From Marrakesh, situated on the dry plains of central Morocco, to the High Atlas Mountains is roughly a five hour drive depending on how insane your driver is. As the already too small roads turned to snaking death traps, our bus continued at a pace I had considered reckless even on the flatlands. Thus it was with some relief that we rolled into our little mountain village late in the afternoon on the narrow road that abuts all the town’s houses. Stepping out of the bus for the first time deep in the comparatively verdant mountains was a transcendent experience. My hot, exhaust filled little world had transformed into world of clean, cold air and majestic views. Our gite was one perhaps 40, four-story mud structures built on the steep mountain slopes with livestock pens all around. I was sharing a room with my fellow male, Caleb, on the fourth floor. Initially we were belabored by the jealous girls in our party for our roomy quarters and personal bathroom; I tried unsuccessfully to avoid gloating. I retired to my room perfectly satisfied, but not for long.
Our room began to transform from spacious luxury room to hellhole that night. Its slow metamorphosis became apparent when, still glowing with content and the good kind of exhaustion, I collapsed onto my bed and felt vertebrae splinter. I cried out in pain as my broken body rebounded from impact, but was too late to save Caleb from a similar fate. The rest of our group ran to our aid, but their goodwill soon changed to smirking as they reveled in the stone altars that were our beds. After they left and I had recovered enough from the shock, I gingerly lay down once again and closed my eyes eager for a good night’s rest. The room had other plans. I awoke to the quaint sound of a crowing rooster. Puzzled by the lack of morning light, I checked my watch to find that barely two hours had passed. Perhaps I imagined it, I thought. I had not, just as I began to doze off the deranged rooster called again, this time at our window. Cursing I resolved to endure its confused squawks and get some rest, so that I could wring its neck in the morning. But no, the rooster was not alone. It had been joined by a beast of considerable size and possessed of an incredible range of heartstopping calls. The monster bellowed, moaned, and screamed in ways varying from reproduction, childbirth, and death by razor blades, sometimes simultaneously.
It was a rough night, but I woke up energized by thoughts or our upcoming hike. When I returned to our room after breakfast I decided to open the small window partly so view the demon rooster and the mysterious beast and partly to air out the faint but disagreeable odor that had emerged that morning. My eyes found no rooster and no chimera, but my nose was assailed by the pungent scent of animal dung. The window stayed close and I left our room for the day with few regrets.
We left the village's apple orchards quickly and climbed a short ways to reach another Berber village across the valley. Our progress was slow because of and herds of sheep charging past, but I was perfectly content to amble along and take in the shepherds huts and old grain mills. Eventually I had to return to my room though, and that's where the fun ended. During my absence the smell had intensified to putrid. I quickly decided that I would rather sleep in a latrine than in that room, so I moved my stuff to the communal area and slept on the couch. It turned out to be a great decision for me, but Caleb could not escape the curse; he ingested a very curious bug while falling asleep. I think I would have just washed it down with some water and gone back to sleep rather than return to our room, yet Caleb doggedly chose the cesspool.
The next morning it was time for us to return to Marrakesh. I spent about five hellacious minutes searching for the rotting corpse in our room then left it for good. The mountains still had one more treat planned, however. The remainder of our journey was a halting, painful ordeal because half of my group got food poisoning and the other half had car sickness, including myself.