Dear reader, for the purpose of this post, I have created an imaginary person referred to here as the traveler. He does not represent an actual person, but rather mirrors experiences I’ve seen common to pilgrims beyond the walls. He tells it in first person and I hope he effectively communicates his heart to both already and yet to be travelers on this journey. To ensure it does not become too long that it’s hard to read to the end, I will post in three parts…
“I’ve been on this journey for a bit. A very interesting or should I say adventurous journey indeed. “Why interesting, you ask?” It is because it has been unconventional in every sense of the word.
First, how it started is a mystery in itself. There was no planning for many days for the nature of the journey was unknown. Everything seemed OK and life was good – three square meals and predictable daily routines. It all looked well externally to everyone else but me, at least so I initially thought. I knew all was not well, and there had to be something more to life that this glorious looking, but boring routines.
I have since realized I was not alone, only that everyone thought they were alone, hence played along with the routines.
It came a time that I could not contain the conflict that was the norm anymore. The conflict of what seemed on one hand, and what really was on the other became too much and I knew something had to happen, otherwise I’d explode. This is how the journey started, knowing only I had to depart, but not sure to where or for what.
The initial thinking was that I’d leave for a short while and be back after I get what had been lacking. I only took a back pack with water and a little money.
The first shocker upon departure came when tracing the path out of the city. I had a vague idea of only one way into the city since I had used it many days before to come into the city. However, when I came to it, I noticed that the traffic was flowing in only one direction, into the city. I knew just then that the way I was looking for must be at another part of the city, going out.
Upon getting to the other end of the city, I noticed that there was no definite path, but I had to either locate and choose one or create my own. I noticed one with some recent foot prints so I figured that it could be the one others like me had used to exit not too long before.
As I set on that path, I started noticing some others, and as we could get to talk once in a while, I realized that most were like me. They only knew they had to leave but to where, they did not know. It was more like, “better anywhere else, than a minute more in this city.” I had to sooner learn to trust my instincts in determining the right path even though all external signs indicated that I had missed it.
One of the contrary external indicator was that the further I got from the city, the more unfriendly the environment became. The air started becoming hotter and hotter. I realized why the people that initially settled there might have chosen the location. It actually made sense as the place was in the local dialect referred to as ‘place of cool waters’.
As it became hotter and the terrain started becoming hostile, I started getting thirsty. I had water in my back pack so I started drinking it , slowly a sip at a time, but as the heat increased, I had to start taking more.
Not too long after, my water got exhausted , while the need got more. Up to this time, the drive to keep going was still the same as the original one for departure, “be anywhere else but in that city”, but with the diminishing water reservoir, there was an increased longing to get to the unknown destination. The thirst and hence need for water started to become a motivation to get to some point of relief.
Once in a while, the thought of how easy it was to get water it had been while back in the city would come to mind: ‘a tap or dispenser away’, and a thought would flash through my mind, “how foolish”. I’d encourage myself and say, “I am here now and I need water here”, and with that keep going.
Suddenly, I noticed that the different small paths in the dry terrain seemed to be converging. The terrain also started to descend into some sort of valley. I obliged and followed the common terrain as I figured there must be a reason the various fellow travelors had converged on that path. I was soon to realize that the path led to a river bed where a seasonal river flowed and this time almost dried up. The path crossed the river bed at a point where there was still a pool of water at a hollow of the bed.
There were a couple of other travelers (to be exact 4) conversing as they refilled their water containers. I said ‘hello’ to them and refilled my own container also. I drank the whole bottle at a go and refilled again to carry with me. Evidently, there was no longer any regard for whether the water was fit for drinking or not. The thirst could not allow such luxuries.
I was excited at the prospect of company and so I relaxed as I joined in the ongoing conversation which surrounded discussion on our respective journeys out of the city. It was quite refreshing to hear stories similar to each other’s own, but one thing disturbed me a little.
Most of our stories revolved around where we were coming from rather than where we were we going. None sounded certain of their destination , neither what we were looking for and this was a concern to me because any place better than where we left could become our destination. We’d probably take from that destination what we figured was lacking where we came from and take it back.
My fears were confirmed when as it got darker, one of the travel acquaintances suggested we stay there for the night. We did, but I had one disturbed sleep. Before we went to sleep, we continued sharing our stories of the city late into the night around a borne fire to keep ourselves warm. I enjoyed hearing the stories and telling my own only as long as we were together, but when I tried to sleep, the question still lingered, “now we are out, then what?”.
The night was soon over and morning was with us. The first place for me to get to was the water place, get some drink, wash my face and a sponge bath since the water was not too much.
As I got back to the clearing where we spent the night, one travelor noticed me and asked, “why are you up so early? no hurry here, you’ll soon get to know the ways of the wilderness – I’ve been here a while and you will soon realize that all these paths go nowhere, they are just a maze that leads back to one place you’ve been before after another. Actually, this is my third time passing by this brook.”
That was very depressing and I figured I should take it seriously coming from one that had departed from the city earliest compared to the rest of us, hence experience was speaking. I just sat down with my head between my knees to ponder what I just heard. I started imagining myself growing old walking in the maze in the wilderness and eventually dying there. “Was it worth leaving the city to come die in this forsaken existence? Are not the people I left behind enjoying 3 square meals, comfortable beds, and treated hot water baths every day?”
By the time I got back from my thoughts, two hours had gone by. I was startled back to my surrounding by one of the fellow travelers, a middle aged man of medium build. He had just come into the clearing carrying a mud fish with a javelin.
Incidentally at the drying pool of water, the surrounding mud had some of these fish that thrive in the mud and my friend went and got this one. It could as well have been the last one alive because the water was almost drying.
Evidently, the man had mastered the way of surviving in the wilderness. He told me with confidence, “No refrigerators here to stock up, but we always get to eat, man!” The fish was to be our lunch which was welcome as I had exhausted my stock the previous day.
Within a couple of minutes, the fish was prepared using a pocket knife and we got the fire back on to roast it on. One of the other travelers, a middle aged woman who looked like a tomboy had some bread that she shared with the rest pf us: – fish and bread ended up being our lunch and we all savored with relish.
Part II coming shortly.