The news spread through Essaouira like wildfire. The flamingos were nesting. When I first heard my running mate, Rachel the Yogi, talking about it, I thought she was winding me up. She is always talking about wanting to see penguins on the river, so I just put it down to “not very yogi-like fibbing” and got on with my day. But then, joy of joys, the rumour was backed up by a second, reliable, source and photographic evidence was produced.
Woo and Hoo! Flamingos are fabulous. I hadn’t seen real ones since I was a kid and we saw thousands of them on the lakes of East Africa. That vibrant cloud of pink stretching over the water and suddenly bursting into the sky on hundreds of wings is a picture that has always stayed with me. I had to find these flamingos.
Apparently, it was going to be really easy. All I had to do was remember to wear my running shoes and we would go on the road to the bridge over the river, instead of our usual beach run. I put my flamingo pink Hokas on my doorstep the night before so I wouldn’t forget (and yes those are Bridgedales – great socks).
When I was woken at 7.10 by my two hungry cats, Little Miss Nell and Squeaky, standing on my head and miawoing and dribbling in my ear, I didn’t groan and turn over but leapt out of bed, eager for my adventure. Cats fed, Bridgedales and Hokas on, I pranced down the stairs and out towards the beach.
I say towards because I couldn’t see anything at all, it was a peasouper. Visibility was down to about 10 metres. Downhearted? No! Flamingos are bright pink, of course they will be visible, I reassured myself and trotted off.
A kilometre and a half later, I picked up Rachel the Yogi and we Took it to the Bridge. The route is along an unmade road, a piste, and we passed a few other people walking to work, looming up on us through the fog. Everything was muted – the colours, our voices, the sound of our footsteps – and droplets clung to our hair giving us halos.
Suddenly, we were on the bridge. We clambered down the side and through the claggy, wet sand of the bank to the river. It is a wide, shallow inlet which leads down to the beach. The water is salty and there are scrubby bushes on the banks, used for picknicking, firebuilding and romantic liaisons judging by the rubbish.
About 100 metres away, a large Flock of Seagulls was bobbing up and down on the river. I could make out the crouched figure of a stork on the far bank. “There they are,” said Rachel the Yogi, pointing at what looked like a white blob to me. I screwed up my short-sighted eyes and focused hard. I was very eager to see a flamingo but, even so, this just looked like a seagull to me. Rachel found a spider’s web bejewelled with dew which momentarily distracted us.
“Let’s get closer,” we crept David Attenborough-like along the bank and soon were only 20 metres away. “There they are! There they are!” Rachel saw three, I saw two. The excitement was huge. We crept on and then suddenly the whole flock of seagulls took fright and took flight, taking our flamingos with them.
“I wish we had a gun and could shoot all the gulls,” said Rachel the Yogi in a very non-Yogi sentiment, “Non-violently, of course.” Good save.
They may not have been pink, and it may have been a grainy, long-distance, foggy experience, but who cares. There they were, the Flamingos of Essaouira, just a short run away from home. Namaste.
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