Sick on the side of the road

31.110024°, -8.132493°

As we sit at JFK Airport waiting to fly back to Morocco, it’s time to start tackling the backlog of posts we never wrote when we frantically wrapped up the trip last summer. We had a lot of nice people help us during part 1 of our trip including family, friends, family of friends who took us in when we were soaking wet and dried our clothes, friends of family of friends who let us stay in their home, strangers who brought me a soda and water and let me use their bathroom while I was sitting on the sidewalk in front of their house for 5 hours while Jackie got motorcycle parts… and so on.

On our grueling paced ride through Morocco we had a day of riding a remote, twisty mountain pass through the High Atlas between Marrakech and Taroudant. It was a really hot day and with fumes of gasoline literally squeaking out of the gas cap below Aron’s face, he started feeling sick. Heat plus gas fumes plus twisty turns is a pretty good way to make Aron motion sick, as he has learned at a couple indoor go kart tracks. Aron was just trying to keep riding, but Jackie could hear him suffering through our intercoms and suggested we turn around and stop at the roadside store we had passed a couple hundred yards before, since it was the only “town” we had seen for miles.

We stopped, and Jackie alternated between asking Aron how he was feeling and talking to the owner of the store, our soon to be new friend, Brahim. While Aron was basically incapacitated, Jackie and Brahim made small talk in french and waited for Aron’s motion sickness to pass. Aron sat on the stoop of Brahim’s shop with his head between his legs for about 10 minutes before he started throwing up. Brahim immediately brought him a cold bottle of water, some oranges to eat, and a bucket of water to clean his face and hands.

After 45 minutes with a couple rounds of vomiting and some trips to the squat toilet in the basement of the mosque down the road, Aron started feeling well enough to stand, but he was questioning whether this was in fact motion sickness, since his motion sickness doesn’t usually last this long after he stops moving. We confirmed that this wasn’t in fact motion sickness when a few minutes later, Jackie followed in Aron’s footsteps. She ran off to the the decomposing shell of a Land Rover about 20 feet away, and it was her turn to vomit. First Jackie was taking care of Aron. Then Aron was taking care of Jackie. But mostly Brahim was taking care of us both.

Brahim’s French was perfect, Jackie’s was conversational, and Aron’s consisted of whatever was close enough to English and Spanish words for me to understand. We told him about our trip. He told us about his family and the ethnic Berber village we were in, which consisted of about twelve families total. We watched as he greeted every customer and a majority of the truck drivers driving down the road by name, and as he vouched for us to people who came by as we sat and recovered. It was pretty clear that the whole village new we were there and it felt like Brahim had taken us in as his guests.

We sat and talked to him for two or three hours before thinking about getting back on the road. We didn’t really know how far it was until the next hotel or when it would get dark, but Brahim said we could sleep in the village and motioned to the cement area in front of a storage hut across the street. We decided to get back on the road, but changed our minds when the physical exertion of trying to roll the motorcycles resulted in more vomiting.

After another hour or so of recuperating, we re-parked the bikes and set up our sleeping mats under the stars. It wasn’t the most restful sleep being out in the open with the occasional truck rumbling by, but Brahim told us we would be safe and we trusted him. In the morning, the chief of the village came by with three glasses a pot of mint tea and we sat with him as he cracked walnuts for us and attempted conversation.

We certainly hadn’t planned to spend the night in a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains, and we hadn’t planned to get food poisoning. But if either of those things were to happen (and they did), we completely lucked out on the hospitality front, meeting some of the nicest, most generous people that we met on our whole trip. And we made a new friend as a result.

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Brahim’s shop and the decomposing Land Rover.

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View of the village from where we slept.

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View of Brahim’s shop from where we slept.

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Aron and Brahim in the shop.

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Brahim in his shop.

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Our night’s accommodations.

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