That’s a Stretch

Day Three in Dahkla. We had a few goals in mind but nothing crazy, which is good because things don’t have a timeline around here.

It started last night at dinner. Carla had one hand on a cell phone and the other was instructing chicken to get on her plate. Somehow I knew she was organizing a car for us. Because we are in the middle of the southern most city in Morocco so why wouldn’t Carla know someone who was happy to pull a car out of their ear. I wasn’t really listening until heard her call out, “Not 9. NOT 9.” See?…..my people. No one needs to leave a place at 9 a.m. unless there is a fire or an airplane.

Sure enough this morning a man and a car show up at reception. We’re all set. We spoke to the people at front desk and asked numerous logistical questions. One of them decided he would crack out a pen and draw a map. He had drawn two lines and I was laughing. Not a cartographer. First of all, he started his sentence by pointing randomly into the air and saying, “you know where the ocean is?” Well, no, frankly. You have to live here, own a compass, have a degree in geopolitics and hire a guide to know the difference between the ocean and the lagoon on this 4 km wide slice of sand. So I knew we were screwed from the get-go because no maps, Google maps was not having it, and this man and his drawings…nope. We were on our own, but its a peninsula – how bad can it go?

First, we head off towards a resort called Ocean Vagabond. We wanted to stay there but they were booked. Fast forward to missing the turn off, realizing our mistake, turning around, finding the road and getting to the resort. We had a lovely visit, good coffee and lengthy chat with the GM. Nice lady. She told us to go into the town centre and seek out her friend Jos who had been here for many years. Off we head in the other direction towards town about 20 minutes away. Not much to see there. It was pretty standard and we found Jos installed at the first table in her very French restaurant overlooking the ocean, half an hour before her lunch-rush-French-expats even considered getting out of bed.

Next we went in the direction from which we came to go to the “famous” oyster farm for lunch. Honestly, a sign maker with a can of spray paint and some wood would do well here. Sand and flat earth for miles. Camels. Some heavy duty hummer type hard core vehicles and a TON of police later, we found the tire, and turned right. No sign. Not a single indication of what lay beyond the cliff.

Once over the edge, we were treated to an outdoor terrace on the ocean with blue tables in the cool winter sun, overlooking the oyster farm, serving up all manner of mussels, oysters, calamari, fish and vegetables. No liquor. No bathrooms. Yup. No W.C. WHAT? Carla went looking and circled around 3 or 4 times before we realized the man was serious. No toilets. So the bill got paid pretty fast and off we shot back to the hotel which was close thankfully.

Next on our list was the ostrich farm. Ok, YOU try to say oyster farm and ostrich farm 5 times in the same day in 3 languages. We found ourselves back at hotel reception. Same man, smiling like a kid eating Smarties because he had ANOTHER opportunity today to make a map. Honest to God…WORST MAP EVER. We knew the ostrich farm was “right behind the hotel” despite all evidence to the contrary. He said “you know where the ocean is?” Oh Jesus here we go again. “You just go to the water tower and right beside it there is the “ferme naam”. Ask the people in the homes nearby.” Well. Let me tell you off the top that none of what you just read had ANY correlation to what actually happened next.

We left the hotel the only way we knew how. Please note that in the desert there are no roads. You just sort of “head” towards your destination and if you see a path made by other cars that is barely noticeable in the sand, you follow that and call it a road.

With much discussion and many questions we drive towards the main road. The ONE that is paved. There is a water tower that way. But when we get there the water tower is surrounded by nothing but a water treatment plant. That’s it. Wrong road. We go out to the main road and drive a bit. Spot another “water tower” and circle back. We’ve passed this one many times and there is nothing near it. So we head back through a police check and pull off at a gas station. Carla speaks French. Directions are given. Off we go. Heading down the road we realize that we have two choices. The tomato farm on the left or the oyster farm on our right. So we turn around and go back. Through the police check point again. We hit the rompah, rond pointe, roundabout, traffic circle (discussion ensued) and go back toward the hotel. We pass the hotel. We keep going this time thinking maybe that’s good. We think of giving up. Come on – ostriches. We gotta go. We persist.

At some point as we drove around we spotted a building from afar and lots of cars out front. “Oh thank goodness we found it!” We drove closer and I saw coils of barbed wire all along the walls and thought maybe it was a tactic to keep them from flying away but alas no. I know a Moroccan prison when I see one. The tourist van was disgorging guards and there were cows wondering loose in the field out front. W. T. A. F.?

We head up a road that is impossibly narrow with an aqua duct running along. We see a human and stop. ALLO. ALLO. A man comes out of his home and says in hand signals, “go back, turn right”. We do. Lost again. We see a cell tower. “Did he mean cell tower? Water tower?”. We continue over the rough “road”. FINALLY we see the first thing that looks like a place and we stop. This is clearly a farmstead. On a peninsula, in southern Morocco. Africa. The only thing to indicate its a place is a door and a car. What should we do? Walk right in of course. Its deserted. No one. We call out. Two Sengalese men eating lunch come walking out of somewhere. French ensues. Carla is pretty relaxed so I figure we aren’t going to be kidnapped today and get back in the car. He gives new instructions and tells us to ask for Abdu and look for a red door. Perfect.

We head off. We find an unpainted wall that was one of our markers and drive down beside it. Nope. We turn around. We head towards a vehicle and some people. We stop and shout. “Hey, yo, you know where oyster nope ostrich farm is?” They don’t know. They are gathering water at a cistern. Is THIS the water TOWER we were looking for? O. M. G. For sure it is. Not a landmark by western standards.

We turn around and go back. FINALLY, finally we spot an unpainted section of wall and a red door. We pull up. We park. We try the door. NOTHING. No one home. Abdu is gone. Locked. But we‘ve come this far and damn it we will see oysters today. I mean ostriches. I can see through holes in the door – they are in there. Carla pulls the car up to the gate. I think briefly “Ok Thelma – you gonna ram that metal gate? Its’ a rental car for the love of God.” But no she flips the back door and uses it to climb to the top. She is GOING to see these darn oysters.

A man drives by on a motorbike. We stop him. He tries knocking on the door. (Dude, we tried that already). Then he calls someone and is able to report that Abdu is at lunch in the centre and will return in 10 minutes to open “the park.” Another car pulls up and a line forms. Abdu pulls up and jumps out of his car, racing for the door and pulling on his coveralls at the same time, thinking all the while “a Tuesday afternoon rush. Damn”

PHEW. We are in! It’s everything we dreamed it would be. Ostriches everywhere. For miles all we can see are ostriches. We walk up to the first pen and look in. “Uh, why is that black one climbing on top of the brown one?” “Um, so, why is that big one….?” “He seems frustrated.” “The lady ostrich seems disinterested.” “The black one is lying on top of the ……” O. M. G.

We spent over an hour to find this place, almost got kidnapped, waited for Abdu and now this…..ostrich sex. You can not make this stuff up. You just can’t.

So we moved to the pen with babies in it and enjoyed the rest of our visit. We learned many things about ostriches.

We also found out that the directions to the ostrich farm are thus:

Go out the gates. Turn left. Follow the road along the shoreline until you see the CELL tower. Turn right. Spot the red doors.

T’sit.

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