Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day two, aka All Codeined Up

Yes indeed, it sucks getting up when it’s below freezing and there’s no heat. Our room has a fireplace, but the fire went out long ago. Sigh. I huddle under the blankets for a while, waiting for the magic Berber elves to come restart the fire, but somehow that doesn’t happen. Damn. I eventually get up, and start swigging down more cough syrup – sure, this stuff is basically pure alcohol, but combined with freezing cold, steep descents, and ice on the road, what can possibly go wrong?


So it’s fun being in the van with Muhammed #2, because he speaks no English and I speak no French, much less Arabic. I’ve so far managed to expand my vocabulary greatly though, beyond just “oui”, to also include “magnifique!” while gesturing out the window. As a basis for conversation, this isn’t too bad. I blurt this out at regular intervals as I watch my compatriots careen down the same steep hill we climbed yesterday, some crazy-ass 23% grade with the loveliest of hairpin turns. No way in hell I’m heading down that, not with my poor-circulation hands and feet that don’t function at this temperature. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more hills for me to recklessly careen down in the days to come (note: slight bit of foreshadowing here).

We catch up with the group at our usual tea stop, and they’re not speaking to me. They’re not speaking to anyone, because they’re basically frozen solid. Am I suddenly looking like the smart person here or what?
Now that it’s warmed up though, I’m more than happy to start riding again. As I’m biking along and checking out the incredible scenery, I have an epiphany:

“I’m in fucking Morocco! Riding my bike!”

Okay, so I never said it was an especially enlightening epiphany.

A little later, I come across more Children of the Corn. The problem here is that the kids are either super-sweet or demonic, and you don’t know which they are until they’re darting in front of you on a steep descent, trying to send you swerving and flying off a cliff. Or like these kids – one of whom high-fives me as I go by, while his asshole friend throws a big stick at my spokes. And here of course I face the same dilemma that anyone else in my shoes would face: do I keep going, or do I stop and beat the ever-loving crap out of this bad seed? Lucky for punk kid, I was on an uphill, so I keep going.

We finally get to our accommodations for the night, a gite, that we have been warned is “basic.” That's evident, as Stacey and I wind up in the cavernous room at the end of the hall with what Sayeed calls a “Turkish” toilet, aka a hole in the floor. Now, I’ve stayed in some pretty rustic places before – the place in Tibet that had had a water leak so our room had wet moldy carpeting comes to mind – so that doesn’t bother me. The abject lack of heat does; I sense that’ll get ugly later on.

But hey, we have wifi! Sweet!

Note to gite management: perhaps next time when you’re presented with a package deal, go with heat (or space heaters, or something) over wifi. Trust me on this.

But hey, at least we’re all in this together! Our whole group, freezing our asses off in barren rooms with no toilets. A bonding experience, to be sure.

Later that evening at dinner

We’re all bundled up and huddled together for warmth in the room where we’ll have dinner, when Muhammed #3 comes in and starts a fire for us. Whee! So what that the sparks almost set Biljana’s coat on fire? It’s cold!

This, however, is when we learn that just like in Animal Farm, all the animals may not be quite created equal after all. Or something like that. Because the following conversation ensues:

Biljana: Oh, and it’s so nice to have a toilet paper holder for a change!
Sharon: Wait, you have toilet paper? Ours barely flushes with the scraps we have.
Jane: Wait, you have a toilet that flushes?
Me and Stacey: Wait, you have a toilet??
David: Wait, and are you guys not getting the mints on your pillows too, with the turndown service?
Stacey: Wait, you’re getting mints?

David at that point declares me an honorary Canadian, because I get his sarcasm and Stacey doesn’t, but the fact remains that somehow we wound up with the ONLY room without an actual toilet. What the hell! Hmph, they’re probably all hiding space heaters in their rooms too. Oh, the humanity.

That night, there is no 6 feet of comforters nor is there a hot water bottle, and so it was about as cold as you’d imagine. No wait, you can’t imagine how cold it was, unless you too have recently been trying (and failing) to sleep bundled up in all your clothes in a room that’s below freezing, where the wind is whistling through the window that doesn’t quite close properly. I spend the night not moving, because to do so will invite the rustling of the very cold sheets, and not going to the bathroom, because the thought of getting up is unbearable. I lay awake with this thought tumbling through my head: that when I get back to Portland, I am going to CRANK UP the heat, and just bask in the glory of a warm house. Kone and I won’t even have to wear socks or hats to bed, no sirree. My last words to Stacey before we hunker down even further under the covers to try to get some elusive sleep – “As god is my witness, I’ll never be cold again…”

Is that a mumbled “goodnight, Scarlett” I hear?

Near death misses: 1, from almost freezing to death

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