Over the last 100 days of quarantine, lockdown, and state of emergency, I’ve been living in and photographing the southern city of Málaga in Spain.
I was deep in the woods at a crossroads trying to determine the correct path when the old man appeared. He had a flowing white beard, a massive staff, and two unleashed dogs. He indicated that I should take the path on the left and proceeded to give me a short speech in Spanish.
My sole explanation for the encounter was that the old man was obviously a future version of myself sent from the future with a dire warning, but that I time traveled back too early, before I had the chance to learn Spanish. Either that or he was just a normal wizard. After a month of social isolation, I may also have been losing my mind.
Compared to the modest elevation of Mount Gibralfor, Mount Victoria was a massive peak just over 1000 meters (3,380 ft) tall. I would jealously gaze at it from Gibralfor waiting for the day when I could conquer the only other mountain in town that was close enough I could sneak to without getting caught.
I knew Sunday would be my best chance of reaching the mountain. Not much happens in Spain on a Sunday including severely reduced police patrols. I reached the edge of the forest and found myself enveloped in the cool shade of massive trees. A small sign read “The Magic Forest,” and I will say on that first visit with not a soul in sight, it did feel a bit otherwordly.
I made it halfway up the mountain, saw real grass for the first time in five months, took of my shoes, and promptly fell asleep. On my way back, I had to jump into a culvert when a car roared up the closed road. I would return to Victoria half a dozen times over the next couple months.
Strange things were afoot on Mount Victoria. There were curious etchings marked in the trees and mysterious ruins. An old man on a scooter blew by me riding up the steep trail like he was on a dirt bike. A family of wild chickens tried to attack me. On my first attempt of the summit, uniformed men roamed the peak, very suspicious on a Sunday. Another time, I heard club music coming from nowhere and when I tracked down the source, I saw a man, naked except for his underwear, doing pushups in a hidden clearing.
So maybe not that strange after all. Maybe I had been trapped inside for so long that the ordinary had become extraordinary and wizards roamed magic forests.