Dodging the Bullet

08 Nov 2008

"It's going to explode."

The airport security guard doesn't blink. I pretend I didn't hear. After a long moment, so does she, and returns the clothes bag to the backpack.

We've dodged the bullet. I really thought that our casual slang for the messy consequences of unpacking a compression sack was going to divert our Marrakech trip to Gitmo.

It's been a rough start. We're up at 4am after barely sleeping, and then the bus doesn't show up. Lyn texts 60835 to get three minicab numbers, and we call all of them. Swiss Cottage Cars wins the race and drops us at Victoria. But the "cheap" train to Gatwick is in fact the first train to Brighton, and it's full of late-night Saturday drinkers making their way home.

The Invisible but Rather Vindictive hand of god gives our plane a good shaking on the way over - the kind that makes your stomach lurch and the stewardesses buckle into their seats with tight smiles on their faces. We're thoroughly rattled by the time we hit Moroccan soil.

In the taxi from the airport the culture shock starts to hit. I'm having trouble adjusting to the fact that I'm even in an airport taxi - I'm a backpacker, dammit - so it's a double change. I'm not so sure that it is as good as the rest that I was really after.

And the near-misses don't stop. Later that day, in a crowded, walled street, a horse-and-cart blocks the way forward. As I'm starting to squeeze past, it suddenly rolls backwards, shoulder-high wheels inches away. I jump clear into the crowd, but the cart is jackknifing as the driver loses control of the horse, and the crowd starts to panic. A boy falls over; not dangerous yet, but this could get very nasty, very fast. I help him up and bail out the way we came. A few moments later, Lyn is clear as well, and we duck into an alleyway to gather our wits. A local helpfully explains that the street is closed.

I don't like crowds in tunnels. Not when there are horses.

The next one comes with even less warning. I'm reading a book in our room when Lyn lets out a high-pitched squeal that I've never heard before. She's been electrocuted by the mains supply. Apart from two small blisters on her finger, a sore wrist where she landed, and a severe need for a beer, she's okay. At 240V, though, it's easy for things to go the other way.

Further investigation reveals what happened. Someone's soldered up a plug-to-plug extension lead. They've plugged one end into the mains, then the other end into the socket of a multi-way adaptor, and used the other sockets normally. This works, except that it leaves the exposed plug of the adaptor live - two inch-long metal prongs waiting for an unwary hand. It's the landline version of a taser.

It's the most dangerous wiring I've ever seen, and I've been to Thailand. This isn't negligent; this is positively homicidal. Somebody has gone out of their way to make this dangerous.

Somebody says "sorry" and unplugs the offending extension lead when I mention that my fiancee was nearly killed. It doesn't really cut it, but what are you going to do?

We're thirty-six hours in.