk shop. The skin on my face became crusty and peeled off. My 6’3” scrawny frame stiffened and ached as I worked spread eagle on the floor like a giant albino spider enslaved in a dusty cavern. Every evening I passed out on the bus with the hoards of London zombies and a mirage danced on my brain like an oasis in the distance… surf… sunshine… water. It was time to get the fuck out of London!
Exodus: Destination Moroc!
Like dreamers my brother Mookie and I entered the night, leaving behind us eight months of blood in the London dirt. Cheap flights from Easy Jet (180 quid) meant that we had to spend the first night at the airport to make the 6:30 am flight the next morning. Snatching fitful sleep curled up with our surfboards and our fears. The neon lights blazed through our eyelid curtains and the blaring announcements on the intercom sang out in our dreams.
We jetted into Marrakech at about ten in the morning. Out the window I watched the desolate red desert simmer beneath me. In moments a sea of densely packed square buildings sprung from the dust and huddled together, bracing against the desert’s emptiness. The city was dotted with satellite dishes and mosques and criss crossed with narrow allies. After landing we staggered out into the blazing white morning sun like geckos… translucent skin and dark ringed eyes… dizzy and disorientated. The airport was pristine, shiny and dome-like; a teardrop in the sand. The journey had begun!
The vaguely formulated plan went as follows: fly to Marrakech. Cross 300 kms of desert and mountain to the coastal city of Agadir. Head north approximately 20kms to small fishing village called Taghazout. There we would find perfect waves, cheap food and luxury accommodation. This is about the time of the full realisation of what we had embarked upon. Two South African surfer laaities had somehow got themslelves to the desert city of Marrakech, at the foot of the Atlas mountains, in the heart of North Africa. What language do these cats speak? Where’s a fucking cash machine? (Tip: it helps to know a bit of French when heading to Morocco!)
After an hour of confusion we eventually found a bus to the central station. Hustlers lurked like vultures around a kill. As we stepped off the bus they were on us. Spotting our surfboards, two slick looking cats in wrap around sunnies (Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible) screached out above the hubub, “Agadir! Agadir! Come with us”. Before we knew what was happening we were legging it through the station after our own surfboards, Tom Cruise screaming, “15 minutes! The bus go in 15 minutes!” Fighting crowds and dodging mopeds, we scampered through the chaos til we found a bus that was being packed with humans and luggage, while it was leaving the bus station. People were clutching their heads, wailing, and running back and forth as the bus surged through the station in short, threatening bursts. We were dragged onto the bus amidst the spitting pandemonium. Tom Cruise and side-kick then demanded a tax for our boards on top of the ticket price. (Tip: don’t pay more than 100 derums for a bus to Agadir and collect receipt for payment). As soon as Tom left with our money and disappeared, the bus driver tried to drag us back off the bus claiming we hadn’t paid. He hissed and wailed, holding his head in a theatrical pantomime of grief and waved his ticket stubs and thrashing about like a man posessed .
After a fair amount of stress we hit the road for Agadir. We drove for several hours through the desert with just 100ml of water between us, too scared to leave the bus in case we lost our spot. Fatigue and delerium set in as desert towns and mountain passes blurred hypnotically on the bus window.
We arrived in Agadir on the southern coast of Moroc. It was early evening and a hazy sea mist hung in the air reminding me of Durban. Haggard neon lights glowed in the sea haze and the evening swarmed with taxis and human beings whose eyes burned in the fading light in that hungry third world kind of way. We pulled out our crumpled travel plan, constructed in the lounge of our London pad amidst chatter and the scent of filter coffee and central heating… Destination Taghazout; 20 kms North of Agadir… getting there slowly but surely. We found the long distance cabs layed up like relics of some past time and place. Old school 3 litre Mercs painted blue with black leather seats and blonde fluffy trimmings like dead labradors. We hopped in and began to slither our way out of the city as the radio buzzed strange songs… and then there it was; grey, sleepy and shimmering. My first sight of the ocean after 8 months of London labour. Almost there I thought, with visions of a pristine fishing village and evening barrels peeling off the point. I gave the driver the address and sank into the leather upholstry.
I woke to a small desert town descended into darkess, plastic burned in the alleys, stray dogs yelped and fornicated and meat and bannanas hung in the shop-fronts of shack-like food dens. The driver dragged our boards out of his vehicle and threw them on the street in front of a glimmering palace, which looked like the Taj Mahal planted in the middle of KwaMashu. Tired and confused, we stumbled into the lobby and tried to understand what had gone wrong. We discovered that the hotel we’d booked was in the wrong town: a filthy littly slum called Aurir, about 10kms from the bustling surf-fishing village called Taghazout that we’d been aiming for. (Tip: you can get accommodation for as little as 150 derums a night if you just rock up in Taghazout and negotiate with the local backpackers. It’s more like 350 derums a night if you book over the net). The hotel was hollow, glossy and marble with gold and purple satin bedding and maroon furniture. Generic touristy paintings of camels and desert sunsets hung from the walls. The ocean was nowhere to be seen. Tired and disappointed we showered and hung our heads. We hooked up a hash spliff from some locals and went looking for the ocean. We asked for directions and they pointed into the slum with warnings of, “I wouldn’t walk there at night.” Stoned and tired, we walked across a vast empty lot, the dust glimmered yellow and white under the flickering street lamps. I looked at my brother as we floated across the strange landscape… feeling like I was walking on the moon but surrounded by crumbling red mud-brick houses, burning plastic and a camel in a bush like an ancient beast on stilts. “Bru! Where the fuck are we! How the fuck did we end up here!” We finally came across some cliffs and the cool black ocean filled the night with its smell, its whispers and its salty breath. We tip-toed through the darkness and dipped our hands into the Atlantic Ocean. It was full moon and spring low tide, the wide beach had a few fishermen scattered in the lonely moonlight. They were kneeling in midnight prayer, kissing the land of their ancestors. We had made it ‘Insh’Allah – if it is god’s will, it will be.