Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Day 7: Going further

In a whisper the day before, as I was gulping down a meal of rice and carrots and specks of sand, Cheikh the patron of our auberge spoke about arranging a guide to take us into the desert with camels. I told him that's why we're here. We arranged a price using for our bargaining chip that we were nearly out of ouguiyas and with no way nearby to change money. We made our plans to leave at dawn.

The next morning our guide arrived with our saddled camels. We walked first to the outskirts of Chinguitti. It was a slow start with the sun already hot and trying to reign in my excitement and marathon my energy. When got far enough, we mounted our camels and set off into the indisinguishable distance.

The farther out we got I realized the weight of what it is to be engulfed, to circle and see only dunes, to breathe and smell nothing, to marvel at the sands changing colors and the few scrappy trees. I gave myself up to one more mass of nature hoping only I'd come out at the end maangi fii the blankets of sand, the non-stopping heat, the wind whipping at our feet covering our tracks, all roads lead in and none lead out. Every detail was highlighted to micro -- the indent made by the trail of our prints, the falling sand off the tip of a dune, the way the wind whipped and layered the earth in even aligned paths of sandy color and design. I could stare at a single point in the distance as we padded towards it on our camelbacks and to never arrive at it, the distance seemed always to be in the same spot -- far away. We were moving without moving. But we must have eventually got somewhere, because by day's end we did make it: A date oasis surrounded by a small village of four families.

We were greeted by women, a deep well of cold water, and a cluster of tall and shady trees. The place exuded coolness that only a place a day's journey from anywhere could in the middle of an infinite ton of hot sand. The smell was watery, soil-fied, a greenhouse. I descended with the strongest yearning for a cold bottle of Fanta almost physically hurting Tsilat by voicing my desire. It'd been a hot journey and long and our water was warm enough to seep tea. When one of the veiled Hassinya women came towards us carrying a bucket, she lifted the lid to four cans of Coca bobbing in a pool of cool water. Even if I could have spoken to her, I don't know what I would have said. She just edged it towards us and I gasped at the feel of Coke in my throat.

I disappeared to watch the sunset. Atop a dune, I buried my legs in the sand -- cold if I reached way down. The quiet's like coming outside at night after a snowstorm in South Dakota where there's only calm, the roads not yet plowed, the snow sits where it lands and
nature has the upperhand until morning when people wake and sidewalks are shoveled and roads are tracked by traffic. I let a lot go at that moment spreading my Dakar-braided head on the mat of sand staring at the darkening sky and feeling the desert.







2 Comments:

At 27/4/06 13:08, Anonymous Allison said...

Loved loved this post, Michelle. I couldn't quite wrap my head around the desert until you made the best comparison for a northern girl: the deep quiet after a heavy snowfall. I get it.

I miss you, love, and were it not for a packed Uhaul, I wish I could make the trek to Missouri on camelback. Meet me in St. Louis?

 
At 4/5/06 15:13, Anonymous Kristin said...

I'm loving your story-telling, Michelle. You make me wish I had made this amazing journey with you. Can't wait until you get home.

 

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