It was a real shock to wake up after a good night’s sleep in the tent and find that she was missing; at first the other Australian nurse thought her friend had simply wandered down to the ocean, or gone the other way to quietly undertake an essential bodily function.
But when she hadn’t returned for breakfast, the remaining girl was starting to become hysterical, and was not listening to our attempts at offering some rational explanation. The guides were fairly calm, and simply suggested she might have strolled back along the beach to Essaouira.
The English family were keen on calling the police, but those that had mobile phones couldn’t get a signal or were out of battery; our guides told us we should all return to the ranch and stables where we set-off, and telephone the local bobbies from there. The Australian girl just wouldn’t stop crying, and refused to leave the camp, so one of the guides and the mother from the family stayed with her, promising they would make a thorough search of the surrounding area.
There was a sombre mood in the camel train returning the last few miles to the ranch, though still the possibility she had been so fed-up with roughing it that a longish walk back to a cafe or her riad felt like the best option on a beautiful and cool morning.
‘What do you reckon, Jess ?’
‘I’m not sure, but it seems odd just to take-off without speaking to her friend.’
‘They both appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves last night.’
‘No sign of any problems at all.’
It was strange now we were almost back to feel that we’d finally mastered the art of being a camel jockey, or at least learned how to minimise the discomfort of having your legs spread so widely, accompanied by continuous jolting. What should have been an occasion to celebrate the small triumph of a successfully completed trek was completely overshadowed by the unexpected development, and the continued uncertainty about the seriousness of the situation.
‘I’ll be glad to get back to the bloody riad’ I said.
‘The police might want to question us.’
‘Well, they’ll know exactly where we are.’
‘If English coppers are anything to go by, they won’t do anything much for at least twenty-four hours.’
‘The stupid bitch is probably sat in some cafe enjoying a nice, big breakfast.’