A horse with no name

Competition winner: Runner up


Dry: we think we know dry. It's when your lawn needs watering, or when you're thirsty and resent spending £2.50 on a bottle of water. No, that's not dry. Dry is when every drop of water is a struggle in a land strewn with rocks and sand, where river beds haven't seen the flow of water for months.

Dry: we think we know dry. It's when your lawn needs watering, or when you're thirsty and resent spending £2.50 on a bottle of water. No, that's not dry. Dry is when every drop of water is a struggle in a land strewn with rocks and sand, where river beds haven't seen the flow of water for months.

Travel beyond the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, along the valley where the Dra runs (when it does run), travel the old way on a horse and you get to know dry. Horses need gallons to drink, even the tough, barb Arab stallions of North Africa. So every day you must find a well. Deep, deep down there somewhere is water. You lower the bucket, heave it up. Horse drinks in long, wuffling swallows – he's thirsty, he knows it might be miles before you find water again.

Red sand gets into all your clothes. You ride cowboy-style, scarf over nose and mouth, still the gritty sand crunches between your teeth and flavours the sips from your water flask. Red kasbahs rise up from the red sand, old as ages. Date palms line the empty river bed. Dry gardens lie ready for rain, and crops of henna and millet. Donkeys stand hobbled, or make their way under burdens of palm leaves or plastic water bottles, going home or going to the well. Berber women stand joined in a lull from their work, beads, tassels and coins twinkling in the sun against their black clothes.

Horse quickens his pace towards evening; he can smell water, miles away. I step down, lead him the last mile. Rest his back, stretch my legs, ease the stiffness of a day in the saddle. We walk together, reins over my arm. Stones are hard on my feet through the soles of my boots, but I walk when it's stony. A bruise on horse's foot and he won't be able to take me on the Dra the next day and the next.

We leave the villages behind, there's only the occasional burdened donkey for company, the twittering of small birds in the palms, camels travelling under their loads or eating the thorny bushes. We camp before dusk. Time to see the sunset, untack, give horse a rub down and draw his water. The sun drops, casting shadows along the mountain ridges; horse settles to his grain. We've travelled about 20 miles today, with luck we'll do the same tomorrow. Horse is bright and bold, he goes where I ask, up steep dry gorges, over boulders, across miles of stone-strewn desert. Canter is exhilarating – the wind rushes in our ears and his hoofs pound the dusty ground. But mostly we travel slowly.

His walk and trot provide time to see almost every rock, plant, tree and bird, time to greet women and children in the villages. A few more days and we will part, but now we're a team together in the dryness of the Dra.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future