Into the mountains

distant_mtAs you have your breakfast, or buy diesel at a filling station, you see the distant, ethereal, snow covered Atlas mountains.

Compared to the traffic and noise of Ouarzazate, the mountains seem to call you: they are cool, aloof, pure. They offer a vision of heaven, above the fuss and noise of this life.

They are a surprising distance away, and the road winds up through many foothills. We have some hours to drive, over the mountains to Marrakech. The road would be difficult to walk, it would take days. Out of the question for most people on this plain.

foothillsAt first, your car slips into valleys between hills so high that all vision of the mountain is lost.

Then, as you rise above a range of hills, the mountains are there again, calling to you. The road twists and winds and sometimes the Armco barrier is broken. Once you drive quickly past a truck, abandoned after it had crashed halfway through the barrier, its front wheels hanging over a fearful drop. Warning signs are everywhere.

 

 

mountain_passFinally, you reach the mountain pass – this is the highest point you can get to, at 2,260 metres the highest major mountain pass in North Africa. It is austere, beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

mountain_topBut life up here is also hard: steep slopes make even the simplest daily chores tiring. The soil is poor. The nights are cold. The sunlight may not penetrate far into the valleys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

azuriteThe salesman at a geology specimen shop is desperate for a sale. He walks across the square with me, reducing his prices, grabbing my sleeve, showing me an improbably garish geode. But I have set my heart on a modest stone with traces of azurite, which is outside another shop.

The transaction over, I stand and look back. From here, the plains below seem more comfortable, warmer, more productive. I realise that any true journey is an interior journey. It does not depend on where you are or where you go, but on what you are and what you become.

 

airport_mtsBut, a day later, sorting my things and saying goodbye in the car park at Marrakech airport, I look up and see them again – the mountains, oh, those mountains….

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