This morning Sam (my travel buddy) and I decided we would try to hitchhike the six hour journey from the small mountain town we were staying in to Marrakech.
We waited in the pouring rain for about an hour with high thumbs and high spirits. The Moroccans seemed to be getting a kick out of us and our soaking "Marrakech" sigh. Tomorrow is election day and the town was bustling with a parade of cars covered in photos of their favorite candidate driving through town throwing election flyers out the window and honking in unison.
We had several cars stop, but they all wanted money to give us a ride part of the way to Marrakech. When we were about to put the sign away and grab some lunch and dry off, a 15-passenger tour van pulled over. We initially ignored the van, assuming they were stopping for a photo opp, but when the driver got out and shouted, "Marrakech" we were caught off guard. We asked, "no money?" and he nonchalantly agreed. This was too good to be true...riding in a comfortable tour van with English speaking tourists all the way to Marrakech for free. Wow!
As we continued down the road, the rain began to pick up. Parts of the road were completely flooded or washed out, but the driver persisted passing stopped cars and hydroplaning through river-like troughs in the road. The driver seemed to be having fun with this, and it turned into a sort of game. As we speeded toward each "river crossing" I closed my eyes and shuttered thinking, "that's it, this is the last one. The van is going to roll and we're going for a swim down the river." Somehow, we actually made it through...I guess I underestimated the abilities of a 15-passenger van.
Two hours into the trip, we got word that the highway ahead was closed due to snow. The van pulled over at a restaurant to eat lunch and wait out the road closure.
As all the tourists ate in the dinningroom upstairs, Sam and I hung out in the cafe below drinking mint tea and trying desperately to warm up. The driver and tour guides eventually joined us downstairs and immediately invited us to join them and their feast. Trying to be polite, we denied the invitation but our efforts were futile. We sat down and our van driver gave us all the food he had ordered and shared a meal with one of the guides.
At this point, all of the guides joined in the festivities passing us bread, chicken kebab, salad, tagime, fresh fruit and coke to drink. We were overwhelmed bothe with the amount of food and the kindness of people we had never met who didn't even speak our language. As we continued to feast a clip came on the news about Obama pardoning two turkeys for Thanksgiving and I knew there was nowhere else I would rather be than sharing a Thanksgiving meal with a strangers who probably didn't even know what Thanksgiving is.
Sam and I got back in the van with big smiles, full tummies and grateful hearts for the people who were so kind. The rest of the drive was sheer bliss. We trekked through snow-capped mountain passes and along quaint mud and brick houses nestled within the valleys.
I couldn't stop thinking about the inspiring people I've met during my trip, the compassion I've experienced from strangers and all of my marvelous family and friends at home who have supported me along the way.
Over the past two and a half months the beginnings of a trip to see the world have snowballed into a wonderful wander through three continents filled with gorgeous people and cultures, with each day getting better than the previous. It completely blows me away, I may just be the most thankfully happiest American this holiday.