An Iberian Misadventure
Tiana Yasmin Nowzari
Copyright 2022 by Tiana Yasmin Nowzari
Photo by Jason Mooy courtesy of Flickr.
the first week of August, and it's one of the hottest months in
Spain. My trip here was initially planned as a graduation gift from
myself after a straining semester filled with endless all-nighters
and Red Bull binges. After excessively googling with the help of some
celebratory wine, I came across a travel website called
VisitSpain.com. The site seduced me by flaunting Spanish historical
landmarks and mesmerizing scenery. It finally succeeded in luring me
when I booked an airplane ticket for a solo trip to the Iberian
Peninsula and packed my things to fly thousands of miles overseas.
Immediately, I began to envision myself learning flamenco on the hot
sandy beaches with a gorgeous Spanish man with a bottle of rosé.
And from then on, I was daydreaming of the adventure to come.
been in Spain since last night. When I landed in the city of
Algeciras, I instantly felt the arid weather as if dust lodged in the
back of my dry throat. The heat smothered the pitch-black night and
clashed with my hair as the frizz made me look like a poodle stranded
in the middle of a desert. Although I was excited to arrive, I
worried about jet lag. It was still daytime in Eastern Canada, yet,
it was around midnight in Spain. Despite it, I couldn’t let the
time difference deter me because I had a mountain tour booked in
Gibraltar for the next day. I forced myself to bed and let my
excitement drift me to sleep.
woke up early this morning with exhilaration shadowing my exhaustion.
I quickly got ready and called a taxi from my hotel to take me to
Gibraltar. During the ride, I wondered about all the things I might
see throughout the tour: plumped orchids, stinging bees, rocky
mountainous steps. I made sure to bring my camera to capture moments
that will travel back with me to Canada.
less than an hour, I reached my destination and arrived in front of a
ticket booth. I showed my pass to the ticket agent, who was a tall,
slender man with olive skin. His eyes matched the clear sky and were
curtained by the tips of butter-coloured hair. He pointed to a spot
where I would have to wait for my tour guide and driver to appear –
it turns out it'll be the same person taking on a single job.
I’m waiting for my transportation to arrive. My shoulders feel
the pressure of my backpack straps against the heat of the sun, but
the lightness of my floral summer dress prevents me from drowning in
sweat. A sign stands a few metres to my left that says, “Recoger
Aquí.” Or “Pick-up Here” from the little
Spanish I've learned from online Duolingo courses.
waiting, I notice another couple, a man and a woman, lingering behind
me. The woman is likely in her fifties and dressed in a long forest
green ruffled dress. Her outfit is accessorized with long blue beads
hanging around her neck and a crimson faux leather tote bag. I see
something hanging at the side of her hip, which appears to be a gray
camera with a long black strap. Her companion looks at least a decade
older, and his attire is much more relaxed. He’s standing like
an awkward stickman as if he doesn’t know what he’s doing
thoughts are interrupted by the sound of an engine beginning to growl
from afar. I turn my head around and see a van finally starting to
approach us. It must be our ride. The vehicle abruptly stops,
accompanied by a screeching sound on the gravel road. The driver, a
sturdy tanned man with a full beard, quickly exits.
to Gibraltar!” he says with a gleeful tone hidden behind a
strong penetrating voice. He opens the door and directs us inside
with a slight bow. I head inside first and sit in the passenger seat
while the couple sit comfortably together in the back. The driver
introduces himself as Lucas and tells us we’re heading off in a
heavy southern Spanish accent.
we move uphill, I peer outside the windows and watch the extensive
landscape engulfed by leaves, trees, and flowers; all painted in
different colours. The natural life in Spain hypnotizes me to gawk at
the other side of the window. I feel like a young girl who has just
walked into a candy store, allowing her eyes to follow each
remarkable thing. I move my face closer to the window, thinking that
my closeness will somehow connect me to the world outside. I stare
intently until, suddenly, I see a flash!
was that? Something just ran by the van. It happened so fast that I
could barely tell what it was. I saw a brown light, maybe the size of
a miniature poodle, dart beside the moving vehicle. My questions are
quickly answered. “Those are Barbary apes,” voices Lucas.
“They aren’t very friendly, so watch out.” The
couple responds by intently staring outside the window, looking for
the creature. Their curiosity lurks as much as mine.
on the mountains. That’s something I missed on the excursion’s
website. I suppose if I pay them no mind and watch my belongings,
I’ll be safe from those furry four-legged thieves. I try to
divert my attention back to the view. It’s truly incredible.
Lively colours decorate the fertile landscape like an artist’s
palette exploded over a canvas. Some trees stand so tall they might
touch the sky. Out of all the places I’ve travelled to, this
must be the most magnificent. My thoughts are emulated when I hear
the woman say, “Over there, Jacob, look! Those flowers are
beautiful. They wrap around the tree barks like a dress.”
Followed by the sound of a click and flash.
some more time driving, the van comes to a slow stop. Lucas turns his
whole slumped body towards us and says, “We’ll stop here
so you all can get a good look at my beautiful country. I’ll
take the van to the top of the mountain and meet you there.” I
remember reading this part on their website. Explore
the remarkable mountains and observe their ravenous beauty.
that path,” he then points to these elongated brown steps that
travel uphill, “those are the steps that’ll take you
around the mountain and all the way up. They’ll lead you to our
meet-up spot at the top.” Based on the exasperation on our
faces, he tried to reason with us, “It seems long, but it
should only take you a little less than an hour. We’re not that
far from the peak.”
follow the couple’s lead and exit the van to hear birds singing
and flying in the ocean-blue sky. I make my way toward the steps and
notice trees of different shapes and sizes surrounding them. The
couple looks around as astonished and mesmerized as me; while
wandering through the landscape and ignoring my presence, feeling
like I’m in solitude. “Jacob, take a picture of me with
the flowers,” the woman asks while rushing towards a large
field of pink flowers that would make a delicate bouquet. This place
is beautiful. If only I could lock myself in time and intertwine this
with my life forever.
climb up the light brown wooden stairs and take my camera out of my
bag. I snap photos of nearly everything while my backpack remains
sturdy on my shoulders. There are so many spectacular specks of
nature. Blue flowers invading tree branches, piles of rocks each
shaped in a unique geometric pattern, and leaves so big they could
provide shade. I look further into the distance and see a
reddish-coloured rock shaped like a widened cone. On top of it,
another one of those monkeys I saw earlier sits comfortably. Its hind
legs are crouched to stabilize its position, and its two front paws
hold an opened and half-eaten chocolate bar.
you got into someone’s bag, didn’t you?” it stares
at me curiously while the snack reaches back towards its mouth. I
take a photo, “Now, that’ll be one for the photo album.”
Still that same look.
think about moving along in my journey until I see another monkey
emerge from behind the fully-leaved branches. Yet another one that
isn’t shy to show itself. This one, however, looks different
from its sweet-toothed friend. Its body is broader with lighter fur
and has a bleak appearance on its dotted and wrinkled face. It stands
cautiously and watches with large purposeful eyes. I capture another
photo of my companions. I swiftly remind myself about Lucas’
warnings about the monkeys and continue on my path.
uphill feels like a never-ending journey that burns my thighs from
the impetuous movement and glazing sun above. Not too far ahead, I
see a big chalky rock with a smooth flat surface. Perfect for me to
catch my breath. I pass through the trees and untrimmed grass and
eagerly plump myself on top. The heat fuels my exhaustion and forms
enormous sweat droplets on the sides of my forehead. In the event
that something like this might happen, I made sure to bring any
necessities. I packed a protein bar, an apple, a litre of water,
sunglasses, and sunscreen, among other things. For now, just the
protein bar will do. I swing my backpack onto my lap and pull out my
snack before ripping it apart like an animal in dire need of food.
The savoury bar reaches toward my salivating mouth but abruptly stops
when I see something.
caught my eye was a pudgy butter-coloured monkey with a white patch
of fur on the side of its head, crouching just a few steps in front
of me. I must’ve been so hungry and tired that I didn’t
initially see him. The monkey stares at me while standing still like
a statue, but I can feel that the stare is really aimed at my snack.
“I’m going now,” I say while gently packing up my
belongings and lifting myself off the rock. “I don’t have
any food for you.” The look becomes more intense after every
stretching second, but it remains immobile. It doesn’t seem
like it'll be leaving anytime soon. I reach towards the steps and
gain some recollected comfort. I start climbing anxiously, feeling
like my brain is clouded. Should I really be scared of a monkey?
Perhaps I’m being overdramatic. I should be safe if I remain
focused on where I’m heading. A few more steps later, my mind
is at ease, and I feel lighter.
several minutes of walking, I hear a tussle to my right between the
large flapping leaves. It doesn’t sound like the wind because
there was too much movement in the noise. I try to ignore it until
another shuffled sound alerts me. I steadily move towards it. My neck
is tense, and sweat is raining profusely all over my sticky body. I
lean in just a little more and my head begins to slant forward from
my neck like a turtle. I slowly reach out my hand before I see
something peer out. It’s a hand!
it’s a monkey paw. Barely a second later, the head pops out,
and I see a cute hairy face staring directly at me. “At least
you’re cuter than your friends,” I say as if I should be
expecting a response. Two more monkeys approach me to my far left
while walking on all fours. I get an uneasy feeling but try to
reassure myself. I try to back away, hoping I can get out of the
crowd that seems to be forming around me. I take some steps backwards
to regain my foot on the stairs that will lead me back to safety.
Before my mind can be put at ease, I feel a tight tug on the top of
my backpack as if the sky is trying to pull me up. I twist my
sun-burnt neck to see a grimacing monkey hanging from a tree branch.
Its weight pulls the branch lower where its paw is able to hold onto
the small black strap hanging off my bag. This doesn’t look
good for me.
do you think you’re doing?” I try to pull away from his
firm grip without much success. “Let go,” tugging a
little harder this time. Its face is still grimacing like it knows
the next move. One more monkey appears and supports its fellow
primate by jumping directly on top of the thick, loaded bag causing
me to stir in panic. Should I leave the backpack behind? Do I fight
them off while potentially getting clawed by wild Spanish animals?
Whatever scenario I can think of seems like a recipe for disaster.
With the slightest bit of aching hope, I try to tug the backpack by
moving forward onto the trail as I had initially intended, but I’m
stuck on the spot. One of the monkeys begins to unzip my bag, and I
can already predict that they’re reaching for my food.
slip out of the straps freeing myself from their entrapment and
deserting my belongings in their possession. I run ahead into the
trees as I can hear the screeches echoing behind me. My head turns to
see the havoc created behind me and watch despairingly as my backpack
is being ripped apart by several ferocious paws. The pockets have
become hanging pieces of black thread barely holding on together
while they are searched through ravenously.
Get out of my stuff!” I yell with a tone of panic in my voice.
I pick up a small stone the size of an Oreo cookie and throw it
towards the crowd without receiving a reaction. The smell of the
snacks has probably distorted the awareness of their surroundings.
The swarm of primate ravage through my belongings, and shreds of torn
dark material fly out of the huddled group. My mind becomes a jumble
of incoherent thoughts that lead to my body feeling overwhelming
shivers of panic. There’s no hope. It’s all gone. I want
to scream out the frustration until my vocal cords burst, but
instead, I’m standing like a lost and confused puppy.
irrational rage casts throughout my being. Feelings of anger,
frustration, confusion and fear compile like building blocks in my
pulsating brain. This couldn't be happening to me. I could never make
it through the entire journey without my backpack. And I'm too far
high up in the mountain to bother returning back down. Jitters of
panic trail through my body like a serpent slithering through my
veins, circulating my blood. My options are tight. Do I take my
chances? Could I make it? It could be dangerous. But it could be
possible. A charge of energy erupts from my hysteria, which causes me
to sprint impulsively. I leap through the air with my legs swinging
back and forth like an Olympian runner. I don’t recognize my
speed or ferocity, but I feel the inner burning conviction fueling
me. The closer I get to the group, the more I question the sanity of
my decision. But it’s too late. I have to go through with my
now or never, I think to myself before colliding into the enemies…
Yasmin Nowzari is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Toronto
Metropolitan University. She is pursuing her Bachelor's degree in
Sociology and plans to attend law school. Since she was a young girl,
Tiana loved to write short stories and poems. She is passionate about
writing and has often based her work on human rights projects and
initiatives. She currently lives in Toronto with her dog,
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Another story by Tiana
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher