Following Tasusiyt: At the pace of a sloth

I’m walking the full lenght of the Souss river in Morocco in search of real Moroccan life outside the cities. So far I’ve encountered friendly sheepherders in long jalabas, vans packed with people and many, many orangetrees.

The sun is blasting on my dry skin. My lips are dry, the air is dry and the river is dry.  Although many signs I come across in the river tell a quite different story. After an hour walking over the boulders that is the Souss river I stop at a little shop where they sell all the moroccan nessecities; sardines, sweets, soda and bread. In this little place I learn the cold hard truth, seeing the evidence on a phone. A week ago water was flowing through this dry and dusty river with the power of 1000 horses.

The blisters under my feet are getting a little better and since I’m not too good in sitting around it’s time to get on with it. This river doesn’t walk itself. I decide to have an easy day to let my feet get used to walking; 8 kilometers. After an uneasy start I find myself on the brink of the city and on a pathway leading to the Souss. The plan was to walk the river, but past days I mostly was finding roads close to it and I saw the river once a day. Now I’m walking through it. The river is made up of boulders, sand and clay. The first day after Taroudant, where I took a hotel room, is just 8 kilometers but it takes some hours. I decide to camp on the edge of an island, where apparently is a graveyard for cattle. There are a couple of “islands” in the river, they are used for orchards or grazing for cattle. These “islands” are quite long (five to seven kilometer)  and about one and a half meter higher then the riverbed. While I set up my tent a drizzle comes in. The only rain I would see for many days.

Next morning I leave to an early morning sun to make some decent kilometers. After the rain from last evening a fresh blanket hangs over the riverbed. The little pollen of grass I find still wears drops of dew before they evaporate in the hot sun. The wind is strong and I’m struggling to find good spots to walk on. The best is the dried up clay. This is hard and solid. The worst are boulders or loose sand. And I have to admit most of the river are boulders and loose sand. After four hours I check how many kilometers I’ve done. Little over eight… This means two kilometers an hour! This is just a little faster as an sloth. I keep on zig-zagging through the river, searching for good ground to walk on when the wind picks up.

The wind gets stronger and stronger while more and more sand leaves the bottom of the river to take to the sky. I’m finding myself walking through a sandstorm, while in the middle of a river. I never expected to end up in a sandstorm. The winds are now so strong I sometimes lose sight of the sides of the river as well as the front. During the day I see many little improvised shacks in the river. As well as a waterway, this river is a source of rocks used elsewhere. People work in this river and these little buildings give them a safe place away from the winds and the scorching sun. After a day of wind and sand between my teeth I find an orange orchard where I secretly put my tent. A fox comes out and welcomes me before I fall into a deep sleep.

I have to make up for the missed kilometers during the sandstorm. Walking in the base of the river is exciting but hard. Next to the river is a stretch of pure black asphalt. About 25 kilometers. I decide to get to the road but all things are not so easy. Kilometers through the sand and boulders of the river. I try the banks, but there is a lot of agriculture going on and I find myself trying to navigate trough dry farmers fields. There are no paths, just straight on through the brown, dried up fields. Slowly but surly my surrounding gets more green. A palm tree pops up, thorn bushes make way for lemon green grass and flowering weeds. Finally after a hot morning I get to the little oasis of the town of Arazene. I’m hungry and could use some good food. Just a minute after walking into the village, I ask the first person I come across where one can get some food. He guides me to his friends, and within a hour a beautiful tagine is produced and we eat while trying to communicate in French, Arabic and English.

With my stomach full I forget to buy food for the evening and next morning, until I decide to set up camp in a field full of pumpkins. I don’t think they’ll miss one or two. When I hit the black asphalt next morning I know its going to be 25 kilometers straight on. Just a couple of curves, no lefts, no rights. Just straight on.

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