TIN HINAN, Chapter 5, Part 2

From a tour in Algerian mountains

From a tour in Algerian mountains

Our travel across the mountain became a constant journey, for we were trying to avoid the start of the snow season.  Already the nights were freezing, and frost made the ground stiff and brittle at dawn.  We slept only a few hours and rose before the sun and still we climbed upward.  We reached the top, walked across a plateau and started to descend, the snow already falling. Immel Uzmir pushed the men and beasts as much as he could.  To be stranded in a blizzard, even an early one, could mean death. We did not stop to cook or make fires, and ate what could be eaten raw, mostly dried dates with camel’s milk.   It was during the rise of the moon when we came in sight of a valley, and on the other side of that was the settlement where Immel Urzim and his men lived.  It was half way up another mountain, but one he said was a small mountain.

I was glad to leave the mountain, and so was Niefa.  She had a hard time with her feet on the slopes,  for camels get sore pads with the rocks and stones.  She was born in the desert and the soft sands were hot but did not cut her pads like the mountain terrain.  On the descent, she talked and bellowed, and I realized even at this distance, she could smell other camels  far in the valley below us.  She was young, and coming into heat.  A camel in estrus has her mind on only one thing.  She was becoming a handful, and her gait suffered from the descent.  Immel Uzmir saw that she was giving me trouble, and tied her behind another bigger camel to make her slow down.  He placed me behind him on his large horse, and I was forced to hold on to him as we hit rock slides and uneven terrain.

We are a clean people, and ablutions are important to our culture, but the smell of a man so close was new to me.  Given the fact he had not bathed in the mountains, the smell of male sweat and robes that had not seen a good washing was a bit ripe to my nose.  Perhaps I smelled the same to him, but men seem to tolerate these things better than women.

We came out of the forest that stretched up the mountain and into a large valley.  His settlement was across the wide valley and clinging to that other ‘small’ mountain range. We would make camp in the valley to give the pack animals, horses and camels a good feeding on the grasses.  That evening, before the sun dipped completely under the horizon, I looked over to the next mountain where he pointed out his tribe’s distant ksar.  I had never seen one before and was curious. My tribe was always from the desert. We lived in large tents, woven from the hair of camels and goats.  The trees, oaks, twisted olives and walnut groves obscured the actual buildings, but the purple cast of the mountains before us, far in the distance, and long shadows thrown upon the valley was beautiful to eyes that had only seen sand and hot sun all their life. The stars were the same though, rotating across the sky from one side of the upended bowl of the universe to the other.  The heavens could always be counted upon to be constant.

That night, Takama and I walked down from the men to a stream where we tried to bathe ourselves, but of course we did not strip off our clothing.  The water was cold, and at least we were refreshed, exchanging our robes for the last of clean clothes.  I was nervous what the next day would bring, for we would cross the wide valley and appear in the mountain village hopefully before sundown. I had no idea of our reception, but we both knew our lives now were no longer our own.  We were at the mercy of a mountain tribe, and though we spoke the same tongue, we were strangers in a very strange land.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

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2 Responses to “TIN HINAN, Chapter 5, Part 2”

  1. Margie Says:

    Still loving the story! The photo really helps to set the scene! Just as I imagined from your description. Hope you’re feeling better by now. (My throat is sore, 😦 )


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Dear Margie!

    I’m so sorry about the sore throat…that is how it starts, at least here…now I have the fully developed flu…or virus, or something…I am feeling it’s full effects….too late for a shot. I hope you don’t get this full attack, but if you do…bedrest and fluids and it will take about two full weeks…I;m just beginning my second week….Ugh.

    It’s a sneaky flu too, because you don’t feel that bad for a week.

    I am glad you are still loving the story….it really gets better (I think) in this next chapter….but it’s a longgg one…over 6000 words?? and I will have to break it up into at least two parts. But it’s got a funny and touching ending to that chapter….

    I wrote to Marla Mallet who I thought was the photog of a bunch of Berber/Algerian photos….I bought a beautiful kimono from her two years ago this fall, and that was the inspiration for “The Kimono”. Heard immediately from Marla this am, and she wasn’t the photog and would have to go back to Morocco to search out the photog….lol! But there are a bunch of wonderful pix on her website that she has been trying to get off for 5 years, and I am going to use them…with apologies and where I can find the originator of the pix…..that’s about what you can do in such a fix.

    I agree…the pictures make such a difference. They make ‘real’ our imaginative evidence. Or something like that. Mind is cloudy with this flu…..



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