A Month in Morocco: Atlas Dragons

I was ecstatic to leave Marrakech. I don’t doubt that there’s an amazing amount of history there and plenty to see if one seeks it out, but I was completely over it in less than two days. My list of grievances against the ancient city included an over-crowded hostel with a leechy pervert whose path I kept crossing, countless objectified monkeys on chains in the main square (Djemaa el-Fnaa), and snake charmers with baskets of toothless cobras. Add to these a daily assault by ruthless hawkers and I was quickly beat down.

Maybe it was that time of the trip when I should have caved up, or maybe I was just bummed to be in a big city. Whatever it was, I couldn’t get out soon enough—so much so that I arrived at the bus station four hours early just to pretend I had already left. And go figure, the greasy snack I bought at the station café made me sick. Marrakech was the gift that kept on giving.

As the bus traveled south, the scenery became my saving grace. Crossing the expanse of the Atlas mountains reminded me being in the Swiss Alps. Or the Rockies. Or possibly neither since many of the suicidal cliffs were without standard safeguards. Guardrails and road maintenance were obviously not a Moroccan priority. At a rest stop we had to mind the highway traffic because the shoulder couldn’t safely accommodate the bus. Nothing like exiting public transportation into the fast lane covered in ice. Like, literally.

As the bus tore into foggy tunnels, I trusted that the driver had everything under control. Whiteout conditions ensued and yet I found solace in the fact that if we did go over a ledge, the four or five rows of seats and occupants in front of me would cushion my head-first impact on the crags below. I still had a little juice in my iPod, so I locked into some Sigur Ros and got cozy. I slept all decked out in full winter gear just in case shit hit the fan. And good thing I did because at some point the bus’s heater petered out and I woke up to freezing people yelling at the driver—their warm breath filling the air with smoke.

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