Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 20:06:19
From: Claude Marthaler firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: "HIGH ATLAS"
Marrakech, Morocco, km 115192
Guelmim, "The Door of the Desert" was behind. Vanished was the the furious pace of the Paris-Dakar rally (www.dakar.com), the constant wind, the escaping horizon. Riding up the Tizi-N-Test Pass (2096 m.) at each turn of the pedal or curve of the road, it offered me a new point of view on life and progressively a larger frame on the world. Verticality as a scale for a self propelled thinker. At the same time, geologically, the more I climbed, the more I came back to history. It is said that as the god Atlas had refused hospitality to Persee, it was transformed into this huge High Atlas Range. "Al Magrheb", the "Far-West" of the Islam world had become over the ages, simply "Morocco".
Almost 20 years ago, my wheels had brought me around here, descending from northern Portugal. Today I could measure how my memory was weak, fortunately perhaps for the future's sake. Instead of great political theories as "The friendship between folks" or of notions as hospitality, I had become like many travelers, with a kind of serene nostalgia, a simple, concrete and ludic approach to life. Introducing to my life, some gastronomic flavors, some gestures, a summary vocabulary, an irreducible love for travel literature, the use of an alien instrument for example or cooking pots, a do-it-yourself manner to consider old material for its history or to transform it into something unexpected.
A journey is of the stomach, of the respiratory system, of the olfactory sense: sensual. Berberes villages had grown up in the bottom of the valley, still dominating waterfalls of green wheat fields, ingeniously irrigated. Hanging patches of snow on sharp rocky faces indicated the north; from time to time kneeled Muslims in prayers would point to the East. Two teachers had walked some 16 km. to reach the paved road, as if reaching another level of consciousness, a lifeline. "If I would travel like you, to Europe, I would have even had to sell my pair of pants before reaching it!"They breathed boredom and ask me for water, as an excuse to talk to someone. If they knew, like every Moroccan, the Tangier native and famous Muslim scholar Ibn Battouta, who traveled for 28 years throughout the planet, they had long since lost his vitality. The government had sent them for a year to teach Arabic to illiterate Berberes who have survived for thousands of years in their mountains. In their tiny shops they used machines to formulate an elementary addition, lets say to sell you a box of "La Vache Qui Rit" cheese and a bread.
I climbed the wonderful Djebal Tubkal (4127 M.), the summit of the range. On the way, there was the "Kasbah" turned Lhasa's Potala Palace for the "Seven Years in Tibet" movie's sake. Remaining was a false giant painted prayer wheel which was reduced to an outrageous immobility. In the mornings, the persistent appeal of the muezzin echoed against the steep, rocky Atlas walls. A bit below, the magnet Richard Branson, who had failed in his attempt to "balloon" around the world, had built an exclusive hotel in the pure ancient style of a Kasbah.
Two days after I skied in the Oukaimenden ski resort, pretentiously called "the highest in Africa". The habit of skiing came back to me like an instinct: my body had kept a far better memory than my mind. Ibn Battouta had shown the way like a master, like the High Atlas range. Old is gold. Writing instead of riding: the supreme art of traveling. The way to (w)ride back home. My next stage.
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