“Did we reeeeeally just do that???” Steve asked in disbelief as he fell into the red cushioned bench at the hotel’s restaurant. He slumped forward exhaling deeply, releasing the weight of a very hard day. His hair was damp, freshly tousled by a towel. Dust and mud had been sent down the drain during the unexpected hot shower he informed us of with delight. A few guys darted back to their rooms to get a warm douse before it was gone. He sighed shaking his head, still reeling from what would prove to be one of the most challenging days of the Dakhla Challenge.
I was very thankful for Steve’s help that day and I told him so. He had taken charge, rolling up his pants to wade through the cold murky rivers testing depth and guiding the way. The other guys had all worked extremely hard too, constantly moving large boulders from our path, digging in the dirt, placing waffle boards where land was needed to cross but was missing due to erosion. We were all exhausted and cold. James still had wet feet despite changing his socks three times. Gavin’s face was still red from yelling at limpets to get off our cars. I was still shocked by what only I had seen. It had been a very intense and slow moving day as we had crept through the riverbed at a rate of 6km/hr.
I sipped sweet mint tea from a tiny clear glasses laced with gold. Our grumbling stomachs were sedated with the usual starters, Morocco’s famous tomato and lentil soup (Harira) which I LOVE and a salad that reminded me of the toppings of bruschetta. The main course was always a surprise, and never disappointed. Instead of ordering from a menu, we were served whatever dish had been prepared for the day. The mystery was always revealed with the removal of the large conical lid from a colorful mosaic tajine. Beneath a cloud of steam were large chunks of lamb, green peas, and potatoes with five eggs over easy simmering in a stew of saffron.
I was relieved we had made the decision to drive in the dark to spend the night in Imilchil; a small town elevated 2119 meters in the Atlas Mountains. Alternatively, we would have camped at the 2700m pass with no protection from the blistery cold wind. The road down the mountain was narrow and winding, disappearing into the night. I begged Tom to drive slowly. We passed the same Spanish cyclists again as they peddled through the night. We met them that morning and they had warned us that the river washed out the road we planned to take. “You can cross it, but it will be very hard work!” They certainly had been right about that! What they didn’t warn us of, was the small tribe that had been hiding, waiting to attack!
“I can’t believe those guys didn’t warn us about the little limpdicks!” I exclaimed, reaching for seconds.
I think Jim must have choked on whatever he was chewing, someone spewed mint tea from their lips, and all the guys stared at me blankly, totally bewildered by my outburst.
“What?” I asked, “I didn’t start it, Dave has been calling the kids limpdicks all day.” An incident that I found quite surprising given Dave’s proper English upbringing.
“I can’t believe they showed you guys their little penises too!” I blurted out a little too loud.
“Kelly, I called them limpets, not limpdicks!?” Dave said. “And I didn’t see any penises thank god. What the hell are you talking about?”
“Huh?? Limpets? Why limpets? What’s a limpet?” I was very confused.
He explained that a limpet is sea creature that suctions and sticks to things under the sea, the same way the annoying village kids clung tenaciously to our cars all day.
“Limpets, not limpdicks Kelly!” we all had a good laugh at my expense.
“Ahhhhhh!” I finally got it.
I blushed, only slightly embarrassed and told the guys about the limpdicks I had unfortunately encountered that day …
They had pounced on us early, sneaking out of the woods when we were most vulnerable. Their tiny mouths sucked on our windows and screeched “BONBON! BONBON!”, meaning candy in French. Their fists pounded on the windows and the hood of our cars. There was no chance to escape them, the terrain was too rocky making us slow moving easy targets.
Maverick was the first to come under limpet attack. Thanks to the side step, they gained height and were just able to reach their grubby little hands into their car through the sunroof. Up close, they had a devious gleam in their eye, and we all knew they were up to no good. Team “Unhindged” was quite afraid being completely exposed in topless Dora.
Moments later Honey Badger came under attack by five daring limpets that had successfully climbed onto the roof. They stomped on the roof dancing and hollering. I watched them through the sunroof window, they were crazy. We tried our best, but couldn’t shake them. Their grip was strong.
Occasionally the limpets pretended to be nice by moving a stone from our path. But it was not out of the kindness of their hearts, they demanded bonbons in return. The truth is we had no bonbons to share. I wish we did as I was craving sweets myself with all the bonbon talk.
Thomas was the only one that understood a little of what they had to say, a mix of French and Arabic. When they realized he understood their broken French, they kept talking and talking …
In the limpets defense, they are victims of tourism. Others that had driven this track before us had conditioned their behavior and expectations. The day before, we witnessed a woman with a license plate from Poland throw handfuls of candy at a group of small children as they drove by. Real smart polock! “Thanks for the treat stupid!” Honey Badger growled. We all agreed this behavior was disgusting. Not only did they not bother to stop their cars and attempt to connect with the local children, who throws candy out the window? And if you want to throw something out the window, how about a tooth brush or something they actually need!? We heard this has been happening for years, hence the creation of limpets.
And it is not that we are kid haters or would have even minded given the little guys a ride somewhere, but it was dangerous having five kids riding on your roof, not to mention that they actually broke our roof rack in the process!
The riverbed was challenging requiring concentration to avoid sharp rocks and strategically place stones along the way. The kids were a challenge of their own, one that we did not know how to overcome. They stuck with us the entire day. Tom tried a new tactic of turning on the back windshield wipers to remove two clinging to the hatch. They cackled with pleasure as if they enjoyed getting sprayed with wiper fluid.
Gavin gave in and brokered a deal with the head limpet. “I will give you this pen if you promise to go away and take all your little friends with you.” I could have told Gavin no way could a limpets cannot be trusted. Instead, he attracted the rest of their clan who begged for their own pen … “but you gave HIM one!” they whined.
We all breathed a sigh of relief seeing them huddled together in defeat stuck on the edge of a steep bank. The river we had crossed was wide and rapid, surely they wouldn’t dare. We hoped they would retreat. But as always they found a way.
I began to accept their coexistence, but others still put up a fight. James continued to peel limpets off Maverick, I laughed watching them suction back on the minute he turned his back. Gavin stood his ground protecting Sand Doom, warding them off with a shovel. “KEEP BACK! DO NOT GET ON THE CARS!!!!” he growled. They took a few steps back, then laughed.
The ring leader (aka “the mean boy”) riled his troops. There was the quiet limpet that did whatever the mean boy told him. There was the whiner with puppy dog eyes who annoyed me. There was a charming limpet that wore a white headband and a sweet smile. There was the older limpet that did a terrible job of controlling the younger ones. The soccer-loving limpet wore a bright red Massi jersey and begged for a soccer ball in between bonbons. I really did wish I had thought to bring a soccer ball for him.
Despite the annoyances and hardships of the rocky riverbed, the route was quite beautiful and I found the offroading heaps of fun!!
The day got harder when Tom made a grave mistake of stealing a kiss from me inside the car, not knowing a limpet was spying close by. He ran away howling with laughter, informing the other limpets as to what he saw. My status dropped dramatically in the limpet world. From then on, limpets approached me with a wink, raised their eyebrows suggestively, made kissing faces, told me they love me, and then to my disbelief … they starting showing me their tiny limp penises! Thank god they were limp at least, but COME ON! Seriously?? Their behavior was an insight into a culture very different than my own. Children mimic what they see around them no matter where in the world they may live. I felt for the women of Morocco, they have it harder than most I am afraid.
I asked the limpets once, where are your sisters and the little girls from the village. “At home!” they said, looking at me like I was crazy for asking.
At first I could easily ignore them, but when five limpets got too close and were “mwah mwah mwahing” at me and reaching for their zippers I had enough! “Thomas” I screamed, “get these kids away from me!” My usually calm boyfriend apparently had also had enough He grabbed the mean boy, threw him over his shoulder, ran to the river and dunked him head first in the water.
Mean boy limpet didn’t learn a lesson. Later I would see him wagging a giant stick at me held between his legs.
“And that is why I called them limpdicks!” I concluded.
The guys just shook their head in disbelief having been completely oblivious to my hardships.
We talked about how not all Moroccan kids are limpets. In fact we would come to realize that those who lived in the poorest villages and needed the most never asked. In the next few days we would drive further into the mountains and encounter some of the nicest peopl in the Berber villages along the way.
We were all impressed with the teenage boy who came running from his Berber village to help us. His timing was crucial, as it was getting dark and we feared we would be spending the night amongst the limpets. He dug into the earth with a pickax he carried in his backpack and showed us a quicker way. He never asked for bonbons and seemed sincerely happy to just help. Several of the guys rewarded him for his help with pens, spare tools, and money.
With his help we finally completed the MH1 route! We managed to only progress 60km that day.
The limpets bid us farewell by throwing stones at Amani. Amani, as it means, said “Peace out” limpets!
We hope they enjoyed their long walk home.
To see more photos of Day 4 of the Dakhla Challenge along MH1 CLICK HERE