“Ourghh, God”. It was December 31, 1999 and after a month of touring through Morocco I had finally fallen victim to the curse of the third world. For me the catalyst was a chicken kebab roll. That was three days ago.
I moaned, clutching my stomach and rolled over to the least painful position. My patience with this condition was beginning to ware thin.
Don’t get me wrong, boiled water mixed with electrolyte powder tastes just fine, but that had been the total of my diet during some of the most excruciatingly painful days of my life. I had been sick before, but never like this. Nevertheless, I was hopeful that the major effects of my condition would wear off by this afternoon, in time for the beginning of festivities for the new-year.
Sure, a Moslem country wasn’t going to be the wildest place to see in the new millennium, but I was happy to be there with a few other visitors who hadn’t decided to fly out to Europe for the big event. Unfortunately, to the locals the year was still 1257 or some other equally uninspiring number, so their enthusiasm was understandably subdued.
“I am going out, do you want me to get you anything?” said my girlfriend as she got up from her chair to leave. She was going out to catch up with some new friends in beautiful, downtown Essaouira.
“I’m not getting you a bullet! C’mon, it’s new years eve,” she retorted with a cheesy, cheer-me-up grin.
“I’ll be fine, just leave me some more electrolyte.”
“Ok, see ya,” she said. Her compassion was almost smothering.
It was midday. I rolled over and popped another Peptobismol. A few more of those babies spaced out over the afternoon was sure to see me in top shape for tonight. I went back to a very broken sleep.
Four o’clock, I woke up and took another Pepto. I was beginning to think of that packet as a long lost brother.
I was feeling a lot better than yesterday, but I began to have doubts that I would be in perfect health by this evening. I was trying to get excited. After all, I had it on good authority that the beer would be flowing on the beach near Hendrix’s Castle, away from the prying eyes of the locals.
Seven PM. Time for a shower. I gathered my gear and went off to the bathroom. By the time I finished the twenty-meter walk it was really time to sit down again. Hmm, that distinct lack of stamina may prove to be an obstacle to the two-kilometer walk out to the party. After the exhausting effort to dry myself and the return walk to my room, it was time for another sleep. One more Pepto for good luck.
Nine o’clock and it was time to get ready. My girlfriend had returned during my kindy-nap. She had even found some beer for us to take out to the party.
“We’re meeting everyone at ten thirty to walk out to the castle” she informed me. No doubt there would be a throng of party-goers there waiting for our imminent arrival!
“No problems,” I winced, pulling my least dirty shirt over my head. Looking bad, feeling worse – ready to party!
With her help I shuffled my way down to the main street in Essouira to meet some friends and other travellers we were going to spend the evening with. All four of them.
“Let’s go,” came the call. The group started making their way to the beach. After about a hundred meters it was pretty clear that I was going to struggle to keep up with them. I was already pretty tired. All I wanted was to sit on the beach and sip on a beer. Unfortunately the beach was still half a kilometer away.
“Go on,” I said, “I’ll catch up.” But they had already gone. It was just me walking slowly towards a distant fire that I couldn’t yet see.
Hmm. Time for another rest. Twenty minutes later I was ready to tackle the last hundred meters to the beach. If only I could get to the sand, my morale would surely pick up!
It was pretty dark by this stage. In fact I couldn’t see very much at all, but the sound of the surf could only be thirty meters away. Maybe even less I told myself in a fit of misplaced optimism.
The smell of the surf was welcome, but it was mixed with something slightly more pungent. Hmm. What was that?
Finding myself in a huge pile of camel shit, the smell grew stronger and left no mistakes as to where I was. This was no ordinary camel to amass this ziggurat of dung. This was a major feat of digestive, dromedarian engineering. It took me several steps to extricate myself from the pile.
Both boots up to the ankles were well covered. Time to wash my boots in the surf. At least I was feeling slightly better, if still very tired. Of course, it being dark, me being slightly groggy and the waves being fairly substantial meant that I ensured my trousers were washed up to the knees as well. Hmm, comfy.
I managed to walk a few hundred meters. The sounds of bongo drums permeated the beach. No doubt there was a stoned German tourist doing the bashing. Indeed the lowest form of life in Morrocco has to be the stoned German tourist. My wrath would have to wait. Time for another rest.
“Well, it’s eleven o’clock,” said my girlfriend, having waited for me and starting to sound a little worried that we might miss the party.
“Time for one last big effort I guess.”
Half an hour later we were still a long way from the castle, but at least our friends had given up on that idea too. They were sitting on the beach when we arrived, just in time for the countdown.
“Four, three, two, one, happy new millennium,” echoed the usual hailing in. The beer flowed. We all soaked each other in alcohol.
My friends began to look at me, brows furrowed.
“What?” I asked, backing away at their unwelcome and ever closer appraisals.
“Whoa man, you smell like camel shit!
Oh, what a night.