A Hitch in Time: Couch Surfing Contradictions and One Ironic Dude.

As the days slipped away I became less and less enthused with Morocco. The lack of booze made for quiet evenings and in the end quiet days too. Despite the coast’s reputation there was no surf to be had – one of the perils of coming in the off-season. I knew I should have planned more. But what could you do? At least it was cheap.

I had had my fill of “culture” (mosques, souks, hustlers and trinkety shit) and was content to take long walks along the coast and swim in the sea, finally embracing the absence of activities holidays are meant to be.

The novelty of hitch-hiking down the coast remained and my Australian partner and I had a few long days sitting in what shade could be found on the side of the road, waiting for the sound of an approaching engine. There, more than anywhere else, our occupation was travelling and we waited patiently, turning down paid rides time and time again, hoping for people who understood what hitching is all about.

And inevitably there were some: Dutch jocks reminiscing about prostitutes and a failed gang bang in Agadir; a Volkswagon blasting Ying Yang Twins; and countless other trucks, utes and cars.

On one of our more memorable rides a lonely truck driver presented us faded photos of his father as a young man and stopped at a lookout to show us the view down the coast. Some kids appeared out of nowhere seeking the usual handouts and, put out at the constant money grab, I told them to stuff it and hopped back in the cab. The truck driver opened the back and gave them some gnarly off-cuts while I sat in the truck and mulled over my approach to beggars.

Later, as the tinny cab speakers blasted psychedelic Moroccan rock, our driver told Scotty he looked like Roger Walters and, noting our appreciation for the solos of Morocco’s equivalent, gifted us a sizeable portion of his hash.  Moroccans are good like that, once you put some distance between you and the main haunts.

But the lack of distraction soon lost its novelty and, with my flight out approaching, I began the journey back to Marrakesh. I had arranged to stay a couple of nights in Agadir with a surf instructor named Mustapha and after some miscommunication finally found him outside the front of the main bus station. (In Agadir there were two bus stations. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get it right…)[1]

One couch surfer had written that Mustapha was “an ironic dude” – a point I ignored at the time. But his description was right on the money and as Mustapha showed me round I began to get a sense of just how ironic a human could be.

As his thick dreadlocks and devout praying demonstrated, Mustapha was both a Rastafarian and a Muslim. Put simply he was a storm of contradictions, and a perfect example of the power of religion to distort logic. He was unfazed by the potential incompatibility of his choices and as we walked from the sprawling low-rise apartments to the sea he explained a bit of his life philosophy, the importance of Islam and why the Jews are still a problem.

Despite his beach bum appearance he seemed every inch the devout Muslim: going off to pray while I used a public bathroom, wishing friends ebullient asalaam-oualeekums and talking non-stop about the virtues of Islam, and how it promotes peace and love. His relaxed demeanour and friendly references to “one love man, bless up” had me amused and I was more than happy to shoot the shit with this skateboarding son of Abraham.

But faster than you can say Ramadan he flipped into an anti-Semitic diatribe, outlining the evils of the twelve tribes and some conspiracy theory bullshit about how the Jews will run the world and make slaves of us all, while Christians and Muslims join together to fight the Zionist oppressors.

It is heavy stuff, especially from a guy I have just met, and when he asked what religion I was I mumbled about Christian parents and, relieved, he launched into an anti-atheist spiel. How can they live in a world without God? What is the purpose of their lives?

I stifled the urge to confront these bigoted thoughts, or to explain that what he calls God isn’t so different from those things I cherish. What would be the point? There is no challenging the self-serving interests of divine faith.

When we got back to his room the true extent of Mustapha’s hypocrisy hit home. He had painted his walls with a mural to marijuana and beach life, complete with the stoner’s catch-cry: “coz I got high.” Although he no longer drinks (“it did bad things to me man, bad things”) Havana bottles still adorn his shelves, tribute to the strange meeting of cultures globalisation has manifested in him.

There was still talk of girls and, once the fast was broken, plenty of hash. It seemed like he was willing to pick and choose, casting judgement where he pleased. It is this judgement I despise and while his friends were welcoming enough it was a bizarre evening on the couch as the Arabic passed over me. His mates watched skate videos on their iPhones and said little, to me or him. Mustapha did most of the talking; I wonder if this lack of dialogue is where his extreme views come from.

In their defence it is the end of Ramadan and they are tired from a long month of fasting – but I feel as isolated as I have ever felt, and for once the hash does little to help.

The situation grows stranger when, after eating to excess following our fasting, my stomach starts to rumble ominously. Mustapha heads off to a 2am prayer marathon and in his absence I find myself scrambling for a plastic bag, just catching the spurting plume of vomit my torso throws out. It’s as if his bullshit has made me physically sick and I spend a torrid night on the couch.

In the morning diarrhoea comes knocking. Once again I enjoy the privilege of a squat toilet, hand on the wall, bracing myself while I singlehandedly reject the claim that piss comes out your dick. I shower using the bucket provided and the cold water is a refreshing shock. I think I have a fever but I’m not sure. I feel weak, empty, and the rumbling in my guts is accompanied by shooting pains that have me wincing in agony…

After a few more bathroom visits I was completely desensitised to Mustapha’s third world set up but had no energy left for the engagement couch surfing requires. I popped a few blockers and made my excuses, scurrying for the first bus to Marrakesh. Morocco was sending me a message and it was time to leave.




[1] For the time there weren’t two stations, see Faithless in Fez.

2 thoughts on “A Hitch in Time: Couch Surfing Contradictions and One Ironic Dude.

    • I can’t remember what I said exactly, but it was something along the lines of what the other guy wrote. I didn’t want to leave a harsh reference, because he did nothing bad to me.. I guess that’s why it was so weird; he was more or less harmless but a sad product of his environment. Should I have been harsher? So hard to tell with CS; after all, he did hook up a bed and food for the night..

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