Hitchhiking in Morocco
Lily is 19 and from Kingston-upon-Thames. She's studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at York University. Will she survive studentdom on the road to graduation?
The idea of hitchhiking across Morocco sounded like a good idea at the time, but how did Lily cope with the numerous weirdos she met along the way?
Where's the sunshine?
The summer term is an odd term. Everyone wants to go outside and play, but there are lots of exams and deadlines to contend with. Well, I say everyone wants to go outside and play, at the moment everyone wants to sit inside wearing summery clothes pretending it's warm because, at the risk of invoking any further northern monkey and southern fairy arguments, all it does in Yorkshire is rain. Do you remember summer? I think I do. I dimly recall a week in April of sun dresses, sun cream and even mild sun stroke. Sadly, I have now not seen blue sky in over two weeks. I have a sinking feeling that the single week of sunshine we saw in April was summer and now it's stuck like this for another year.
But at least I had a sunny Easter because the holidays saw the successful culmination of all our fundraising as we made it to Morocco (and back) alive. Don't get me wrong, I'd bought a map, a guide book, tiny arrow-shaped sticky notes to mark our routes and a massive bag of sweets for the journey. I was entirely aware of where I was going and how I intended on getting there, but it wasn't until about twenty-four hours before our departure that reality sunk in. I had to hitchhike there. Get in strangers' cars and pray they didn't cut me into little pieces and leave me by the roadside? It was at this point I realised I was definitely going to die.
In retrospect I'm still unconvinced as to how we pulled it off, being the scatty bunch we are. Perhaps we've gone some way to prove that if we can do it, anyone can. We played by all the sensible hitchhiking rules: the girl gets in the car last and out of the car first so no lunatics can drive off with her, the girl sits in the back so no weirdos can touch her, and most importantly, when looking for a lift the girl stands at the front looking lost so all the drivers want to pick her up. But weirdos included, we met so many fantastic people on our hitch, each full of words of wisdom about Morocco, hitchhiking and drug taking.
"'Tourist' seemed to be flashing in neon above our heads as we arrived in Tangier, the port town in North Morocco. Or perhaps it was spelt out by our 70 litre rucksacks, bottle green matching LCD t-shirts and tired faces."
Almost everyone was convinced we were going to Morocco purely to buy, take or deal drugs. A friendly Frenchman called Marcus, who nearly caused a car crash when he picked us up, gave us particularly sage advice: "Don't get drunk with people you don't know, don't all get stoned at once and smoke everything you buy in Morocco." The stereotype of being young travellers followed us all the way down through France and Spain and into Morocco. 'Tourist' seemed to be flashing in neon above our heads as we arrived in Tangier, the port town in North Morocco. Or perhaps it was spelt out by our 70 litre rucksacks, bottle green matching LCD t-shirts and tired faces. Either way, it led to fun games such as asking ourselves how many times we would be offered drugs as we walked down the street. "Good hashish yes, you want hashish? Very good, nice hashish," as we dodged past the crazy person sniffing glue.
It took us a little while to relax once in Morocco. We'd been bombarded by advice and warnings ever since we'd decided to take the trip, so when we first stepped off the ferry in Tangier it was hard to shake the feeling that everyone you meet is a hustler trying to deal you drugs and touch you up. In actual fact it's more about being sensible. With any country that has a prominent tourist industry, petty crime surrounding tourists is going to be common. Morocco has a very different culture to the one we're used to, so it's important as a western female to be aware and respect the differences. With a little bit of awareness you can minimise you're vulnerability to cons and get on with experiencing the phenomenal sights of deserts, medieval cities and waterfalls.
Sunset camel ride
Marrakech was our base camp for the ten days we were in Morocco and is the 'seedy charm' of Tangier, as described by our much loved guidebook. We took a few trips out from the area to return for some souks and snake charmers. But the best journey of all was my sunset camel ride through the Sahara to our Berber camp. Camels are clearly not made to be ridden by humans (I still have camel-worn calves) but I've never seen as many stars as I did that night. The hitch was one of the best things I could do in my first year - some second and third years do it, but most find it difficult with the increased amount of work. Everyone should take some of the opportunities you get to travel when at university; it's such an indulgence before you have to get out into the 'real world', which means less sleeping in until three, less fancy dress events and a bit more about getting a proper job.