The next morning before the crack of dawn, we are woken by our guides and led to our camels. It’s another hour and a half on the ass-busting beasts to get back to the bus. After that it’s an eleven hour ride back to Marrakech. Everyone on the bus is beat and ready to get back. It’s been a great experience but I’m with everyone else. I’m ready to get back to the hostel and collapse.
Back in Marrakech Keith and I return to the hostel and turn in pretty early. The next day we explore the Medina. At some point some bug bites start appearing on my arms and back. Throughout the day more and more appear and they start to itch… bad. Shit. I think we got bed bugs. I tell Keith. He has a few bites too but nowhere near the amount I have. Back at the hostel that night, I check my bed but find no signs of bed bugs. I check the corner of the wall near my bed, at the baseboard, and I find them. I immediately bring the manager in and show him. He moves Keith and I to another room. I hope this room doesn't have them too…
The next morning I bid farewell to Keith. He is off to the airport to head back to the States. I decide to check out of the hostel and check in to a hotel. It’s more than I normally spend for accommodation but these bugs have got me bummed and I need to get clean.
On the way to the hotel I buy a big pack of alcohol wipes. Once I check into the hotel I empty my backpack out on the balcony and inspect and wipe down every inch of the bag and all the items; Laptop, camera, headlamp, toiletries, books, pens, EVERYTHING. I am like a paranoid maniac - Scratching like crazy, obsessing over every little nook and cranny of my backpack and belongings. I finish after about two hours of laborious work. Now I need to get my clothes cleaned - and more importantly dried on high heat to kill any potential bugs or eggs. I go to the lobby and ask if they have a guest laundry room. They don’t but they can do it for me. Unfortunately it wont be done until tomorrow afternoon and I’ll already be on a bus to Essaouira. I ask if there is a laundromat nearby. The woman says, “This isn’t Europe.” Fair enough. But she does tell me of a cleaning service about a mile down the road. They may be able to turn it around faster. Cool.
So I go back to my room and strip down. I put my shorts on because I feel like they are fairly clean and I really need to wash my jeans. I go “commando” because I need to wash all my underwear. I put my shoes on with no socks. I throw on the cleanest t-shirt I have. I place everything else in a bag and head down the street. As I walk down to the laundry service I feel half naked. No one in Morocco wears shorts. They don’t really wear short sleeves either. There is very little skin shown. I’m a big proponent of trying to fit into your surroundings and here I am walking down a major avenue in Marrakech in shorts and a t-shirt.
The woman at the laundry says noon tomorrow at first but after I explain that I leave in the morning she says she can have it ready tonight at 7:30. I thank her, take my ticket and headback to the hotel.
Back in my room I strip down once again and inspect and wipe down my shorts, t-shirt, and shoes with the alcohol wipes. I go to the hairdryer to dry them and find that it doesn't work. Well, fuck. I hang the clothes up to dry.
At this point I realize I haven’t eaten since breakfast. I’m hungry. No, I’m fucking starving. But I can’t easily go out and get food naked (That walk would be worse the the last one!). Luckily the room has a mini bar. I take a Schweppes Citron and a can of Pringles. It’s going to cost me close to 10 euros but I guess I have no choice. I pop open the snack and start eating. I go to sit on the bed but stop short. I have not showered yet and it’s possible that the bed bug eggs could be on me (not likely, but I’m kind of a crazed maniac right now). If I sit on anything they could spread! I decide to squat in the middle of the room and eat my little can of Pringles. Man. What I sight I must be. If housekeeping happened to come in right now what an insane shock she would receive; A scratching, naked, American man squatting in the middle of the room eating Pringles like a wild animal - eating with his left hand on top of it all! Low point of my life? Maybe.
At 7:30pm I retrieve my clean clothes. I return to my room, shower for a long time and put on fresh clothes. Man, it feels nice. I go down to the hotel restaurant and splurge on a nice meal.
I sleep well that night. I’m clean!
The next morning I awake, pack and get ready to catch my bus to Essaouira. Right before I leave, I look in the mirror and see that a bite on my neck has turned into a bulls-eye pattern. Shit. Growing up in the woods around ticks, I’m very aware of what that is supposed to indicate. Lyme disease. What the fuck? I never saw a single tick. Can bed bugs carry it? From everything I’ve read, bed bugs do not transmit diseases… but still. Damn. I was feeling so good having beat the bugs, now I’m bummed out again.
I head to Essaouira and decide that when I get to Madrid next week I need to see a doctor and get tested for Lyme. Great. Just what I want to be doing. I cancel my flight to Istanbulknowing I’ll be in Madrid for a while trying to sort this out.
Cecilia and Raquel happen to be on my bus. We talk for the whole ride. I ask where they are staying and they say that they are going to shop around for a hostel. I have already rented an Airbnb for the weekend to have decent wifi and a quiet place to record the podcast. It happens to have a second bedroom. I ask them if they want to just stay with me. I’m paying for it either way, they might as well benefit from it. They accept but insist on paying what they would have at the hostel. I decline, but they insist.
It’s a great weekend in Essaouira. It’s a beautiful city right on the Atlantic Ocean. The medina is very laid-back, similar to Chefchaouen. Because we are in an Airbnb, we have a kitchen and are able to cook dinner each night, which is a nice change of pace from eating out all the time. I try to improve my Spanish a bit by asking the girls a ton of language questions. They ask me questions about English, though their knowledge of it is pretty damn good. We have great conversations about languages, travel, and random shit. Each afternoon we walk to the waterfront and watch the sun sink into the ocean. The sunsets rival those of Nerja.
Monday morning I say farewell to Cecilia and Raquel and promise to visit them next year when I come back through Europe. I head back to Marrakech to catch my flight to Spain.
Tuesday I reach Madrid. I check into the Hat Hostel again. I see a doctor on Thursday. He doesn’t think it’s Lyme disease but sends me to get a blood test just to be safe. The down side about Lyme is that it’s possible to get a false negative. The test could come back negative but I could possibly still have it. Great. The first lab I go to takes my blood and tells me to return on Monday for the results. It's not until I get back to the hostel that I realize the language barrier has struck again. They said Monday, January 4th!! My visa is up right about that time. I contact the doctor, explain the situation and he sends me to another lab that he has confirmed can turn it around in 7 days. So I go get more blood taken. Later, I try to get a refund from the first place but, after a lot of hassle, only get half my money back. This place is bleeding me dry - Literally and figuratively.
The new test results are due back on December 28th. So I’m stuck here for a while. I have to be out of Europe very soon. Also I need to get some vaccinations for the trip into Southeast Asia. I only booked a few nights at the Hat and I can’t extend my stay because they are booked up. I move to another hostel called Sungate. It’s in a great location, just north of Plaza del Sol. Probably one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. Besides very nice facilities, the atmosphere is very conducive to meeting people. The place has a great vibe. On top of everything, the staff is super friendly and welcoming. The only downside is the expense. It's the holidays in Madrid. Not a cheap time to be spending two weeks here... Still bleeding.
It’s strange. I keep finding myself in this town. I’ve spent the most time here out of any place I have visited. First it was 10 days on a work-away, then 3 days with Keith and now another 15 days waiting on test results. Normally I spend 4 days max in a city. I know my way around - not only that but I’m giving advice to newbies in the hostel. Hell, the staff even jokes that I work here. It’s an interesting feeling, yet… I’m in limbo. I need to start moving again.
I spend Christmas in Madrid. For Christmas Eve, a few staff members and guests here at the hostel get together and fix various dishes - kind of a pot-luck dinner. I fix a chicken and wild rice soup. Granted, it’s not like being home for the holidays, but it’s a decent substitute. Everyone is like family here. It’s a good evening.
The 28th finally arrives. I meet with the doctor. The results are negative, but he suggests I get another test in late January. Within the 30 days of getting bit it is possible the body has not produced enough antibodies to be detected. This is the reason for false negatives. If the test is still negative after that 30 day window, I should be in the clear.
The next day I get my vaccinations for India and Southeast Asia. With this done, I finally book my ticket to Mumbai. Things are finally moving forward again. I’m crawling out of limbo. I'm going to miss my new family here at the Sungate hostel but it's time to hit the road again.
January 6th I will be in India.