I walked briskly to the station, a walk which was getting too familiar. At the station, there was a large collection of soldiers and other jostling to get a ticket. I joined the back of one queue and, eventually, bought my ticket, while stopping a few queue jumpers in the meantime.
The train was packed. I sat down but was moved off by the original occupier. I soon found another seat. The carriage was full of people lying on the seats if they were long enough, or, if they were too short, had people crunched up on them. I was on the latter type of seat, unfortunately and I took ages trying to get comfortable.
The train moved off at 1.10am. I could hear various snoring, snorting and throat clearing noises for most of the journey to Casablanca. I had very bad gut ache which signalled imminent diarrhoea and I contributed to the stink in the atmosphere with some shocking wind.
At Casablanca, as before, most people piled off to wait for the connecting train to Rabat. On the connecting train, I found a seat and dozed most of the way to Rabat. I got off full of hope and expectation of getting our visas. I even looked up the time of a time of a morning train back to Marrakech which left at 11am in anticipation that I might be on it with visas in hand.
I had a coffee in a café and arrived at the Algerian Embassy at 8.30am. I was soon told to come back at 1pm. I was feeling quite tense with the awful feeling of disappointment in me. I had had a dose of diarrhoea too which had happened the last time I was in Rabat too.
For the next few hours, I sat about reading and killing time in the café at the British Council. At one point, I walked past the US Embassy where the policeman stopped me for a chat. They were interested in the journey I was doing and I explained my challenge with the Algerian visas.
At 12.15, I returned. A ‘silver haired man’ told me nothing had arrived for me. I said that it had been 15 days since I had applied (for the overlanders, it had been eight days) and I would wait until 1pm to see if anything arrived in the post. The ‘silver haired man’ is not very helpful and quite condescending. I preferred to wait for the ‘visa man’ to give me the bad news than this irritating man.
At this point, an English couple walked in and sat down. They had driven from England in a Land Rover and had been waiting for a week for their visa. I told them I had been waiting for over two weeks and their faces dropped. They looked really fed up and frustrated. I knew exactly how they felt. All the time you spend planning saving and working hard to organise our journeys and now we were being held up by bureaucrats who seem to not care about how they are messing you around.
Eventually, the ‘visa man’ gave us the bad news. My heart sank. “Perhaps, tomorrow” he said. The English couple smiled resolutely but I could see they felt pretty low too. We walked together for a while tearing strips off the Algerians before we split; them to their camp site and me to find a hotel in the medina.
I walked slowly through Rabat feeling lonely, distressed, let down and isolated. It was awful. I thought about phoning Dan but thought the better of it. He would know that I had not got the visas when I failed to show up that night.
I faced another night along in Rabat. I found a hotel in Rue Sebbahi in the medina which was 40 dirhams for a single room. Getting into the room had been a problem. The lock was dodgy and I had to ask for the help of another guest. The room had a basin, no shower and the flimsy door lock only added to my sense of vulnerability. I got in, shut the door and lay on the bed, frustration and anger welling up inside me. Tears of frustration started to stream from my eyes. I hit the bed with my fists, angrily.
I thought about Dan waiting. I thought about Penny and what I would do for a hug right now. I must have lain there for about twenty minutes in that state. I felt tired and upset. I put my fleece over myself and dosed off for a couple of hours.
I felt better when I woke and lay there thinking about Penny and what she was doing. At last, I got up and went out at 5.45pm to find some food. I tried a couple of cheap restaurants but, in the first one, they had nothing on the menu which I wanted, and in the second, they took so long to even appear with a menu that I got up and left.
Instead, I ate food from some stalls in the medina. I ate kefta in bread, a jam doughnut and a sweet bun. I, then, headed back to the dump of a hotel at 7.30pm. I hadn’t realised how much I missed people until I was in situations like this. I missed Dan. I missed Penny. I missed my friends and family. I had only seen Dan a matter of hours before but being alone in a foreign city exposed just how much I valued ‘my circle’. I even missed the circle of other travellers we had met in Marrakech.
I realised that I was not good at being on my own. I expect that sentiment goes for about 90% of people in the world. I found myself praying (to whom, I don’t know) and hope that the visa would arrive soon. Obtaining the visas was starting to become an obsession and waiting any longer was going to crack me up.
I thought about my Mum, who had been divorced from my Dad a few years before and who had been having a hard time with ‘new man’ before we left (The shit had hit her). I could do with a good chat with her. I must write to her soon.
I hated this waiting around. I had almost come to the end of my book, Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, and I wanted to save some for reading on the train but I felt that I might be there for much longer, so I will need to buy another book.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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