It’s amazing just how quickly a vivid experience can revert to being just a dream. Late yesterday evening, driving the Rover back to its Dartmoor home, I tried to mentally recall its time in Morocco only to find that the memories of a week before had already acquired a hint of unreality. The edgy bustle of the souqs, the glaring heat of the desert, the calls to prayer echoing through the sultry night; all these memories, so vivid at the time, could now only be recalled as distant dreams, which might just as easily have happened to someone else. After months of planning and two weeks on the road, already the trip had receded into the past, leaving a space in the mind to fill with new dreams. Dreams of the future.
And so, after 2,900 miles and 14 days, the Rover returned home, having completed the drive back up through Spain without any major issues, other than its innate ability to attract a thorough going-over by the customs – and their sniffer dogs – pretty much every time it crossed a border. There must just be something about 4 young people in a grubby 37 year old rover with ‘the Marrakesh Express’ written down the sides which, in the mind of the average customs officer, shouts ‘boot full of hash’.
On our journey north, we stopped off at Gibraltar for a taste of home; a place which felt like a caricature of England, with a sea of Union Jacks and bunting flying proudly on the Mediterranean breeze. Here, we enjoyed the view from the top of ‘the Rock’, and donned headtorches to explore some of the abandoned tunnels which perforated the rock, hewn for defensive reasons during various conflicts over the past 300 years. We stopped off at the Alhambra, a 14th century Islamic palace whose relatively plain exterior belies the exquisiteness of the spaces within: walls covered with intricate arabesques rising to ceilings of delicate Muqarnas; courtyards where ornamental ponds are framed by fine marble arches and their slim supporting columns. And we wandered the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, trying to make sense of the contemporary art housed within the stunning building.
And finally, on Saturday evening, we boarded the ferry back to the UK. Despite our general lack of preparation, the Rover had done amazingly well, only breaking down when forced to crawl slowly up mountainsides in near 40 degree heat. It had proved comfortable and dependable – if not economical – and had lent our journey a unique character which no other mode of travel could have got close to providing. And most importantly, it had filled our minds with unique memories; memories which were already moving aside, making space for dreams of the next adventure.