When Tim and I met at the Jazz Festival, one thing that had kept us glued to that blanket was the topic of travel. And since we have been together, we continue to travel the world extensively, exploring new countries and discovering new regions every year.
– Chapter 21 “It Doesn’t End”, Carol’s Lives
It was the Lonely Planet guidebook that told us about the existence of this prehistoric stone carving of a gazelle, when we were in Tafraoute, Morocco. I suppose there is no street number and address to mark where it is, in the land of rock formation and wilderness.
Following the guidebook, Tim and I went to a campsite. One gardener-like man speaking Arabic and half French said he didn’t know what we were looking for, never heard of it, but over there in that camper, there were people who could speak English.
We went over, and before I could knock on the door, the camper door swung open. It looked like our arrival interfered with someone’s breakfast, in this place where strangers were not commonly seen. Two couples sat inside the camper by a small table. Limited space, but cozy. On the table it was full of Moroccan goodness: jams, butter, bread, honey, olives, and maybe even Argan dipping oil. The gentleman by the door greeted me. I showed them the page of the Lonely Planet guidebook. He took it seriously, even though very soon it was obvious to me he had no clue what I was looking for therefore needless to say, where it was. However, I felt relief to meet these German people. They speak very good English.
The gentleman tried looking for it on his own paper map, and his GPS, which was very slow to boot. I knew I wanted to say “Never mind. Bon appetite!” as, I knew he couldn’t really be of help in this matter, but I let him try. He almost took great pleasure to try to help.
Finally, he had to look up at me, and shrug apologetically. I said, “Never mind. Thank you. Bon appetite!”
We drove along the road. On the left, we saw another RV campsite. “Maybe the guidebook meant THIS campsite,” I told Tim.
We turned in. This is a bigger site. I showed the guidebook to a man coming out of a small office-like house. He exclaimed, “Ah! Gazelles!” He took me out of the camp gate, pointed his finger, and spoke French, “Over there, about 1 kilometre…” He then said many more words, but I didn’t understand the rest.
It was enough to know “over there, about 1 kilometre” and somewhat to the left. We drove along very confidently.
As we were entering another yet beautifully designed RV campsite, we started to look at the RV license plates – Where do those people come from? Many from France, some the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain… There was one man working on his vehicle with a jug of water or oil. We stopped the car. I walked towards him, asking for the Gazelles. He stopped his pouring action, raised his head, paused for a moment, and shook his head. Never heard of it.
I took a deep breath. Not wanting to give up, but didn’t know what next I could do. Where we were should be close, according to the office man. “Ga-ZE-lles. You really don’t know?” I tried to pronounce the word in an exaggerated “French” way.
It worked. “Ah! Ga-ZE-lles. Oui…” He pointed me in a direction. Blah-blah-blah, blah-blah, and blah-blah-blah a little more… but I understood his hand gesture: Over there in the group of rocks, you climb it, and over that big rock, you’ll find it.
We parked the car, walked to the group of rocks, and climbed the big rock. Tim became impatient, “There is no way we can find it, not knowing what we are exactly looking for.” The initial on-a-whim curiosity was wearing out for him, and all these insistences of searching of mine started to make no sense to him.
But I could feel we were on the right track. “Common on. We do know exactly what we are looking for: The Gazelles! You told me it’s antelope. That’s what we are looking for.” I insisted, though not familiar with the difference between an antelope or a gazelle. If the prehistoric carved gazelle could telepathically play the Hot or Cold game with me, he was telling me, “… warmer… warmer…” I could feel that.
That was when I looked back and up. Right there, without even an angle, right in front of me, so close, the carved gazelle, on a piece of flat vertical rock, looking over a cliff.
My heart skipped a beat. I had to take a breath. The gazelle might have been waiting for me, through all those hours and days and years and centuries and millenniums.
If we filter through the thick beard and the horn, the gazelle has a small face, standing on the rock for thousands of years.
My inner vision opened up. One day, on the same land and in the same nearby village, a gazelle ran through the dry land in the anti-Alas mountains for miles and miles, until he came to this cliff, as if it was the end of the immediately available land, he came to a halt, looking ahead, pondering, or even hesitating. That pause in itself became an incredible view for a young man in the nearby village. The rock, the sky, the animal coming far away, all were so inspirational for this young man that they turned him, right there, into an artist.
The next thing this young man knew, was that he picked up some chisels, went to the rock right below where the gazelle was standing, drawing and engraving the picture out of his memory, and transmuted it onto that rock.
The next thing that I knew, was that I was standing here, feeling exactly how that young man felt, as if no time has ever passed.
And without a shadow of a doubt, I knew I was that young man in that prehistorical existence.