'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Last Goodbye (To each other and to Marrakech)

It was 5:30am as the alarm bell rang aloud drumming in the head of us 3 guys who were perhaps a little too close in proximity in that minuscule tent. We groggily lifted our heads in due time and looked around the inside. The thought of having to stuff the sleeping bags and everything else into our backpacks again the same way we had to every day simply added to the morning lethargy. However, the morning routine which required us to be ready to leave by breakfast time, usually at 7:30am, was brightened by a new prospect; the prospect of being the last ever need to pack everything away. You see, today was not just any old day, it was the finale. No more begrudgingly long treks, no more sleeping in the humidity of the devil's shower and no more washing ourselves in random streams - we were going back to Marakesh. Bright is what you'd expect us to be and it's not hard to say we were chuffed about finally being able to use an actual toilet.

Our adventures in the mountainous regions only spanned a few days but it isn't hard to say that our primal instincts had surfaced. In fact, we may have even turned feral if we were left there any longer. To put it simply, we became a part of the mountains. The culture, the scenery and the minimalism of everyone - we all took it in. To be able to drop French phrases in an attempt to make a shopkeeper smile as we tried to lower the price, shouting 'asalamalaikum' to random passersby and seeing their faces light up and even washing our clothes in the stream and letting it dry on the rocks - all these things made us feel more in tune with the culture and the way of life of these wonderful people. Falling asleep surrounded by the starry sky twinkling right in front of our very eyes, their light reaching us from a point beyond our time itself millions of years ago, let us be in awe of something we could never see in the vastly polluted London. Not just that but taking a moment to look to your right and see vast cliffs beyond sight going on and on, there was nothing more beautiful. Seeing the small villages clumped around these mountains really gave a lot for us to contemplate about. These people lived so freely but worked so hard to make a living. Old women climbed jagged edges of cliffs carrying large bags of crops behind them whereas we came from London with our iPhones and our supermarkets that gave us all we could need. But does that mean it was right to feel sorry for them, perhaps, perhaps not? Maybe these people who could live on so little were the lucky ones, not consumed by greed and materialism. But who could say? One thing for sure, it created an appreciation for the so much more we actually had. To live so minimally was a shock for us, yet it was life for them and it was something we looked at with admiration. All these feelings, we embraced on our journey and now it was time to leave it all behind.

So, as we slowly packed our things away, there was a tinge of melancholy in the air. We had one more day in Marakesh left, but we were still leaving a part of us behind in the mountains. Our big finale was celebrated in good fashion, however the night before. After our usual servings of soup came a surprise for us. A surprise that was marinated in a delicious smelling sauce alongside potatoes that were made in a way that we were all too used to back in London. We had been deprived of this thing that had its own sense of beauty for too long and there was no better act of kindness that could have been shown to us by our beloved Cook. Right in front of our eyes, there were chicken and chips. I can freely admit that I ate that night like I never ate before. After breakfast, it was our time to thank them and say our goodbyes. As was customary, we prepared tips in envelopes. We called upon our cool, Mohammed, and our hard working muleteers who helped take our bags along everywhere we went, walking themselves faster than us while dragging along their mules. We said our thanks and gave our tip to the lot of them. Then, we had one more thanks with another tip to present. This was to another Mohammed, but not just any old Mohammed. This was our trekking guide, the man who came alongside us for the whole 4 days. But he was more than that; he became a part of the group just as much as any of us. He started off as rather shy and timid towards us kids but as the days went by, he opened up and it was absolutely touching to see him become closer and more comfortable to the lot of us. We were all a family and Mohammed was just as much a brother as any of us. Thanks were given and we finally were on our way. We got on the minibus and set off. It was goodbye to everyone else apart from Mohammed, our trekking guide, who was coming along to Marakesh with us.

The minibus journey was filled with a vibrant happiness and excitement as we sung along out loud to the tunes being played. This was a staple 'tradition' of our group as we would always sing along together in almost every situation. It not only became a way to have fun, but also a way to motivate others and a way to forget about the fatigue building up in our bodies. The reach to the top of 4000m was compiled with many songs and sing-alongs and I don't know where I would have collapsed if I hadn't had the slightly tone-deaf (although that was probably mostly mine) voices compiled together pushing me on. Anyway, we sang and we clapped. But as we got further, another emotion filled the air and we could slowly see everyone's faces tinged with sadness. I could feel it not just in the others but in myself. I looked out the window and saw the cliffs and the mountains for what I knew would be one of the last times. The mountains slowly grew distant and became blurry but being able to see them like this was extremely surreal. As I looked at the mountain, I couldn't help thinking that at one point, we were all higher than that very top and being able to think that gave me an immense sense of pride in our team. What we had done together now hit me and as I saw it growing further and further, I felt different emotions welling up in me. It was at this point where I could accept that this was goodbye to our adventures in the mountain. But it wasn't a sad goodbye. I had no regrets with all we did together on that mountain, so I filled my goodbye with pride and soon, it disappeared from sight.

We arrived in Marrakech rather early and we checked in to the same Hotel on the same day we got here. As we packed our stuff away, we were hit with the same familiarity of the first day - the roasting heat, the blinding sun but most importantly, the crazy bedazzling market of Marrakech. If there was one thing to define Marrakech with, it would undoubtedly be the eccentricity of the people working at the market, shop owners engaged in negotiations like it was an art, and performers danced in the sun as if dancing for the Gods. The energy in the marketplace was absolutely bursting; there is no other way to put it. It was an amazing place to be. However, as the night dawned, that's when it really livened up. Lantern displays, fireworks and lights shining everywhere gave the city such a hustle and bustle and there was nothing more refined to end our last full day in Morocco.

But the night cannot end without dinner. So, we all joined up together and walked to a local restaurant. We were unable to see just how grand the place was until we were lead up 3 flights of stairs to the rooftop and what a rooftop it was. As we were seated in a long dining table, the whole of Marrakech lay prey to our eyes as they scoured the whole land, the busy city we were a part of just a minute ago. It no longer was a city full of rustle and bustle but it became a true spectacle. We sat down and was served the traditional tagine and what a dish it was. It is hard to define the taste of a country but I believe those finely prepared vegetables with the tender cut of meat has come the closest than any other dish ever could. Every bite was duly savoured and soon, dinner was finished. We heard our expedition leader, Cliff, calling out to us to give a speach. We could sense things were going to be a bit emotional. After gaining our attention, Ms Perreau, our teacher that supervised us gave out awards that seemed duly fitting to each one of us. Emotions were running high but the mountain peak of emotions was reached after some of us gave speeches about the whole thing. Tears were shed and hugs were hugged. Indeed, there was no better way to end the day. Tomorrow, it's back to London.

Sadian Choudhury

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