Tipping back the last of their red wine, eyes gazing from the window on Portland’s drizzle, she whispered, “Would you climb the highest peak in Northern Africa with me?” The apartment already barren, furnishings gone, their belongings bursting from two backpacks, “Should we sacrifice a goat first?” he smiled.
Months later, her bag filled with tent, sleeping bags, canned tuna, packaged cheese and fresh dates, she counted the cairns as they trekked across the Tizi n Tamatert pass, 2279m, on to Tachddirt. Barefoot children herding cattle and sheep in for the night, they were invited to sleep in the mud house of an eldered, toothless berber, his daughter steamed a plate of couscous.
Trekking over wild and harsh terrain, into lush river valleys, overgrown fig, apple and pomegranate trees share terraced groves with olives and nuts, the boy was in heaven. Heading for the “huge old walnut tree.… then follow the path pasts the village houses” she led him right off the topo map into Setti Fatma where they nursed blistered feet and weak knees.
Days later, they pass the weathered shrine of Sidi Chamhrouc, heading towards Djebel Tobkal, 4167m, the highest peak in Northern Africa. At 04:30 from the Tubkal Refuge, his headlamp wakes her, “Ready for the summit…” She layers for warmth and sets off into the bitter cold morning. Trudging up bolder fields and scree, dawn greets their steady pace and at 8:27 with a panoramic view of Morocco, he whispers in her ear, “Where are we going next?”