Saturday, May 30, 2020

Valley of Roses



I'm not one to turn back.

The initial plan was to leave Marrakesch and swing around the southern edge of the Atlas mountains. Some time in the Sahara, a few days in Fez and then back to Casablanca. An anti clockwise loop of Morocco, either side of the range.
We headed out past Ouarzazate in the cheapest blue rental.

Side of the road salesmen roused and waved, promoting their offering of rose oil products, continuing in the rear view mirror, albeit more forcefully.
I'd heard that a little further along, near Kalaat M'Gouna, was the Valley of Roses.
I was determined to push on to the source, not risking watered down fake perfume and hand cremes.
On reaching the turn, we headed left and down onto the narrow gravel road, rattling and blinking through the dust, more inside than out.
The area is known for its profusion of blooms, festivals that celebrate the petal harvest and master perfumers who travel to acquire the finest fragrances.
Possibly it would be a little further on?

It is barren, save for bursts of green terraces at settlements near a spring, with mini sluices coursing water to where it would be best used. The square mud and rock homes, with an incidental small window, match the fawn color of the barren, heat hazed hills rising behind.
Struggling, thin white trunks with random leaves grow in roadside clumps, alongside plowed soil patches of irregular shape.
We'd travel for a while, passing through similar scenery and settlements, indistinguishable from the last. It was hard to believe this was the Valley of the Roses - perhaps a little further on, although we had been on the road for an hour now.
I assumed that my leisurely car and fuel preserving speed was the reason we hadn't seen anything yet. It would have to be over the next identical rise.

A junction and a whim to give ourselves another ten minutes gave us the inspiration to turn left, with the view that, should we find nothing, we might be able to push on through to our next destination, the Dades Valley, along the same track.
At the first rise of our new route stood a family of three who greeted us as we slowly passed, checked us smilingly, then asked us to stop. With no rose red liquid in plastic bottles or jewelry for sale, it seemed like a fair place to breath and regather.
They coaxed their bewildered son, who was probably about 12 years old, towards the car with a bag of oranges. He was in fresh clothes, neat and clean for travel to the next village and we were the ideal transport on this empty road where few cars passed. He climbed in the back seat, they seemed lovely, he seemed scared and we were happy to help out.
In my loudest, stilted Berber they managed to understand that I planned to make it to the Dades Valley using this route, but would be happy to drop him off along the way.
Which seemed to be an issue, as it seems no one had ever made it to the Dades Valley following that route, even by camel.
Not that it was a problem as they could show me how to get there. But we would have to turn around, back towards where we had been.
In fact, they were happy to come along if I could drop them off at Boulmaine Dades.
As their son was meant to be going the other way, they removed him from the car and climbed into his place behind us.
We did a u-turn, waved goodbye to him and headed back in the opposite direction.
I could still see him standing there when we drove up the next hill and the dust settled.
Traveling back, things looked different in the dying light.
I shared our story of being unsuccessful in searching for the roses.
They smiled knowingly, offering us a segment of one of their sons oranges.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Gall Centre


Pic: Retail Hell Underground

If I could live forever, I still doubt if the cellphone company's admin issue with me would ever be resolved.

Their Call Centre is a Kafkaesque trial in a leaking submarine, trapped in a dank cave with a rising tide.

"Just pay" she says.

" For what?" I ask.

" I can't tell you that - it's pre legal"

" It's paranormal!" I respond.

" I'm sorry sir?"

Scratching for air and light, I query if I'm possibly part of a Monty Python sketch.

"I'm sorry sir, once it's pre legal, the system won't allow me in to tell you what it's for."

"So A.I. now replicates floundering human incompetence in a symbiotic, upended purgatorial slinky spiral, whirring through Westron echoes down into Middle Earths bowels to eternal damnation and suffering!" I offer, starting to express myself clearer.

" Fraid so sir...unless you pay the outstanding amount."

" For WHAT!!!"

" I told you once..." she reminds me.

'CLICK'

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's quiet in Imlil


Uncertainty excites me but the recent thrill of the Tiz n Test drive is forgotten in this village, where routine is reassuring. I'll get complacent and never leave.
So I look at this non challenge as a new challenge.
The early call to prayer is comforting. Echoes through the crisp valley encourage others to join. Committed people out there in the darkness, getting ready for the day. I'm in Imlil, a trekking base for the hike up Toubkal, high in the bare Atlas.
The balcony door's been open all night, staying wide from us staring at the Milky way, counting shooting stars, linking sentences with five minute pauses.
Silent spaces for effect.
The mosques tin speaker crackles off and its quiet again. I'm awake, listening for clues of the day.
A crunch of gravel, more a shifting donkey than anyone with intent. It's the only sound they make, or a resigned snort under load. I can't work them out, as indifferent to affection as to poorly loaded gas bottles, or side saddle city girls on the climb to the kasbah. I hope they're happy.
A river rock rolls under the flow of the last melt from the surrounding peaks. Locals say it'll be another two weeks before the snow's back.
Cocks crow at just the right volume. The village is waking up, like it always wakes up. Nothing changes up here. A dog barks, settling quickly, more of a good morning test than a threat. Lucky the biker that lives at the top of the hill,  freewheeling acceleration gets him started on a cold morning. Speeding up, it grabs fuel and fires the engine for work below. Far down, a truck under heavy load finds the ideal gear, sticking with it on its way up. Hope he misses the bike rider on that narrow bend. The whine comes and goes through the trees, getting louder as it makes a statement past our dar, then grinds its way onwards and disappears. Listening closely, minutes later, you'll still hear him higher up. Basic senses seem sharper when we're not overloaded.
A few clenches squeeze the chill from my fingers to write. An early delivery is on a bicycle down the hill, jammed in the basket. Work gives purpose. His chain grips, countered by thinning brakes on grating rims. Smoke from the bakery promises sponge bread and a blister pack of hard butter.
Then two rounds of coffee and a walk past the almond butter shop. The mill hasn't stopped, churning round at the same speed as yesterday. It'll soon be time for prayers again.
Deon
Twitter: deon_bing
#Morocco #Imlil 

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Moroccan apology


Gare routiere de Voyageurs Agadir - thats what the sign says. It means nothing to me, other than it must be where the Supratours bus will arrive in Agadir, because there are lots of other buses and people and baggage. And smoking men drinking single espresso and a side water watching soccer on big screens around cocktail tables. We point to order the same, trying to look similarly passionate about the correct team.  We fit in perfectly, other than our boardshorts and slops amongst high shine shoes and dark leather  - and the language and team. The Casablanca bus arrives and good fortune rather than planning ensures the correct family meet each other at the right time, half way around the world away from home.
Bags and surfboards of all sizes pile up on the pavement but we still need to get through the terminus to find our car and load it. Someone grabs the tail of the board bag and offers to help. I've been in this situation before - no one offers for free, I'm on a budget but he won't let go. So I negotiate. 5 dirham maximum before we go any further. A wave away, 'no money - I will help carry'...sure...I am clear that five is the most I will pay, preferring to die under the load than part with holiday cash. So we start our grumbling train of luggage into the busy Gare whatsisname. Through the manic terminus, past bumping crowds. I stop regularly to confirm no additional charge for stairs. ' No money - I help your family' - sure buddy, it must be at least double by now. Ten dirham max - they have a way of pushing you. I've been here before. Finally through the exit, past taxi touts and hash offers, its another half kilometer to the car. He's hanging on. That anyone would carry a pile of longboards for 5 dirham eludes me, but I won't be budged on sympathy.
Finally at my beaten rental, we relieve the cramp and lower the boards, exhausted. My coin is ready, on its own in my right pocket - never show them you have more. 'No problem my friend, I like to help your family, they look tired'. I'm stunned. He presses his key remote and one of the finer German offroad vehicles flashes back. I notice his high shine shoes. ' Enjoy Morocco!' he says in parting, smiling at the five dirham in my hand.
Deon
Twitter: deon_bing

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Pilot


I'm sweltering in a cigar tube parked on a remote runway in a tropical country. Machete props like two smashed starlings are inches away from the window, threatening to cut us in half. The only safety briefing I've ever wanted to listen to is in a language I don't understand. We're a tense but obedient lot, deserving of life and landing based on the exorbitant fee to be sitting here in the first place.
A lurch to the left and a shadow grows as our pilot pulls himself up the creaking stairs to the door. It becomes obvious that the reason we're all halfway back is to compensate for his impressive bulk. A hulking fist of a man, with a coked up swagger, he faces us through bling Aviators without acknowledgement. The look of a man happier to be on a bombing mission than a flying creche. A man who likes his patties fatty and his hostesses lean. The cabin door ricochets off his shoulder, smashing into something important. People his size should be butchering buffalo, not tweaking sensitive equipment. But, like buffalo, nothing holds fear for our pilot. No sky, no ground, nor the transition between the two. Within seconds he's beaten the props to life, sucked bucket loads of jet fuel down the pipes and faced us into the hot breeze. Our brutal, fearless, flying man thrusts us over the goats at the end of the runway and punctures the sky with force. He takes us up, he counter punches storm clouds and he smacks us down an hour later. No calming music, no piped niceties, just a guy who grabs a plane by the balls and shows it who's boss.
Deon

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Glenn Hughes



So last night I was compressed in the golden circle with old hairy okes in leather while Glenn screamed and jammed and Slash slashed and it was just all rock n roll and stuff with the Kings of Chaos. Def Leppards and Blind Elephants and a veritable challenged herd of the Big Five. And it was crazy, and my tympanae rang mutely as I crawled back home at some time this morning. Oh please, begging for one last riff,  I searched for another hit of 'Burn' on Youtube... this is what I found. While Glenn was probably clean by the time he jammed with 'Kiss and the Power Rangers' he probably felt the Sake was a little strong that night...
Rock On!!
Deon

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tea please


"Come, lets brew up a nice pot of tea". It used to be simple. Pungent, woody tea leaves covered the bottom of that teapot you always burned your knuckles on, boiling water stirred in and left to simmer. A minute pause and you'd pour into thin china cups through a strainer, dark and strong.
Now, when the call is for "A cup of tea, please" - you need a T.LLB degree.
If you thought you had it nailed with Earl Grey, you're not even close.
The offer begins with a variety of infusions, with ginger and lemon, mango and acai, Herbal teas, chai, green Rooibos with added star anise, maybe a little apple and cinnamon, a squeeze of lemon and a whirl of hibiscus, rosehip with a crush of rhododendron, peppermint tea and new chrysanthemum blossom with a pinch of bergamot oil. A tea for all seasons, antioxidants to promote wisdom, health and happiness.
I'm so spun out with choices...I'll go for the coffee!
Certainly sir, percolated or french press, Costa Rican or Brazilian, cup or mug...
What about a glass of water...well there's tap, spring, still, added minerals, flavoured...
Jeez! What does it take to get a drink around here?
Deon
www.deonbing.co.za
Twitter: deon_bing