John Paulas

A Morocco XII volunteer, John Paulas, recently passed away. I think he might have worked in forestry. If I am wrong, please use the Contact page to write and I will correct any error.

To some John Paulas was “Africa John”

John was stationed in Boured, usually transliterated Bourd, a small hamlet north of Taza. One might say Boured was nowhere. Or one could say it was two or three hours from the nearest city, Taza or Al Hoceima, neither of which were very large at the time. Bourd was a day’s journey from Rabat or Casa or Tangier. The nearest big cities were Fes and Meknes. So after everything is said, Bourd was relatively isolated. It was certainly more isolated than Sefrou, where I could commute to Fes by grand taxi or bus in a half hour or so. And Sefrou was itself a city, if a small one.

This Google Earth view shows Boured’s location near the eastern end of the Rif Mountains.

The remoteness of Bourd probably pleased John, who had graduated from Paul Smith’s College, a small institution located in the northern Adirondack Mountains of New York State, another isolated spot. The landscape around Bourd is hilly. The Ouergha River has its origins nearby. The spine of the Rif mountains is not far off, and in the winter the higher peaks are clad with snow.

Bourd was also small. I have tried to find an old population figure. I suspect that in 1968 Bourd had only few thousand souls, and certainly far fewer than the 10,000 plus inhabitants that it has today.

John the Hiker, in Morocco, age 23 or 24

I met John in 1969. We both were eager to hike Morocco’s mountains, and we had both met the young Peace Corps doctor, Louden Kiracofe, who had developed a love of the outdoors and mountaineering in Colorado. Louden organized a trip to climb Jbel Toubkal, Morocco’s highest peak, and John, fellow Morocco X volunteer Tony Singleton, and myself accompanied Louden and his wife, Ginny. For all of us it was our first trip to the trails of the High Atlas. The trip is partly documented elsewhere in this blog.

John and Tony Singleton on the way to the base of Jbel Toubkal

John had wanted to serve in Nepal and, on his initial Peace Corps travel to Morocco, he mentioned that preference to another new volunteer who was seated next to him on the PanAm flight. The latter replied that he was being sent to Nepal, but that he had wanted to go to Morocco! Such is life and such is the Peace Corps. I had wanted to go to Morocco, and was given a slot in a program to Senegal. I turned it down, and later was offered a slot in Morocco X.

John with Louden Kiracofe en route to the then Neltner Hut
John, on the shoulder of Jbel Toubkal, looking down the long scree slope in the gully that leads up from the Neltner Hut. Having hiked to the summit of Toubkal, we descended the gully in long jumps, sliding along with the scree, then kicking off again. It only took 20 minutes to reach Neltner. On the way up, by way of contrast, slipping and sliding in the scree made progress a chore. Across the valley is Tadat.

Had John gone to Nepal, his relative isolation in Morocco might not have compared to what he would have found in Nepal.

In my junior or senior year of college, I sat in a dorm room of Cutter Hall listening to a returned Peace Corps volunteer who had served in Nepal in one of the earliest Peace Corps programs. He flew out of Katmandu to his assignment, and, as the plane passed over the village he would serve in, the pilot pointed it out. The volunteer asked how long before they would arrive. The pilot answered that the plane would land in twenty minutes—but the volunteer would then face a three-day walk! The mountains of Nepal are a different order of magnitude.

John on the running board of the Jeep on a rock-strewn part of the road to Taffert, below Bouiblane. We had a bit of trouble with rockfall.

John and I hiked together one other time. If one lives anywhere between Fes and Taza, from most high points the mountains of Bouiblane and Moussa ou Salah, snow capped for more than half the year, dominate the southern horizon. There was a striking view of Bouiblane from the roof of my house in Sefrou.

John, Louden Kiracofe, and myself in the early morning light, on our way to Taffert. The valley below is filled with clouds.

Along with Bou Naceur and Tichoukt, their summits represent the culminating points of the eastern Middle Atlas. John and I wanted to climb Bouiblane. The opportunity presented itself when Louden organized a trip which included Don Brown, Gaylord Barr and, of course, John and myself. That trip is discussed in another blog post. Suffice it to say, la montagne n’a pas voulu, but Louden and John later climbed it on a moonlit night, and I on a bright and fine May morning.

John with a couple of locals and myself, near Taffert.

I hardly ever saw John after that, and we never became close friends, though he did read this blog. His passing saddens me and is a reminder that though in time one can conquer many mountains, in the end it is time which is the ultimate conqueror.

John in rear with Louden Kiracofe and Don Brown. They thought the summit of Moussa ou Salah was near, but Bouiblane has a long summit ridge. They walked for miles and never got to the summit of Moussa ou Salah, which is separated from Bouiblane by a wide saddle. The weather turned.

Here is a link to John’s obituary. May he rest in peace among the mountains of Oregon that he loved.

Author: Dave

Retired. Formerly school librarian, social studies teacher, and urban planner.

10 thoughts on “John Paulas”

  1. Dave, John Paulas was in Morocco XII. Thank you for the photos and entry on John, which I forwarded to his daughter, sister, and everyone I could find from Morocco XII. I greatly enjoy your writing and memories and photos, Kinza

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  2. Thank you for this nice remembrance of John, and the vibrance of the life we all discovered in Morocco. The 2016 “Peace Corps Community Directory” lists John’s volunteer service in Morocco as 1969-71, as well as a second Peace Corps tour of duty in Mauritania in 1989. North Africa must have become a rich and indelible part of John’s life and memory, which your handsomely illustrated account celebrates so well.

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    1. Is there a way to access the contents of the 2016 peace corps directory on line? I’m curious about John Paulas being in PC Mauretania. I know he worked for USAID in Mauretania for 3 years, but not in PC.

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      1. I have not used it, but perhaps Reed can answer your question. I’d like to track down more volunteers from those early years. I have not been able to find lists of volunteers by programs, either. Don Brown sent me a list for Morocco I, and I have the Facebook for Morocco X courtesy of Marc Miller.

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      2. Dave, I have the Peace Corps trainee handbook for Morocco XII which was given to us when we were in training. It lists all 40 in the initial training.

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      3. It’s not on-line. It was published by PCI (not the big company), a family business out of Dallas, TX that started with alumnae directories and metastasized into Publishing Concepts Inc. They collect data on memberships of all kinds, and advance-sell subscriptions to members for a tidy sum. I forked over and forgot the whole thing for a few years, finally calling PC Headquarters to find out what happened. PC was clueless as well, but got PCI to crank out a fat volume of pretty incomplete volunteer lists for all programs in all countries. The info on the early Morocco programs was spotty and incomplete. I have no idea how it is for more recent programs. The volume is impressively heavy, and makes an excellent doorstop.

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