Above the city wall protecting Chefchaouen is a jagged and harsh rock formation that overlooks the valley encasing the overlooked Moroccan destination. “We’re climbing that” slips out of the American’s mouth and is immediately accepted by the ears, and hearts, of his French and Australian adventure companions. The point is understood, no need for further discussion or debate, because when three world travelers braid their paths, stories and hopes together, adventure is inevitable. To make a story, to make a memory, and to create an adventure: that’s why they’re all here.
The trek up the mountain begins.
There’s no path, no map, just a direction and a destination: up and to the right, up the rocky hillside where foot holds don’t hold and shade is openly accepted, but only briefly. Up, up, up with only crickets, sliding rocks, and heavy breathing filling the otherwise pure air. No talking because “Damn, this is not an easy climb.” Occasional stops because “I’m out of shape from bad eating and no exercise. The last few months have taken their toll on my health.”
Walk, slip, balance, walk some more, slowly up the mountain, crossing an occasionally visible path, to the right, towards the rock finsihline. Silence, or lack of the typical city noise, allows each trekker solitude in his mind, thinking, back and forth and back talking to himself, both encouraging and criticizing, but pushing on. On and up.
Climb climb climb. Pause for sips from the plastic bottles with condensation, with ice inside, with cold water that refreshingly complements the rays and the sweat and the burning muscles.
“That store owner knew what he was talking about when suggesting the frozen bottles.” Bottoms up.
Finish line, crossed. Climbing out to the edge, looking over the city, the pastel colors, the valley, the mountains. Hiiiiigh, seeing everything, taking mental pictures and a few digital as well. Break, pause, rest, but only briefly:
“We need to keep going higher. We are nowhere near the top. Let’s keep exploring.”
And it’s true. This small rock, the original finish line, is not their final destination. There is higher and there is more and “Damn, look at the goats!” So it’s up, higher higher, to a road which they follow up the mountain, further, climbing higher as the city get’s smaller and they move higher, up up. But not away.
Then, above all, resting under a tree, time to get away, to float further up as the Moroccan currency, rolled and mixed, is passed around, from country to country in a different country.
“The route up is not the route down” is accepted by the trio, no hesitation. It’s understood that a joint of hash will make navigating the rocky slopes toooo much, toooo difficult, toooo risky. There is no need to debate the choice of taking the road down.
Walking, down down, each in his own, thinking, wandering, mentally and physically.
Tire noises. Diesel. Honking. Car. Foreign words.
“Frenchy, translate what this guy is saying!” The Moroccan Park Patrol, commanding in his Land Rover Defender, is offering them a ride down the long road back. Eye contact and exchanged glances confirm the unanimous choice: Into the car they climb, squeezing into the back seat, greeting the two locals in front.
Neutral, first gear, rolling down the hill, no seat belts…second gear.
“This will be a great story.” Just a thought floating through a foggy mind. But soon a different thought, a different emotion, a gut feeling from deeeep down abruptly climbs through the smoky distracted thoughts, to the front of the mind.
He’s driving kind of fast. Yeah, too fast for this gravel road. Should I say something? Am I over-reacting?
Tension, not in words but in the non-verbal communication that transcends language barriers, confirms the fears.
Too fast, and he’s not slowing down for the turn and wheels skidding and he’s pumping the brakes and panicking and his co-pilot is yelling but What the hell is he saying? but everybody in the car knows, understands the tone, the fright, understands the words perfectly translated into his own language. Time slows as the wheels reach and grab at the rocks, pleading for friction, only to be denied mischievously, as if the rocks and the road know that the three travelers are in for an experience they didn’t sign up for when their passports were stamped Morocco.
أعتقد أنك تريد المغامرة؟
The driver and his friend, speaking fluent body language and tone, announce the inevitable as the back wheels fishtail around the sharp corner, throwing the laughing rocks into the woods, soon followed by the back end of the car and then the whole car, sliding over the edge, two wheels catching on the rocks, turning the multinational crew over and over and over, flipping, No seat belts, glass shattering, yelling in different languages but everybody is speaking the universal language of terror, but now it’s only understood by the ears of three, the two others beyond the ability to comprehend, beyond the ability to walk away with a story, now floating up, permanently up and away.
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Sunday Short Stories (SSS) are a creative outlet for me to share experiences from my journeys. Some of the stories true, some are fiction, and some are a mix of both. A lot are about girls. Some are about adventures. All are about travel. Enjoy…