Another update without photographs...I do apologise, but now my excuse is that I am in Marrakech and the camera is in MHamid, where there is a wedding this weekend. Madani wants to take some pictures, so for some time now, I have not downloaded any pics, hence the visual desert on this page.
Actually, I haven't done much of anything. And, let me tell you, my friends: it has been BLISS.
I had no idea how tired I was - well, maybe I did, and that was why I left Boujdor and came up here; but I was really, truly exhausted. There is a hotel here where the guys are incredibly kind and know me well; they gave me an excellent price on a room, and I entered, shut the door - and slept. It is difficult to describe how bombed I was; I actually found it an effort to go out the door and buy food! I think it was not just the walk, but the endless company I had been in - I knew I was crotchety and, unusually for me, snarly with everyone; what I didn't realise was that I was just utterly exhausted.
So, a week or so later, about three long, lovely scrubby hammams, many English editions of the newspaper, and more midday naps than Ronnie Reagan in his last days, I have gained some perspective and sense of humour once more. For which we are all eternally grateful!
Madani and I organised everything with the camels over the phone, with massive assistance from Habib, and after a back breaking three day journey they arrived in MHamid two days ago, somewhat bewildered to have covered in three days what it has taken them six months on foot. Madani is actually much happier now that we have chatted a lot and I have explained what I am doing to try to keep the walk going - not try, that is the wrong word - what I am doing to KEEP the walk going. I think it was very tough for him feeling that after all this time, and glimpsing a future beyond leading tourists into the desert for a few days, he would just have to swallow his dreams and go back to the family home and old work.
But I have been thinking a lot these last couple of weeks, and come up with a few things.
First of all - even if the grant comes through, as I said earlier, I will not be walking again until September. This gives me some four months to work on my next book and on raising money. I plan to spend some of that time coming back to Morocco and studying Arabic at the Language Institute in Fes, if it is at all possible financially, so that at least my Arabic is fluent by the time I start hiring the next guide etc.
More importantly, I think that the gut instinct when things get panicky with money is to jump into a routine job "just to make ends meet" for a bit. The problem with this theory, in my experience, is that once one takes this road, the road creeps up to become your life; the dreams get shoved to one side, then eventually left behind. I set out on this walk in order to pursue my desired career of writing. I have finished my first book, and am half way through my second; I have had several articles published and am waiting in hope for news on others. Everything in me says to just put my head down and keep plugging on with those things, no matter how broke I might be - and just keep thinking about the next stage of my walk, planning it, and keep in my head that come September, I will be walking once more.
The strange thing is, I don't really doubt it; right now it is just a question of exactly how I am going to achieve it.
I have learned a few things this week. The first is that when it is time to take a break - you MUST take it. Two weeks ago I was despondent, feeling that I had failed, and that if I shipped the camels back to MHamid, that would be then end of the walk and my dreams; after just a bit of a rest I can see all sorts of different options, and feel a renewed passion for what I am doing, a passion that is hard to truly feel when you are exhausted, run down, and six months out there.
I was reading about Karl Bushby again this week. Those of you who have followed this blog may remember me raving about Karl - he has spent seven years walking from the tip of South America to the top of North America, and has just crossed the Bering Strait into Russia - all of this in his planned attempt to walk around the world. He is currently having a hell of a time of it, having walked through Arctic blizzards only to be arrested by the Russians on arrival. But this ins not what got me - it was something else that he wrote earlier in his blog. He said when he went back to his family for a six month break that he was at one of the lowest points in his life, seriously questioning why he was doing this walk, if he wanted to continue at all; but that after only two weeks rest, he found himself almost subconsciously thinking about and planning the next stage - and he realised that like it or not, this was his path, and he would see it through.
I guess I feel a bit the same; I think about stopping sometimes, but I know that for me, this walk is not finished. This six months has only been a taste of what I want to learn and experience in the desert; it has just been the beginning. It is an entirely different walk to that which Gary and I did last year, with packs; it has been physically much easier - but mentally far, far tougher. I feel that after this time I have really developed the skills, both mentally and practically, that I need to keep walking. And I want to use them! I want to put together a shit-hot camp, exactly the way I want it; I want to master the language, and be able to participate fully in my surroundings, rather than relying on someone else for translation. I want to cross this desert as I have dreamed of doing my whole life, and I want to do it well.
So now I am returning to London with an absolute commitment to two things: my writing career, which I have to believe will take off, even if I am not "famous enough" for publishers to take the book on just yet; and my walk, which I want more than anything to see through.
I have a lot of ideas and am trying to put a lot of them in place; but I really believe that if I have got this far, that there is nothing I cannot do.
I know one thing.
In a year's time, I do not want to be stuck in traffic on the North Circular, on the way to another teaching job, wondering what the hell happened to my dreams. I am prepared to eat an awful lot of beans on toast, or whatever it is that starving artists and dreamers in garrets eat these days, before I let that happen.
So. Enough of the noble sounding rhetoric; I had better get off my ass and actually do some work in an attempt to NOT have to eat beans on toast, rather than raving on about my good intentions...
Cheers. And I am loving Marrakech, by the way. Again.