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Finding True Love in Morocco

Ed Lewis is a retired Early Childhood Education Professor who loves adventure travel. He has explored the length of the Amazon River, lived in a cave in the Canary Island for 6 months, kayaked with Killer Whales in the San Juan Islands, and danced with the Duke of Arundel's daughter in jolly ol' England. He is a storyteller for adult and children's audiences. 

If you knew me during my youth about 50 years ago, you might describe me as DARING/ ADVENTURESOME/ BOLD/ SPONTANEOUS or maybe, IMPULSIVE, RECKLESS, CRAZY, ACTING WITHOUT THINKING, or more likely, GONE OFF THE DEEP END. In that vein, I'm going to take you to the magical ancient land of Morocco via my 2-year Don Quixote soul-searching journey from 1972-1974.

I had just finished three years in the US army after completing college with a BA in Business and then receiving my draft notice for the US Army during the height of the Vietnam War. I was an active anti-war protester but decided to enlist as an officer and get duty on the DMZ on the North/South Korean border where the United States had amassed troops to put pressure on North Korea to release 29 U.S. naval hostages they had captured from our spy ship called the Pueblo.

Of course, our government said it was not a spy ship. After serving my enlisted duty 3 buddies and I planned a trip back to South Korea via Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia and Japan. After 1 month my three buddies abandoned our quest but I was determined to "FIND MY REAL SELF" so I took a freighter from Spain to the Canary Islands off the Northwest Coast of Africa and lived in a cave for six months.

I spent glorious days hiking, "going back to nature" and "living of the land" in the largest crater in the world on the small island of La Palma that went from sea level to 9000 feet in 7 kilometers. I fished and swam in the river below my cave, foraged for mushrooms, figs, and edible plants, and practiced yoga and meditation following the ideas of Baba Ram Dass that encouraged me to "BE HERE NOW."

I met a local goat herder and helped him milk 23 goats for some milk and delicious goat cheese. I helped a local farmer tend his farm for fresh vegetables and fruit. And I helped three miners who were digging deep into the mountain to find water to send down aqueducts to the banana plantations near the sea.

In return I got to drink the NECTAR OF THE GODS—COGNAC. It is amazing that I was able to stagger back down the narrow mountain trail with 3,000-foot drop-offs after some of those evenings of song, stories, good food, and cognac.

Toward the end of the six month stay I met another soul-searching businessman from Columbus, Ohio while visiting another island where I lived in a small cave fronting the Atlantic ocean. He lived with me for a month at the crater and then headed back to his job which consisted of making Hashish Bricks in the Atlas Mountains of Northern Morocco to send to his dealer buddy back home. He invited me and, of course, being BOLD/CRAZY/CAUGHT UP IN THE MOMENT, I accepted.

We began by taking a one-hour ferry ride to the Honolulu of the Canary Islands–Gran Canaria, and from there got on a large freighter that took us on a half-day journey to the country of Spanish Sahara which is at the end of the Sahara Desert south of Morocco and is now called Western Sahara.

From there we took a 3-hour taxi ride to the start of the Sahara Desert where there were eight tents set up for travelers with food and water. B.C, as my new travel guide was called, said this was a desert truck stop and we would just wait until a truck or a caravan would come through and we would pay them to take us up into Morocco.

This happened to be the prime location for expeditions and merchandise transport that would either be coming south from Morocco and turning east into the heart of the Sahara desert toward Mt. Kilimanjaro or South to the Ivory Coast and the Congo, or they would be heading North from those locations into Morocco. It reminded me of stories I had heard of the ancient Silk Road.

We waited two days and then paid a truck driver $7 each for a 3-day trip through the Sahara Desert on top of his truck with 14 Berber Tribe Members in 120 degree heat and unrelenting wind. It was an incredible adventure including observing camels roaming wild, waking up with a scorpion on my chest after sleeping on the warm desert sand, and then digging out the truck after it became stuck in the sand 2 or 3 times a day.

Everyone would have to climb off the truck's roof, unload everything, dig out a path, lay some planks, and then push out the truck while the driver would gear up to full throttle.

What was especially interesting to me was the blue skin of the Berber tribe folk. I found out later that the natural blue dye they used in their clothing leached into their skin. There was also no road through this desert of shifting sands and no GPS to guide us but these drivers somehow managed to navigate this changing landscape.

Our first stop after leaving the desert was an Oasis where the Berbers held an unbelievable outdoor market where they rode in on camels with beautiful dyed silks, inlaid copper serving utensils, camel hair blankets, snake charmers, bejeweled dancers, and meals that used all the camel parts which were actually quite tasty. I could do without the rich, fatty camel milk, though. A day at the market was followed by a luxurious hot mineral bath in an ancient bathhouse.

After the fascinating oasis experience we caught a bus loaded with local people and their goats, chickens, and pigs. We traveled to the Capitol City of Agadir which had experienced much devastation from an earthquake in 1960. It was still recovering in 1973 and had lost much influence.

B.C. and I camped at a beautiful bay on the Atlantic Ocean with many of our "Hippie Brethren" traveling from Denmark, Sweden, France and Germany. They had been backpacking and hitchhiking to interesting places around the world and I would hear many fascinating stories.

As soon as we stepped into the campsite my attention was immediately riveted on an amazingly beautiful woman with long blond hair, a deep golden tan, and such a deep welcoming smile. It was like a magnet pulled me right to her and I stuttered, " I-I-I-Any Gooooood Ca-Ca-Campsites Around He-Here."

She smiled so warmly and, as my heart leapt out of my chest, she said, "There's one left down that trail next to where I'm camping. Follow me and I'll show you where to set up." Since I was frozen in place, B.C. grabbed my arm and guided me down the path.

Did I mention that I had been living in a cave for 6 months?

We pitched our tent and then joined these international travelers around a large campfire and cooking pit where everyone brought food to share. B.C. supplied a pound of Blond Morocco Hashish. We commenced a grand celebration that went well into the next day with good food, local beer, smoking, singing, dancing, and so many amazing stories.









I immediately sat next to my "TRUE LOVE TO BE," Danika, and found out she was a 29-year old physics professor on summer vacation from a college only 10 kilometers from where my favorite uncle, Nels, was born. She was hitchhiking for 3 months with 2 girlfriend teachers to a walking safari camp in South Africa. There was definitely a magical spark between us and for the next 7 days we were inseparable except for the next, nearly disastrous day.

B.C., a surfer from Australia, and I woke up around 7:00 in the morning and immediately headed for the beautiful beach below our campsite. We build a lean-to, started a fire, and cooked up a large pot of oatmeal adding dates, strawberries, almonds, brown sugar, camel milk, and a ½ pound block of hashish.

While that marvelous concoction was simmering , we swam in the warm ocean and ran up and down the beach throwing a frisbee. We came back to the lean-to and scarfed all of that delicious oatmeal with its ½ pound of hashish and believe it or not, I actually remember a few things that happened that day!

I had difficulty catching that Damn Frisbee, I couldn't stand up, and the words that usually flowed so easily out of my mouth were hiding somewhere and I was not able to greet the three gorgeous Scandinavian women, including Danika, that were attempting to talk to us.

About 4:00 in the afternoon, I remember standing up and deciding to go for a swim. The water was like a hot springs bath and I could float and flounder around so effortlessly. Then suddenly I felt myself going underwater.

Fortunately, I had grown up boating and swimming in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington and I quickly knew I was caught in a riptide and was being pulled underwater and out of the bay into the ocean.

That is when the hashish haze evaporated and I began swimming for my life to the seemingly far off shore. The European campsite crowd had seen my dilemma and had thrown a rope off a small cliff near where I was swimming. I immediately began trying to swim to the rope but it seemed like I would take 3 stokes forward and the current would take me 4 strokes backward.

But I was actually making some headway when I realized that the waves were too powerful and would just smash me into the cliff wall before I could reach any rope.

Adrenaline then burst throughout my body and I turned away from the cliff and swam as hard as I could for shore. Thank God my parents had gotten me all those swimming lessons as a young child. It still seemed I wouldn't be able to fight through this current but suddenly I could see the bottom and exhausted I stopped paddling and quickly sank 10 feet taking in a large gulp of salt water.

At that point I almost gave up but from somewhere deep down I pushed my exhausted arms upward and broke the surface and began swimming like a madman. Fortunately, I was out of the current and soon reached the shore to all my new friends. My hopefully Danish "wife to be" even ran up, threw her arms around me, and gave me such a sweet, tender kiss.

For the next 6 days, Danika and I seemed connected at the hip. During the day we hitchhiked to local outdoor markets where she spoke French with local merchants and bargained for food and hashish. We explored hidden alleyways, rode camels deep into the desert, and watched snake charmers weave their magic.

By night we walked to secluded beach coves and built private fires. We swam under the moon in warm waters that showered us with sparkling gold flecks with each stroke we took and each playful splash we sent to each other. I later found out that these colors were the product of plankton.

We strolled under the moon light and shared our life stories, dreams, and plans for the future. And then we would snuggle up next to the fire under the flickering stars where we would fall asleep holding each other.

I was so inspired by the fast-developing love, I began writing love poems for her as well as sharing lines from some of my favorite romantic songs. Danika's favorite song I tried to sing but mostly recited was, "The Nearness of You", written by Ned Washington in 1938 with music by Hoagy Carmichael.

As a child in the 1950's I had watched my parents dance to that tune in front of our Victrola radio and record player. On the second evening I shared it for her at the main campfire with a bongo player from Paris, and a guitarist from Amsterdam.

They provided a "cool" Brazilian beat and melody and I sang a couple of stanzas and then recited the rest of the tune since I didn't want to ruin the mood with my off-key voice. The lines that moved me to such depths of love went like this:

It's not the pale moonlight that excites me,
Thrills, and delights me,
Oh no, It's just the nearness of you.
It isn't your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation
Oh no, it's just the nearness of you
When you're in my arms
and I feel you so close to me
All my wildest dreams come true
I need no soft lights to enchant me
If you would only grant me
The right to hold you close and so tight
And revel in the night
The nearness of you

By the end of that recitation we were both in each other's arms feeling our hearts beating wildly and our tears melding together.

At the end of those magical 7 days the most difficult thing I had to do was say goodbye. With tears streaming down my face, I watched three Scandinavian adventurers easily get a ride in a passing truck where my "True Love" blew kisses my way. Fifteen years later I did visit the town where my Grandparents and Uncle Nels were born in southern Denmark but I couldn't locate her. I often think of what could have been and wonder how her life turned out.

Well I don't know if I ever "found myself" but now that I am 74 years young I would like to think of myself as a more cautious and mature traveler. But where's the adventure in that? Besides you never know where "TRUE LOVE' might be waiting.

Anyone want to join me on a canoe trip down the Nile?

~ Ed Lewis








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