Traverse 06 - Page 77

I bought a bag of toffee-covered peanuts and offered my bag to a pass- ing man who had caught my eye. He accepted some and told me he had spent five years in Brighton working as a plumber. He liked English people and invited me to join him later that evening for some wine because some of his friends were coming round to play music. Later I was whisked into another world in his steep little terraced home as Moroccan drums were ‘singing’. No other instruments were used or necessary, the drums made the melody and song with their rhythm. The day I got a puncture thanks to the sharp end of a discarded screw- driver was the worst. The rain was its heaviest, my paper map of Morocco had turned into pulp in my pocket and my luggage was all but floating away at the side of the road as I took out the rear wheel and fitted a new tube. Had it not been for the help of some lovely Moroccan chaps, I think I would have burst into tears and gone home with- out the bike. I was supposed to be en- joying myself and I wasn’t. Then I fell off the bike during a tight turn which normally would have been easy. The steering had become sloppy and wob- bly at low speed. It was the last straw. I stayed nearby in an initially un- inspiring village between Fez and Meknes, dried out and cheered up due to the warmth of the people there and the last of the sherry from Jerez. The Enfield was put in a dry room, watched over by a lad whose donkey had won ‘the prettiest donkey’ compe- tition at last year’s village fête. I had my skin all but scoured off at the adjoining hammam by the lovely bath-attendant who thought the loud- er she shouted at me, the more like- TRAVERSE 77 ly I would be to understand Arabic. I stayed in Nzala Beni Ammar for five days waiting for better weather which didn’t come. I heard reports of orang- es rotting on trees, and washed-away roads and bridges. I explored the fan- tastic nearby Roman city of Volubilis together with other bedraggled, um- brella-carrying tourists. A local teach- er visiting the hotel café invited me to talk to his students. I washed the bike, read books and wrote letters but finally made the decision to leave the Enfield in the care of the ‘pretty don- key’ owner and spend a while explor- ing by bus until the sun came out. A significant birthday was ap- proaching and I wanted to be warm, dry and doing something special. I headed for the Sahara with a bottle of wine. I was going on a camel ride. The more touristy and tacky, the better. Joining in with some other tourists, it