Tuesday, March 8, 2011

To Dakhla

Four days of tartine in a row. Gah.

Tartine is like toast, but it's baguette bread, not sliced bread. I'm not a big bread-eater, but it's all that's keeping me going these days. Every day, I get tartine and cafe au lait (lots of lait, unfortunately) for breakfast. Ever since I hit the Africa continent, it's been bread, bread, bread for petit dejeuner.

This is not all over Africa, of course, This is purely a French influence thing. I'm pretty damn sick of bread. Though I must thank the French, as at least the bread is, without fail, delicious. And the coffee is generally decent. I didn't bother carrying my own coffee works this time, just put some little packets of instant into my pack. The Nescafe guys were handing out free samples on the street one day, and my tenant gave me a Starbucks sample, so I have at least eight days worth of potential caffeine in my pack.

I choked down my morning tartine and cafe au lait on the morning of Tuesday, March 8th, on the rooftop terrace of Le Grand Large riad in Essaouira. Lovely scenery, though the help has to shoo away seagulls once in a while. The weather was a little chilly unless I sat in direct sunlight, and I hate direct sunlight, so I wore my fleece to breakfast.

Back in my room, I packed and re-packed, forgetting a puzzle piece each time. I'm not overburdened, but I am still carry a few zippered packs of random stuff I haven't gone through yet. I have established that neither pack holds my watch, which certainly is en route to New York. So it's good I went to the trouble to get a new band and rehabilitate my 2001 watch. It'll look great in Michael Kraiger's office desk drawer, where it will sit until December.

Today was going to be a doozy. Rather, tonight would be the doozy. I'd booked an overnight bus to the southernmost city in Morocco, Dakhla. Which might actually be in Western Sahara. I suppose it depends on who you ask.

I trudged over to the Supratours bus terminal for the 2:30 afternoon bus to Agadir. This was half-empty, which meant I got two seats to myself. The road wound sickeningly along the coast, up and down some mountainous roads. I thought I might vomit, and looked around for some type of bag, but fortunately the journey ended three hours later, where I changed buses to head south.

I did vomit the next evening in Dakhla. The overnight bus took 20 hours, involved about eight or nine police checks, and a sold-out bus. The passengers liked to toss litter on the ground at any opportunity. And in the bus. The guy next to me threw his ABC gum right on the floor where he sat. I handed out what they call "fiches" to the policemen. These were little coupons of my details, my passport number, my profession. I'd read to be prepared for this on overland websites. It sped the process up when people didn't have to fill out forms at each checkpoint.

The first rest stop was fine, but after that they got seriously skanky. I didn't eat anything after some cashews at 10 p.m., and I drank only sips of water for fear of having to utilize some rancid hole in the ground. I regretted not doing the trip over two days, stopping in Laayoune, but I'd thought it best to just get the hell over with.

In Dakhla, I checked into a swank hotel. That's an overstatement--the Sahara Regency is one of those hotels that can only be considered swank if you've just gotten off a 20-hour bus journey through the desert. It would be a suitable two-star at home. Which hit the spot given my headache, queasy gut, and dehydrated state.

I saw a pharmacist, conveyed my illness in half-assed French, had a long chat in German with a Moroccan man who said I was having an "abenteur" (adventure), and drank an orange juice in hopes of rehydrating. I started eating at my hotel, got through about three spoonfuls of soup, and proceeded to just make it to the ladies room sink where I vomited three times.

Lesson learned. Marie is not quite as sturdy as she used to be. No, that's not quite the lesson. I think it might be "Marie is stupider than she used to be." Not eating or drinking all day and night is stupid.

I went to sleep in my two-star bed. Better luck tomorrow, when I'd awaken with the call to prayer. And see how the morning tartine agreed with me.

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