· By Maria Nilsson
Following what I am going to call a quarter-life crisis at home in Noosa, I found myself on a flight to Morocco to spend a little time here in Taghazout working as a surf guide.
Leading up to my sudden departure, I was quick to learn a few key things about Morocco, including that it is actually a country in Africa, not Europe (what a surprise!?), and that there is a distinctive surf season, being in the winter months.
Upon arrival it was made pretty obvious to me that I should do everything I can to be here for the on-season. In saying that, I have been lucky to score some pretty peachy waves in a bunch of different spots. My favourite so far is a wave similar to The Pass in Byron, about an hour and a half north of where we live in a really small and smelly fishing village. Sometimes when you are walking up the ramp after a surf the smell of dead fish is so overwhelming it turns your face green.
On the drive up the coast it's fairly common to look out the window and see a herd of goats climbing in an Argan Tree to eat the nuts - such a peculiar thing to be a regular sight. Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself; things are just so weird and wonderful here. I've really enjoyed learning about the culture. I've been lucky to be working along side some amazing local surf guides who continuously open my mind to the Moroccan ways of life. I've managed to learn a few key phrases in Arabic, including 'machi mushkil', which translates to 'no worries' (more or less), and 'inshallah' -meaning 'God willing'; two phrases that can help you in many situations. Being a Muslim country, most women are covered in colourful head scarves and burkas. An interesting contrast is seeing a fully covered woman (only eyes exposed, yet often covered with glasses) wading in the shallow water. During the month of June, it was Ramadan and it was really cool to be here and experience the devotion the country has to their religion - something so foreign to me.
I've become an insane driver! It is the only way you can get around. Sometimes the car or motorbike or tractor or even donkey and cart in front of you can't decide which lane it wants to be in. And often, on the windy roads you take to the north, the driver ahead indicates it's ok to overtake - even if it is a blind corner on a hill! Sometimes it feels like a game of bumper-cars.
The landscape is pretty cool here. It is dry and barren against the Atlantic Ocean, covered with little prickly plants that all look like they want to hurt you. The air and water temperature have both increased during the few months I have been here. Initially I was wearing a 3/2 in the water, but now you can get away with a shorty or even swimwear in the middle of the day, and the air temp is always high 20s or low 30s. It's so warm in fact that my friend and I sleep on our roof top terrace. It's like a dream, falling asleep under the stars every night.
The hardest part of being here is the amount of rubbish on the beaches and on the streets. Sometimes the trees are colourfully littered with plastic bags along the ocean. It is breaking my heart that I am becoming hardened to this. It is just such a big issue, and it all boils down to environmental awareness and education. But! It is exciting times for Morocco. There has been a ban on the production and use of plastic bags which is quite progressive for a developing country. Sometimes, sitting on the beach after a lesson, there are boys coming along wearing t-shirts with Surfrider Foundation logos on them picking up rubbish and encouraging other beach goers to follow suit.
One of the best parts of my job here is the fun team of people I live and work with. It's cool to explore the beaches, dunes and weird little cafes, eat tagines and drink mint teas with people from all over the world. Being here continuously opens my eyes to the endless possibilities of what is next. But for now, life here just seems to make sense in some kind of crazy, chaotic way.
Written by Molly O’neill
Photos by Molly O’neill @mollyoneill