Having not written anything for a long while, I’d thought I rectify this by publishing this erudite repartee. Only joking! First I shall cover the epic adventure that was Morocco.

Where to start? For me the work for Morocco began months before the trip. The Medical School instantly saw my elective request as perfectly reasonable (yay!), then they didn’t (noo!), then they did (yay!). My next task was to find a second part of my elective (Dumfries, where I had a shower – for a month). This done, I then focused on first aid and after those 5 minutes I was ready to let Rosie organise everything (the Ginger, not the dog).

The drive out took a little time, slightly longer than the typical excursion to Derbyshire. However me and Tom kept Rosie’s spirits up with our Brummie accents (including converting Starwars to the holy sound – you haven’t lived until you hear a Brummie lightsaber). This caused time to fly, just the way that Turtles don’t. In the meantime, the lateral aspect of my knee had an altercation with the starter motor perhaps terminating its service. We found a garage full of nice French people who directed us to a garage full of dismissive French people. They pointed us to another garage with nice French people who fixed the car first thing and thus we were off to Spain.

We crossed the border and the Sat Nav got confused but we ignored it and all was well. We drove and drove and drove. Turns out Spain goes on for a fair way and has lots of lovely plateau to bore you with. We got to the port and were fleeced… Eh. The ferry let the other two sleep while I watched friends in Arabic. I think it was funnier that way. Off the ferry we went to a very dodgy port town and then got to the border. I think, though this is just the tiniest scrap of an inkling that Rosie was getting annoyed with the officials, who eventually let us pass once they realised that we were cavers. That or they thought we were going to buy a lot of weed. Either way, they let us pass.

Driving in Morocco it turns out is terrifying. It didn’t seem that way at first. It was a ll nice and touristy as we went to get Van insurance. Well kept highways, all quite posh and clean houses, a couple of soldiers here and there. Then we started driving with the rest of the population. You jostle in unmarked lanes with industial trucks and donkeys, mixed in with the occasional suicidal chicken/person. We saw lots of very dented cars and as soon as we got out of the town we thought we could breathe. This being the third world however instead of a green belt, they have a garbage belt. We drove as speedily as allowed, trucks and vastly overfilled Merk mini buses held us up.

It was very hot. I was very sweaty. No one noticed this… That all said and done we kept driving along the twisty lanes, passing colourful Moroccan farmers with their odd pom pom hats. We listened to a very good audiobook called ‘Birds without wings’ by Louis Debernier if I recall correctly. This sped up the journey no end. We stopped for petrol and found it to be offensively cheap, then we got onto the Autoroute. This was brilliant as it’s all brand new and there are clearly not enough cars to use it. Chuck made solid progress and we listened to drivey type songs (Me and Tom may have changed this to the best of Disney and sung our hearts out while Rosie was asleep).

We went to a super/hypermarket near Fez. Very European. The only effective air conditioning we had had in a long time (only 36 hours actually!). Sun cream is very expensive in Morocco. I can’t remember what else we bought other than the Alcohol which we used the other exit for (a separate one so that the degenerates can buy fire water in a muslim country). We drove some more. Fancy that. A little more autoroute before we got to Taza and I got confused by road signs (turns out it said STOP), roundabouts (apparently you give way on some junctions of some roundabouts – still no idea how you tell) and I did some ‘poor’ driving. We found a Peachey, as you do – you ony have to call his name 3 times and he appears. We then met up with Hoscein and Tariq, two Tazan cavers who were very helpful and gave us some gas. It was then time to go to camp, up the hill and the windy road of death.

Seeing as Peachey had joined us last, he was flung in the back with all the other kit. On the windy roads he informed us that if we stacked it he’d die. It was then pointed out that we would too. The drops at the side of the road were rather big and the token stone markings showing the edge were not reassuring. Tom’s need for speed caused my sphincter to tighten. Surviving that experience, now a vertical kilometre higher, we drove along dark roads to where our guide to the farm was staying. We picked him up and decided to put another person in the back with the kit. Someone who’s life was less valuable and could do with some pain. So I went in the back. We drove slowly along the track and got to the farm. This is where my diplomatic superpowers kicked in.

Not speaking Arabic/Berber/French/Moroccan didn’t hold me back. The lonely planet guide had at least 30 words in it and rudimentary conversation ensued in all of the above languages. I made small talk and the farmer seemed happy and was appreciating the effort. I tried to find out what animals he had. This led to a misunderstanding where he thought we wanted to buy a sheep. We prevented doing any more damage/purchasing of farmyard animals and slept in the farm hut.

We set up camp in the morning, put the tent up, unloaded the van, Tom made a handwasher and other stuff happened. At some point Mamoon and a nice lady (who’s name I forget) came along and took us for an extensive tour of the local area. We were shown cave entrances – a few of note were:
1) The French Dam, a big concrete engineering project to get down a cave in the 50s
2) An entrance to a Lead/Zinc/Tin mine?
3) Cave of the Water
4) The side of the mountain where we were shown cave entrances by Abdulrahim, where I killed a frog and Rosie went down a scrot hole. We also had lots of lovely mint tea and bread, olive oil and butter cheese. Rural Moroccan people are very kind.

I used my almost non existent french to inquire about the population and other geographical matters. I learnt loads of weird facts – like how rumble strips are created in the middle of Moroccan roads due to snow chains, how the trees are of a californian origin etc etc. We then started a debate over economics, history and politics and it was thoroughly enlightening. I carried on talking, Peachey looked at rocks and I can’t remember what the other two did.

We went further afield in the subsequent days – we were shown an absolutely awesome (take note those of you who use that word inappropriately, mentioning no names… H) 9 cumac resurgence which joined a river creating a really weird sensation of cold water next to warm. The rock was fractured North to South and East to West which our resident Geologist got excited about (awww bless). The only other thing I remember about that day is the Watermelon! (It was very good). We went to many places – saw urban caves filled to the brim with rubbish, Mamoon explained that he wanted to try to develop the caves to use them for tourism. I was sceptical about this plan, and this created another debate about economics (I find this fascinating, okay?).

It was about time for Norris to arrive. Henry and Glen had a riveting time (possibly literally looking at the state of Norris) and more setting up work was done around camp. A trip into Taza for food and supplies was commenced. All I can say is that it was too hot and I don’t function well in high temperatures. Food was bought, we went back up the hill and waited for the others to arrive. Brendan & Brendan (and Tweb) arrived (I can’t remember what we did that day – possibly food shopping? meh). We had lots of head scratching when the farmer insisted that we use their toilet rather than our latrines. It turned out they had more than one. We were surprised because we make a lot of poo. Quite literally a shitload. Lots of other people arrived the day after.

We sorted out trips to go out the next day. Unfortunately I got eye AIDS and me and the Sloan went to Taza to get Meds and other stuff. We had fun in the pharmacy saying drug names in English and using retarded French – we got funny looks. We were a ‘little’ surprised as to the dose of Dexamethasone in the eye drops – 80mg is quite a lot! They worked like magic and we went back up the hill, Brendan dropped me off on the plain and I set out across the plain with a full load on my back and 2 litres of water in the middle of the day. This deserves to be one of the trials in the epic of Rostam (see the shahnahmeh). See part II.