I was alone in Morocco, once again. Charlotte had gone back to Rabat, and I had three more days until my flight to Madrid. I read all the pamphlets and the tatty pages of a 2006 Le guide du routard, and the next morning at the crack of dawn I stowed my anxieties and backpack away in the hostel locker room and set off for fresh water with a day bag and a new dose of courage.
I negotiated my way into one cramped taxicab after another – three transfers in small villages, plenty of hassling and jostling, incredible scenery, and by mid afternoon I had arrived in a place called les Cascades D’Ouzoud (the Ouzoud Waterfalls).
I hiked myself down the side of the mighty falls, ducking from olive tree to olive tree away from the blaring sun. There were several places to camp along the way, and I wandered from each campground sussing out what felt right. After awhile I found myself under an apple tree, and then a fig tree, and then in a whole small field of mint plants and tomatoes.
There was a hut which I soon realized was the kitchen of a campground/cafe run by a young Moroccan fellow named Anwhal. It was situated in a beautiful spot just two levels down from the main falls and had its very own fresh water pool. He was a friendly man in his twenties who busied himself about the space, picking up others while serving tea. I took a breath and booked myself a single tent.
Mint was absolutely everywhere…
And Anwhal was constantly brewing pots of the sugary sweet dark tea.
And mugs of the sweet liquid seemed to appear before me as if by magic.
As the afternoon continued on, the fresh water pool was frequented by groups of European high school students who had come by the carload on a day trip. Aside from pleasantries in my simple French, I kept to myself – settling on a rock under a fig tree with my nose stuck in a tattered Michael Ondaatje novel. I stopping occasionally to pop into the water to cool off, content to dry off in the sun.
And just as my stomach began to grumble, I smelled something wafting out of the kitchen hut.
Little did I know it would be the best meal I’d have in Morocco – made in a hut by a waterfall in the middle of Morocco.
It was simple as simple goes – cooked on a two-burner camping stove, prepared with a handful of ingredients and just a few spices.
The base of it was hunks of boneless lamb, smothered in tumeric, ginger, black pepper, salt and cayenne…
It stewed in the tagine with tomato, onion, and parsley.
Later on, there was an additional of raisins, strips of potato and bean pods that looked a bit like fava.
It simmered for a couple of hours, and we all ate together, three guests, and a cousin too.
At dusk, I bid everyone thank you and goodnight and climbed into my tent, zipping it tightly behind me. I curled up into the layers of quilts and settled into sleep, my passport clutched against my chest. I fell asleep to the roar of the waterfall that I knew would never quiet, silently proud of myself for having said yes when saying no would have been far easier.