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Tag Archives: Barbary ground squirrel
This evening finds our boat rocking violently in the turbid red water stirred by a Saharan storm. The sky is occasionally lit by violent flashes of lightening followed by the crash of thunder. Bursts of stark light provide moments of illumination in the otherwise dim cabin of the yacht – the power is out so we are in energy conservation mode. Outside rain hammers on the deck and upon my shoulders as I scramble about the violently pitching deck attempting to tie loose ends of the thrashing lines that are showing wear from the constant pitching and rubbing. The southwest swell from the Atlantic is surging directly into the harbour here in Agadir and it looks like another sleepless night.
We have been in Agadir for over a week with little option but to explore our surroundings. Despite the helpful assistance of Brunton who have shipped us a new propeller to replace the one bladed piece of ballast currently attached to our boat, we are still waiting for delivery following a series of inexplicable delays in shipping. Seriously, DHL is a shipping company that despite a high profile around the globe seems incapable of delivering anything approaching the promised “express” service. After a week of delays and misinformation we are still no closer to knowing when our important package will arrive! I’ll keep you updated on the full scope of our propeller woes in a later blog (hopefully with the new prop in hand!), and divert my ranting to perhaps more interesting commentary on the fascinating land we find our-selves in.
The storm raging outside is rather the exception than the rule, and since our arrival here we have been enjoying beautiful sunshine and sandy beaches. A few days ago we also got the chance to hire a car and explore the surrounding countryside. As we climbed into the rocky hills overlooking the Atlantic Ocean we quickly discovered a stunning landscape that appears barren from a distance but reveals a surprising vitality once you take a stroll.
Argan trees with gnarled trunks and wicked thorns provide patches of dusty green to punctuate the red rocky landscape. The trees are a-twitter with small birds occasionally flashing into the air to pluck an insect on the wing, and the birds in turn are watched by the hawks circling above the rocky crags of the summits. The mountains are composed of layers of tortured sandstone folded into twisted shapes that spill their load of fossilised marine life into the tumbles of boulders on their slopes. Among the fossils, live beetles and scorpion scamper and lizards laze in the sun. Ground squirrels bounce around the rubble before plunging into their burrows upon the sight of our camera aimed in their direction.
Actually I can’t blame the squirrels for being wary. On our travels we found one child proudly displaying a thrashing squirrel on the end of a rope he was holding up in triumph. Though we were unable to communicate with him (he spoke only Arabic) he was delighted to pose with his catch. Perhaps he was going to keep it as a pet, but I fear that the poor little thing was going to end up in the pot. Later on when we descended into a verdant green strip of land lining a sheltered gorge we also found children perched on the side of the dusty trickle of water fishing for eels. Humans seem alien in this landscape and it is easy to fall into the habit of wishing people would just leave dessert life alone – after all life is difficult enough here without having to dodge the clutches of curious children. But then you look around and find that human habitation is built into the very architecture of this land. Rock buildings blend into the walls of the river valley, and upon a second look it is clear that the tiered slopes are actually moulded by the hand of man. The goats scampering on the slopes are guided by people living a life very similar to that of their forefathers. The people of Morocco have lived in these lands for thousands of years and the only aliens around here are a couple of suntanned tourists with a dusty dog in tow.