Spanish Caravan

“Carry me caravan , take me away. Take me to Portugal, take me to Spain. Andalucia with fields full of grey. I have to see you again and again. Take me, Spanish caravan, yes I know you can.
Trade winds for galeons lost in the sea. I know a treasure is waiting for me. Silver and gold in the mountains of Spain. I have to see you again and again. Take me, Spanish caravan, yes I know you can.” – The Doors, Spansh Caravan. For the one I have to see again and again…


Relief never comes by confessing the sins of others, only by confessing our own.

Snow Leopords and Strange Tails

I was sitting in a tent with Mitsy and Urs, my newly acquired German friends, when I was to hear the devilish and strange tale the Spaniard had to tell. We were in Rumbak village; the snow leopard capital of the world. It was at this moment I met the Spaniard for the first time. He unzipped the entrance to the tent and stepped in. Covered in the remnants of a near white out that was upon us outside, his notice to remove all excess snow before entering the tent scored him points as an experienced traveler from the start. With purpose, He stripped the outer layers of his gear. As he seemed intent on taking his time, we returned to our conversation. Urs passed me a pipe laden with tobacco and opium. I took a long drag and exhaled slowly and with pleasure. The odor drifted over to the Spaniard, catching his attention.
I call him simply the Spaniard because I never came to know his name. I didn’t realize till the next morning, after reviewing the contents of his odd tale, he had never mentioned his name and no one had thought to ask. Looking back now it seems appropriate a name was never given.
He came and joined the small circle; myself, the Germans, and two sherpas. We were all quite sedated by the opium and were content to sit there in intermittent silence,punctuated by the occasional short tale or fits of laughter. The Spaniard made himself right at home, yet simultaneously kept his distance. He took the opium chillum when it was offered. Taking perhaps the longest hit I have ever seen. Blowing out the smoke for what seems like an eternity. His eyes immediately grew glassy and his lids became hooded.
“So, where are you coming from?” I asked. He mulled this question over and finally answered, “The Marakesh bad lands”. Home to the elusive and endangered Bengal tiger, this was an an intriguing answer. I had more questions but held off as he didn’t seem too keen on answering anymore. I can’t say he was rude about it, he was not. But he had the air of a man who had spent a great deal of time alone and who had seen some things worth seeing in any lifetime.
It was at this moment, when I had given up all hope of getting more than two words out of the strange man, when a wry smile came across his face. He looked at me, as if evaluating me, and after a moment said ” If you gentlemen like a good story, i have one for you” We were all ears. What followed was one of the wildest and close to insanity stories I have ever had the pleasure to hear.
I will recount, to the best of my abilities the story which then unfolded before us. Keep in mind I was smoking the strongest opium available and thus my memory may be somewhat muddled. It started innocently enough.
“I left Spain 6 and 1/2 years ago with the idea to conquer, or at the very least visit, all seven continents” He spoke with an unusual accent. The Spanish influence was clear, but given that I am an amateur linguist by trade, I could hear many other influences in his speech.
“It took me 6 years until I finally reached India. She is a beautiful and wild place. I felt much at home there. While I wanted to see the cities, the country side, and all the rest, it was only the tiger which truly drew me in.” Now it is important for the reader to understand that India, though they have killed off much of the tiger populations, still has some very remote and hard to access areas where the tiger still roams free and unfettered. When locals enter the tigers domain to hunt, they wear masks on the back of their heads with a face painted on it to fool the tiger because the big cat likes to strike from behind. Feared by locals and for good reason, yet revered, the tiger is king in his domain. It’s called the Sundabar province. As I said quite isolated and undeveloped. One of the few places left in the world where the tiger is not hunted down for skins or teeth. There are no rugs made from Sundabar tigers…
“I walked for days with my guide. We saw nothing. On the seventh day, my guide found fresh tiger tracks. We followed. I was armed with a seven inch bowie knife and a .32 caliber Luger, both would be ineffective against an angry tiger, though they gave me some sense of comfort. I was not there to hunt the tigers, you see, I wouldn’t dare hurt such a creature. It is against my religion” Though he never mentioned what religion he was.
“I was warned never to turn my back on the big cat. I heard many tales of the local’s encounters with the animal, some true, some now just legend. It is said, and it is true, that a swimming tiger can even take a man out of a boat and drag him to the shore. But certainly, the best story I was to hear involved to young brothers. Bonded by and in blood.” At this point the Spaniard looked around for the chillum and found it waiting on the table next to him, packed to the brim with tobacco and opium.
“These brothers are not men, you see. They are the kings of their domain. Sheeva and Zoran they are called, Bengals. The story goes they were cast out by their father at a young age, as they were a future threat to him. Faced with many hardships, they were drawn together. Though the tiger is a solitary hunter, these boys are ambush predators. They have developed their own hunting style and now rule their territory unchallenged, by man or beast.” Mitsy was looking at the Spaniard with a generally amused disregard. We both, as fellow travelers, have heard our fair share of tall tales. And I half expected another one at this moment. The Spaniard noticed Mitsy’s disbelief and laughed. He slowly reached up and started unbuttoning his shirt. We all exchanged glances. as he pulled down the shoulder of his shirt and exposed four deep parallel scars. It only took a moment to realize what it was, the claws of a tiger.
The four parallel scars ran deep in the skin, pink and still healing. He ran his right hand gently along the claw marks. We sat in silence, soaking in the brutal injury which had just been presented to us. I was the first to speak, “Is that what i Think it is?”. The Spaniard chuckled, “its not from a house cat, I can tell you that.” “We’re all ears if you feel like telling the tale” I said. He settled down into his chair, hit the opium pipe and cleared his throat. A far away look glossed over his eyes.
“Me and Makesh, my guide, we had just entered the Sundabar province a day earlier. I was there to see the elusive cat.” At this point he laughed “And see him I did. We had been walking for three days with no luck, then suddenly I saw the color drain from Makesh’s face.” “They are near” he said. “Who” I asked.”The brothers” he answered simply. “Whats wrong with that?” I said. ” These tracks are quite large and side by side, only one set of cats leaves these marks. And these are two tigers you do not want to encounter”. “I’d be lying if I said a chill didn’t run down my spine. Not only were the man eaters, they were remarkably intelligent and ruthless, as only nature and man can be.”
“We decided to make camp by the river for the night as dusk was settling in. After a quick dinner, we settled in for the night. The bad lands make many noises to keep a man awake at night. Birds, insets, the odd monkey. But nothing will drain the blood from your veins like the roar of a tiger, and we heard two separate calls in the distance. They were approaching us. They had found our scent…”

(just the beginning, much more to come.)