It has been years of planning, routing, saving, counting the costs and here I am standing in the airport my heart pounding. I feel like Im falling and I’m alone. I think about all the things that brought me to this moment……
My husband and I were planning the ultimate trip. We were starting out here in the Arizona desert, red mountains and canyons against turquoise waters, sand and tumble weeds. Heading out towards Europe, lush green landscapes, rolling valleys, snow capped mountains so large you feel like you could reach out and touch them. Finally we were heading to the middle east, Pyramids, more sand, desert dunes, spices… all the spices. That was the plan. Now here I am, my parents accompanied me for the first half of the trip… the more fun less dangerous stretch… and as I show them on a map where my next flight is taking me I realize that I am about to encounter aspects of the trip I had not anticipated. I wasn’t suppose to be alone for this part, but we said we’d always go and while I don’t think he’d want me to go alone, he would be so worried, I need to do this for him… in memory of him.. for me.
To be honest Im probably a little neurotic, since I lost him I’ve become a bit of a risk taker.Part of me feels like if I did die it wouldn’t be such a horrible thing… I wouldn’t have to live without him then. But the other part of me needs to prove to the world that I can stand on my own two feet, alone. What better way than to stare fear in the eyes and push him out of the way. So here we are, I realize that my next flight has me landing in some country I’ve never heard of, I am suppose to stick to the touristy parts of these countries and instead I’m landing in a place called Dengali, you know whats there? sand. It’s smack dab in the middle of the Arabian Desert and I need to get to civilization. I realize I have no knowledge of the language, no clue as to a taxi or car service I can arrange. I have to do everything there when I land. My parents look at each other with fear and concern in their eyes. I can feel it, they want to say don’t go, skip this part, but they hold back their words. They give me a little extra cash from their pocket, say their goodbyes and make me promise to make contact when possible. Some giant good bye hugs, and without looking back I go to my gate.
Every step feels like a thousand pounds, the airport here is lovely, comfortable, has all the amenities, I realize I don’t have enough water for where I am going… why was I not more prepared. I buy an extra bottle and hope that the initial leg of my journey won’t be such a long haul. I scramble to find something to give me at least the basics of the language.. yes, no, excuse me, thank you, currency… there is very little information on this country.
I’m grateful the flight is long, it gives me time to get a game plan together. I consider all my options as I look out the window and back to my field book. I watch the billowing clouds slowly go by, I always loved being in the air on a cloudy day. Soon enough the comfort of the clouds disappears and there is nothing but solid blue sky and sunlight. I look at the world below, we are close. The sand lends a bright orange and brown contrast against the blue sky. When we land the air is hot and dry, It bares down on you, steals your oxygen and punches you in the gut all at the same time. The sun beats down, not a cloud in sight, literally nothing but sand dunes in every direction. Surprisingly it’s the same feeling as being in the middle of the Ocean with nothing but water in every direction. The actual Airport Terminal is just a small square building with a slight overhang. Just a few people needed to run it with only one airline in and out, only a few planes a year come and go so I better have plan there’s no turning back now. Thankfully and gratefully someone helps me find a ride to the nearest city with a military officer. I’m surprised the vehicle is so trust worthy, with holes in the floor boards, the sand blasted paint and rust which crumbled to the ground when I shut my door. If they trust it I have to, I have no other choice unless I want to live and sleep in the airport for the next week which is when the next shipment of supplies arrives. So here I am, alone, with a man in the military who speaks no English.The ride is loud, there is no roof, the only air was the breeze created by our movement. I had to wrap my head in a scarf and ware my sunglasses but that still didn’t keep the sand from pelting my skin. The uneven terrane was exhausting with holding onto my luggage and trying to not fall through the floor or out the side. I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally reached the paved highway. We try to communicate but most often just meet with a smile. I’m on my last sip of water and we pull over for the night, I guess there is one more full day of driving at least thats what I can gather from our “conversation” We stop at a small village, my “chauffeur” disappears, he must stop here all the time. I am given untreated water to drink, this can only be a good thing I think, trying to decide if risking dehydration is even an option. I soon realize that our hospitality is that of a Bedouin tribe and I relax. They always know the best sources of water in the desert and they always have the best food. I enjoy myself in their company despite the language barrier, we smile and laugh music fills the air by nightfall, I thought it was a bit crazy when they started a fire but was soon grateful. I didn’t realize how cold it gets in the desert at night.
The next day we make it to civilization. I thank the officer and start navigating the bustling streets, once I find a place to stay I immediately set out to explore the pyramids and caves. What an amazing adventure until I get lost underground. I always loved cave systems, I could navigate them in my dreams so that made this situation puzzling. How did I get lost down here, It was as if the entrance I came through was sealed off from the inside. I rummage through my pack to see what supplies I have, Its so dark down here you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I gather up my things and hear a sound, my heart stops before it begins a rapid, pounding beat angry that it is caged within my chest. What comes into view next makes me realize there are monsters here that should never be discovered. I stay hidden and try to slow my breathing until they finally leave, it took a while, they knew I was there. Its been sometime since Ive seen the sunlight, felt the warmth, underground its a steady 50-60 degrees and humid. Ive been navigating these caves and tunnels for days trying to find my way out, Im not the only one now we’ve formed a group and pooled our supplies, thankfully we all have food to ration otherwise we would be dead by now. We have become resourceful and quite clever at avoiding the beasts. We discovered an element, it looks like a diamond but more crystal in nature and it glows a white/bluish light. It has a resemblance to a bioluminescent creation. We use these for light to guide us through the dark. We decided to start tracking the beast dogs as dangerous as it is because they have to survive some how which means they know a way out. These monsters have a keen sense of smell with a viscious bite. If you are bitten you get ill, it doesn’t take long before you go mad and die. We need to find our exit soon, yesterday was too close and we are getting too weak to defend ourselves. It’s just a small bite wound but all of us are keeping a close eye on Greg, other than being in pain he seems to have all his senses about him.
We feel a warm rush of a breeze and hope spreads across all our faces, we climb up the rocks and crevices and discover a cave opening in to the desert. Here I am again in this stupid desert, the sun burns everything, our skin, our eyes even with sunglasses. We can’t see the city but there are fresh tire tracks and so we follow those, our eyes blinded by the light we can’t open them but for a second to make sure we haven’t wandered off the path. The sand sinks beneath every step I take, the wind whips and pulls at my clothing. We have to keep going, soon the tracks begin to disappear from the shifting sands, a sinking feeling comes over me but soon diminishes when I see the faint outline of buildings in the distance. It gives us all the push we need. We make it back to the city and find medical help. We also speak to local official’s about the cave monsters and local geology professors were more than excited about our discovery of the bioluminescent element. We say our goodbyes, many hugs in between and part ways. I stand in the streets, looking around me. Pyramids tower in the distance, peolpe are busy about the city. It seems surreal, my experience was anything but normal and yet the souroundings look like it was just another ordinary day. No one had a clue what we had been through and no one except those we told would ever know. With renewed confidence and courage to face the challenges to come I walk through the streets missing home, wondering how proud they would be of me for saving not just myself but for fending off the monsters, saving these people and making it out alive.
* Dengali* Is the word I read on the Map in my dream.