Today was 105 Km of fun. I must have hand slapped 50 kids and greeted hundreds of people- from a shouted “Hello’ to a kid in a field, to a more dignified Bonjour and a nod to the distinguished gentlemen type. There are so many people I was busy all day!
I start the day by acting like a native. I need breakfast and walk into a busy cafe. I see that people are eating bread and olives and see plates of these on the counter. I grab them and go sit down. Soon a waiter unasked brings me a shot glass of coffee and a larger glass of hot milk. (I am the only one with milk.) Then he brings me a plastic soda pop bottle that has been filled with olive oil. The oil is so pulpy it looks almost like pea soup. The bread sops up the olive oil nicely and I am eventually full. They charge me 10 DH (about $1.25) for two loaves of bread, the olives, and the coffee. See, I’m getting it!
Most people are very friendly in rural areas. But the minute I get to a touristed place, the vibe changes dramatically. I pity those people who travel by bus from tourist town to tourist town. What a different impression they must get of Morocco than I.
Hand slapping is so much fun. I see the kids running from the fields. They line up by the road to gawk. I stick out my right hand as I get closer, and they get it and stick out theirs. SLAP! A good hard smack is exciting. I follow it with an exaggerated thumbs up as I ride away. The kids laugh and run through the fields with excitement. It is especially transforming when they have moped up to beg.
My tail only twitched a couple of times, once when a young man gave me the finger, once when a group of teenagers playing football yelled things and shook their fists at me which I took to mean “Infidel go home.” And this:
Picture a farmer working with a wooden plow and two donkeys behind a mud walled house with a straw thatched roof. A group of raggedy prepubescent kids are hanging out in front of the house on scraggily donkeys glaring at me. The scene could be medieval. I cheerfully yell “Bonjour” and the kids begin laughing nastily at me.
I mean, I’m 50 something, have an education and a fairly large world view and am doing something cool. If I’m to be judged I’d like more qualified people! Then the absurdity of everything hits me, and I begin laughing, harder and harder. I’ll never forget that scene.
The countryside is gently rolling here now that I am through the Riff mountain range.
Next, the Atlas mountains! (not to scale)
In my new spirit of fun I dive into a ranch when I see these guys harvesting olives. Yes, they’re standing on an olive mound.
Shawn and the olive harvesters!
The olive groves have carpets of flowers.
I am tired. I pull into the first place I see to spend the night. It is a private family home that rents out rooms. I can see the ruins from my patio.