It was already late and we were reminded of our early rise. This wasn’t a holiday but a group-trek and a silent one at that. Getting to know each other was not on the menu. I finished my beer and headed up to my hotel bar. I lay on my bed fully-clothed watching the ceiling fan whirl round and round. The image of Lawrence sprang to mind and I visualized myself in full robes and head gear, looking out into the desert. I went to sleep dreaming of Aqaba.
The alarm bell rang and I awoke from a dreamless sleep. I stumbled around the room grabbing bags and then quickly brushed my teeth. I dragged my bags down the stairs and walked into the lobby with the rest of the bleary-eyed group. We just had time to grab a quick coffee and some rubbery croissants.
After a quiet breakfast we loaded our luggage into the back of two large open top land-rovers. I was starting to get excited and nervous about this adventure. The morning was still cold so I grabbed an extra fleece top from my bag to keep me warm. We separated into two vehicles. Four of us on either side of each vehicle. Martin jumped into the front of one and banged the roof of the land rover and we were off. Most of us were still half asleep. Our minds were now focusing on the trek. Uncertain about the days ahead.
The land-rovers rocked and rolled across the rough road to Ourzazate while we bobbed and jolted up and down like puppets. The red and orange hue from the sunset rose above the top of the ochre and red sandstone houses, that lined the road along the way.
As we left the edges of the town we passed a single Kasbah which caught my attention. This once fortified castle became my focus point as it grew smaller and smaller in the distance. It was a symbol of a forgotten time. Built to defend the inhabitants from marauding invaders. The Kasbah had a purpose which is why it stood the test of time. Maybe purpose in a man is what tested him through time. I smiled smugly to myself at that thought. Deepak would be proud of me.
The land-rovers continued along the rough road until there were no more buildings just the occasional palm tree, and cactus plants potted here and there. I was mesmerized by the beguiling beauty of the encroaching landscape. A vast plain without houses or skyscrapers to block the view. A writer’s blank page. Pen poised.