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