Tragedy In The Sahara
If you ever find yourself becoming unbearably arrogant, with a sense of how fortunate and privileged the Earth should consider itself to have your future carcass crawling around on it, buy yourself a ticket to the Sahara Desert. Conversely, should you begin to feel that your existence is meaningless and your puny butt insignificant in the grand scheme of things, put it in the Sahara Desert.
The Sahara possesses the two-fold ability to make you feel big and small at the same time. The reason it makes you feel small may seem rather obvious: the Sahara Desert is huge. Traverse even a short distance into it and you get the sense that you are a flea on the back of a Saint Bernard . . . the size of Idaho.
Describing the other aspect creates a little more difficulty. Somehow, being alone in the Sahara Desert makes you feel bigger and more in control of your own life than you have ever felt before. It gives you the sense of being the only flea on the back of a Saint Bernard the size of Idaho. Just imagine. This whole giant Saint Bernard was created just for you.
My own personal journey began in the Medina of Fez, Morocco where I had, through a series of misadventures and sheer stupidity managed to get a kid arrested, failed to pay for a meal at a restaurant, and perhaps become engaged. Meaning my departure from town became more of a harrowing escape than a planned stage of my itinerary. This meant passing up the opportunity to sign up for the three night excursion into the desert posted at my hostel.
I knew, however, where this journey was set to begin and thought, "Who needs a bloody tour guide?" I was momentarily confused why I thought this in these particular words because I'm not British, but I would not be deterred. I slink off to the bus station like a mongrel dog. Not possessing a tail to carry between my legs I had to improvise with a hat pulled down over my face. Still, anyone watching couldn't have failed to notice the resemblance. I boarded the bus and began my journey to the world's best example of God showing off his ability to create a desert.
That day we spent traveling though a rather bleak brown and red landscape with occasional bursts of green highlights. This vast wasteland, or playground (depending on your perspective) appeared determined to swallow the bus whole at any moment. Fortunately, we never reach the gaping maw, which I assume waited for us at the end of the horizon leaving me able to depart the bus near the town of Mezouga. A more responsible traveler might know the exact location, but there exists a fine line between responsible and obsessive compulsive which I have yet to get close enough to ever catch a whiff of.
I find the location from which the tours depart and wait for the responsible tourists to arrive. I watch as they climb atop camels and head off to spend a couple of nights in the wilderness. Once they disappear from view I begin to follow in their tracks, once again in the guise of my spirit animal. Into the Sahara Desert I wandered alone, a foolhardy move even by the standards of a scavenging canine, assured that Fate waited to punish me at any moment for daring to insult him with my disrespect. The first mile in, a deadly viper totally failed to materialize out of nowhere and sink its venomous fangs deep into the exposed flesh of my ankle. Surprised, but grateful, I ventured on.
Further on, a violent sandstorm elected not to rage out of the distance in unbridled fury blinding me and causing me to lose my way. Although I will say that the wind and sand of a non storm Sahara was sufficient to make me whine and cry like a baby. But the true storm held back. I began to feel a bit more confident, unaware my luck was about to run out.
I climbed to the top of a hill and there it was. The vast, beautiful desert that creates legends and inspires myths sprawled out before me. Orange sand dunes drifted across the horizon like the humps of an endless Chinese dragon bobbing along the sea. I waved to a pair of droids I could just make out struggling through the sand, but vanished when I called out to them.
The view was not so much breathtaking as breath aware. One of those rare moments when you actually realize you are breathing and take the time to enjoy the experience. I take a moment to thank the oxygen for entering my lungs, allowing me a little more time to partake in this moment in time. Then I reach for my phone to immortalize the view in pictures, and tragedy strikes.
My phone and consistently reliable companion lay dead and unresponsive in my hands. Oh, curse the evil, desert gods for this cruel treachery. Then, as if to rub salt into the wound, the sun began to say its goodbyes with a colorful burst upon the sand, making it somehow more brilliant orange than it had been before and making everything yet more peaceful and serene. I sat down and watched as more stars than could reasonably fit into the sky came out to sparkle upon the sand, making it difficult to tell where the sky ended and the land began.
Eventually, I turned to make my way back, fully expecting the wind to have erased all evidence of my passing, leaving me to wander alone forever searching for that single water fountain that Gary Larson liked to put in the middle of the desert, but the tracks were still there. The Sahara was kind to me this night. I made my way back to town feeling big and small and not filled with snake venom.