Day Nine Hundred Eighty Three #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

The last leg of our journey was exceedingly difficult. Malawi led us into a narrow canyon that from a distance appeared to split a massive table plateau.

We left the camel with some others in a pen situated at the widest spot, and continued on.

Our path dead ended where the two walls met. We then made a switchback that climbed the face of the canyon wall.

Tomas and Malawi had to boost, first Elijah, then me, up and over the last obstacle at the top.

As we walked the slope to the higher end of the plateau, our friend the Purser, ran down to greet us.

Arm in arm he lead us to his encampment and his wife Mary.

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Day Nine Hundred Thirty #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

My slumber was disturbed by sounds of movement without our camp. My thoughts landed on the pesky villager as the likely culprit. But when I arose to check, I encountered a wild dog instead. I chased it away and Elijah continued sleeping.

It was all a preview for the day ahead. If it were not curious critters, it was the occasional passing drone that kept us alert.

At one point along the way, Elijah deviated off the path to climb to the top of a round mountain.

At the top he stood silently. His eyes behind the mist of memory flit here and there around the scene.

And as suddenly as he had stopped he asked pardon and we left.

Day Eight Hundred Sixty Five #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Our observations of the last day and a half have brought up something very curious. The two main roads are often backed up at certain times as the vehicles are checked before entry. A third way into the city lies between them. A steady stream of people on foot depart the main roads on either side to join the path to this gateway.

So, to my mind without a vehicle ourselves, this looks to offer the best way in, leaving the only decision as to the morning or the evening busy times.

But Elijah hasn’t ruled out one of the vehicle only entries. In fact he rather prefers it.

In which case I think it calls for a closer look.

Day Eight Hundred Fifty Nine #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We no longer had the road to ourselves. People passed us by in both directions. With the desert behind, small clumps of civilization were huddled around wells and their denizens were going about their business from place to place.

No adults paid us any attention. Only the children in the villages threw themselves in our path. But turned away when they saw we had nothing to give them.

We also had to watch out for vehicles. The best walking was on the paved road, but not when they came by. Especially the tanker trucks delivering water to out of the way places. We never saw them in villages with wells.

We were both silent preparing ourselves for the ordeal ahead.

Day Eight Hundred Fifty Seven #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We planned to let a whole day pass before setting off on the road to Damascus. Neither of us wanted to overtake Jezer and fall into his company.

We had just collected ourselves together when an army truck rolled up to the well and accosted us. They couldn’t understand us and we couldn’t understand them.

The man in charge searched us, then dismissed us in disgust. They remounted and sped away north.

The way ahead looked much the same as our route from the south, more rock cliffs channeling our path.

I fell into a discussion with Elijah about our former guest.  I supposed that the soldiers were in pursuit of him.

Elijah nodded and said, “His mark was false.”

Day Eight Hundred Fifty One #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Not only did I lack confirmation, I confessed to having more questions than before.

Along the way Elijah had confirmed my suspicion that the first snowfall had been an answer to his petition on our behalf – a provision of water for the next step in our journey along an unknown path. A highly localized suspension of the drought. Purely for our benefit.

But – hence the question. Who was responsible for the crimson snow that followed. And did they know where we were? And if so, how? Were we under surveillance?

Elijah just shrugged and said it was obvious the enemy’s goal was to thwart us, but asked me to remember that the Spirit can use that opposition to help us.

Day Eight Hundred Forty Four #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We are one night’s march along the corridor of this valley, and the ‘hill’ at the far end has indeed “grown.” We are more confident than ever we are adhering to the path laid out for us by Quasimo. Hence today we have brought our fast to a close.

I had much to ruminate about in my times on watch. Over night it was much colder than ever before. Elijah thinks we may see snow in the next day or so. I can believe it.

The barking has ceased to dog our steps. Whatever they were must have continued on north. Silence instead muffled our ears – then and now.

Two more night marches should bring us out of the desert.

Day Eight Hundred Thirty Three #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We were exhausted by the time morning rolled along, having been awake and moving all day and night.

Our path was easy going, helped along by the glow of the moon while it was up.

Still, as we turned in for the daylight hours, my mind was overfull with the trek so far.

The events from the bridge to the rock formation run over and over in my thoughts, colored by my apprehension that a drone might overtake us before we found it. And the trek through the desert night carried its own unease as we were alert to find our next landmark. A well that should mark an end to this effortless pathway.

It helps to breathe and pray.

Day Eight Hundred Twenty Four #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We learned the reason behind Quasimo’s choice of yesterday.

The ‘goat track’ kept on through the expanse, meandering from wadi to wadi. Well out of sight of the road. Though we were still aware of its presence by the rumble from the tanker trucks.

Elijah and I were delighted to pass the heat of the day by a well, situated beside the pastoral path. The water was fresh and sweet to the taste.

In the space of our short time there, we were joined briefly by shepherds stopping to water their flocks.

Quasimo knew one of the shepherds and from their conversation we could tell each was pleased with what the other had to say.

Afterwards, Quasimo took us home.

Day Seven Hundred Seventy Seven #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We took the Captain’s usual advice and gave wide berth to the hunters’ village. Yet time after time Tomas had to adjust our way again as village after village cropped up across our path.

The whole process moved us steadily away from our desired compass point.

Finally, Tomas brought us all atop one hillock to see rings of villages between us and a city at the edge of the prairie.

I looked to Elijah and he nodded.

I knew this city was our next stop. But then we debated how to get there.

Did we dare enter one of these villages? They were more than likely responsible for the attack we had overheard.

And had they driven out the Hamashiachites?