Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 03:41:54 -0800
From: Claude Marthaler
Subject: "The Ghost"

Dear Redfishes!
Tinehir, Morroco, km 1162OO

Broken rim, free wheel, shoe rips, gear shifter, what could appear as a boring avalanche of mechanical troubles reflected faithfully my state of mind. The yak is instinctive: when you are afraid or need to think, you simply stop. Berberes people say: "The man in a hurry is already dead." Even before reaching it, Europe was coming to me - in a rush. Vans with fiercely evocative names of exploration as "Kon-Tiki, Voyager" passed me in long caravans, like invaders. "Adventure in absolute security" was the leitmotif. Children throw some dirt into the trail's potholes to ask "Bonbons! stylos! Dirhams!"to any foreigner, like an automatic language.

Most of the tourists who stopped me for a chat wanted to know everything about my trip, like journalists on the go, speaking so much more about themselves. A real discussion needs respiration. I felt suffocated. Thought the route hasn't been more clear than ever, full north, I felt disoriented. Behind my frame, as a ghost, my wheels were soon to let their last traces. I felt a bit like the old mud made abandoned "Kasbahs" on a hill facing the new concrete ones, like a molting snake.

I had drunk thousands of cups of green tea as I faced everywhere the portrait of Hassan II, the late king, a common ghost to all Moroccans. Invisible and still powerful, as mine. I stopped for one more tea at the auberge "La Jeunesse" in the daEds valley. Lahcen, the owner, was lying under layers in the sun. He was reading the booklet of "Royal Travel", a travel agency which offered a one week trip in his valley for some 5000 French Francs, direct from Europe. He stood so quickly on his feet that I was persuaded he wanted to sell me something. But instead he took his "Oud" (a kind of Arabic originated guitar) with bicycle break cables for strings and started to sing. Breaks as to make the song last longer! Then, he pointed down to his village to a huge kitch house: "A Kiff (hashish) smuggler. He had been arrested recently in Spain. The Moroccan authorities prohibited him from building his kind of fortress any bigger: against the traditional style, it could kill the tourism. Lahcen put kiff in his long pipe. "Kiff makes bronze the mind," he added. Lahcen had once left his valley, for Guelmim, "the door of the desert": "We know only the world through football so that at each worldcup, we discover a new country!"

There was no need to ask anything; because of the slow approach of a bike, people naturally spoke about their lives, but more seldom criticized their three national ghosts, constitutionally sacred: the king, Islam and Western Sahara. But their sayings took the same detours as my wheels to express anything as "When the rich has stolen, one say that he has forgotten, when the poor has forgotten, one say that he has stolen". I felt solitary and silent about my ghost, the end of my journey. On March 12, the road will have already swallowed 7 years of the yak's Vélodyssey. A few months more, the yak's wheels immobilized, like a statue. The Irish saying "May the road rise to meet you" echoed in my soul. I needed to listen to more Oud. I wished sometimes humorously to have been a simple soccer fan, not a damned cyclonaut.

The YAK_


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