Tuesday, December 29, 2009
From the forest the crack of a branch breaking, then another signals elephants. We sit waiting for them to emerge from the forest, watching the curtain of green for glimpses of elephant shapes. The moon is high, waxing gibbious on its way to full moon. A blue moon to mark the start of 2010. Once in a blue moon – perhaps this time the new years resolutions will hold?
The birds settle and the bush goes quiet as the day shift knock off, and the night shift are starting to wake. The elephants wait as light fades, until it is the same colour as their dusty grey hides. Pieces of grey appear amongst the green. A glint of a tusk gleams whitely. It all happens fast now. Elephants are morphing out of the forest right left and centre. Suddenly our view is full of mighty Jurassic creatures.
Matriarchs walk purposefully to the waterhole, tiny calves in tow. The bulls rush to join them in the delicious reed beds, but soon the cows and calves are pushed on as the waterhole fills up with bulls young and old. They fan out. Browsing on new mopane leaves, pulling up tufts of lush green grass, checking everything for palatability – they haven’t been here in a while and the summer growth is enticing.
The small waterhole nearest the house, is a favourite drinking spot of the warthogs who mud bath on the edges. A young elephant discovers this emerald jewel, and is followed by his bigger siblings. They crowd in, and the air is full of munching slurping noises. A push and shove of silent beasts in grey light, their presence told by their noisy eating habits only.
Light fades to monochrome moonlight. Grey shapes and shadows move all around amid the bushes and trees. One elephant lifts its trunk high. The wind is swirling and she has caught out scent. The group pauses for a second or two, and then turn as one, moving steadily away. Withdrawing from the cool water and luscious salad feast. They melt into the twilight – moving fast but not running. Here and there a flash of ivory, giant legs like tree trunks make negative shapes, ears flap dark shadows. The stragglers follow the herd on into the mopane. A bat swoops low overhead and the elephants are gone like a memory of a dream.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
But first – Mozambique. Getting there in pouring rain, that turned the national coastal road into a slippery slide of sloshy mud and potholes with drop-offs alongside to give you a full rush of vertigo. A narrow navigable strip in the center that had to be vied for with massive growling juggernauts hurtling confidently towards us. It was slow going, and it got dark, and the adventure would have gripped the imagination of any Play Station addict. But we made it. The rain became drizzle, the mud cleared and the traffic lessened as we drove further north.
Five hours on a bush track, and we were there. The warm sun sweeping away the remaining clouds, and the wide vista of aqua blues poured balm on knotted shoulders and necks. Paradise found.
First things first – down the boardwalk to the soft white sand. Dip toes in gentle silky wavelets. Greet the hermit crabs labouring through sand under water – leaving a tracery of tracks in dappled sunlight. Watch out for the sunglass stealing fish – who are there in gangs and leap from the water at a moments notice. Breathe deeply, and again, slow the pace.
Days of Dhow Jones Cruising lay ahead but first we must deliver the boxes of donated school books, stationary, toys, pencils and crayons – lovingly compiled by Geli of Letters from Usedom, who has been supporting the primary school in Morape village in this way for the past seven years. School had closed for the holidays, but word was sent around and many of the children showed up to meet us at the school.
The school is currently a loosely fenced area of sand with a series of classrooms in various states of disrepair. The main school room having been destroyed in the cyclone three years ago. These kids have very little in terms of learning aids, but have no shortage of energy and enthusiasm – especially when it came to the two footballs that tumbled out of one of the boxes! Thanks to the wonderful efforts of our friends in the blogosphere, we will be able to rebuild one of these school rooms in the new year – with a tin roof, cement floor, and real solid walls.
one of the classrooms
this little girl arrived late having run all the way in her best dress
The gesture sounds simple, but it is no small feat organizing logistics, transport of materials by dhow across the bay; getting the approval and co-operation of the Chief, and village elders, and and..but we persevere and at last it looks do-able especially as the fathers of the children now seem willing to participate and assist where they can with labour, moving materials, gathering local materials and so on. It is wonderful to see their enthusiasm and interest.
On the way back from school we stopped to buy coconuts; and Dhow Jones came over the horizon. She has a motor now – an on board that sounds a lot like a tractor but can get you home when the wind drops or blows the wrong way.
She took us to islands of dreams – white sand dunes emerging from turquoise seas; she showed us turtles and dolphins and even a dugong. Gazing down into the giant aquarium seas watching starfish or many colours drift slowly by. When we were cooked, thirsty, tired and salty, she brought us safely back to camp backlit by technicolour sunsets, or later lit by soft moonlight on gentle water.
Time stood still in languid moments, but behind the scenes it was racing, and the week sped away. We drove home in two days, and jumped back in at the deep end. Suddenly everything needs to be done before the country shuts down for the Christmas holidays. We made lists; we are ticking things off – we are getting through it all. I started chipping away at the shopping list. I even stumbled over a CD of Christmas carols by Bob Dylan.
Truly. I will get it all done – I will. Then on that strange day of days, when so many people fight loneliness, I will cook a turkey , and we will pull crackers, read corny jokes, eat and drink, and toast to absent friends and family.
But first back to the list….
P.S - I finished my Nanowrimo challenge - Fifty Thousand Words in one month!! It felt good - a sense of achievement. One of these days I shall look back and read the strange tale of a river, a window in time, and things that can happen there. I had fun with it - though at times words flowed easier than at other times, and maybe the ending was abstract - and certainly the whole script calls for a rewrite, but the journey was all.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Tomorrow we are driving to mozambique. I have been writing words like a creature possessed – trying to stay ahead of the word count for the next few days when we are on the road. But I find I am having so much fun with this nanowrimo thing. The characters have become people in my head. I talk about them confusing the living with the fictional. The story would not withstand an expert eye but who cares! Its my story and its all about getting fifty thousand words down. FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS. And I am nearly at forty thousand now. The thought blows my mind. Its more words than I have spoken aloud this whole year I am sure.
Where they come from nobody knows. Where they are going only they know.
So I am taking it with me, and when I have put my feet in that warm silk sea, and gazed at the fish from the boardwalk; and had my first sighting of Dhow Jones on the horizon; and eaten my first prawn, or pineapple, then I shall pull out my laptop and with luck bash out the final stages.
Funny I always worried about how to start a book. But that was easy – I just jumped in the water and started swimming. There was no plot or plan , I just started pushing out words. Then a sort of story line started to emerge – several actually – and I worried about how they would all come together. Now I wonder how to finish.
No pictures today. Sorry but I must go and pack my swimmies and my sunnies. When we get back this place will have transformed into summer green. Stay well everyone, keep smiling – even when people think you are deranged – and enjoy it all. Blog on!!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Yesterday was sweltering hot. The ground was a furnace – I went out without shoes and had to hop skip and jump to the shade. I walked around the house dripping sweat from every pore like a leaky water sack. I jumped in the pool, I had a shower, and each gave five minutes respite before the radiator started boiling again.
At sunset we saw the big male lion walk past the front of the house. He went after a warthog, which broke into a flat out run. I have never seen a warthog stretch his pace so far. He escaped the thundering lion. The lion stopped by the waterhole and looked around to see we were watching. He looked right at us, and then stooped to drink at the water for long long minutes.
A sound behind the house, the dassies scampering from the trees, a branch breaking. The lion looked up and ran over to the water tank where the rest of the pride had brought down a young nyalla. We drove around and there they all were. Some with bloodied fore-paws, plenty of growling and munching sounds; the cubs had not eaten yet. The spotlight reflected pairs of eyes all around the footpath and in the rocks.
We came home. Then the researchers arrived. It felt odd to be in the house, while researchers spot lit feeding lions just by our water tank. So we turned the lights off and watched again.
During the night, I was woken by flashes of light. Bright as fireworks – lightening all around us. I got up to unplug the phones, and computers. The thunder was still far away and I wondered if it would rain at all.
Then it started. Our first proper rain of the season. Sounds like stones being thrown onto our roof, gaining momentum to a heavy thrumming. The ground so hard, and hot, during the day, now ran with rivers of silver rain – lit by the lightening show.
Water poured in rivulets down roads and pathways, finding its way to the dam.
This morning a whole new world of freshness. Bright green new leaves already showing in sprays along grey branches. The earth plumped up like a sponge is soft and cool to walk on. Bird calls fill the air, and the bull frogs are out. Tonight there will be a frog party in every waterhole – deafening us with their distinctive calls. The base notes of bull frogs, the tenors of red toads, trilling of rubber frogs, and glooping of bubbling kasinas. I can’t resist it. We go there and the sound completely fills up our whole heads. I will record it …. again; and send it to vaguely interested pals…..again. It never ceases to amaze me.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Lying in bed I feel like my internal radiator is overheating. There is not a breath of wind and the hot air sits heavy on me like a large invisible elephant. I get up and take a cold shower allowing the air to partially dry me before trying to sleep again. Mercifully before dawn there is a convection wind that sends dry leaves raining down on our tin roof. Breathe deeply - cool air - not cold but cooler.
We take an early morning drive out as the sun inches higher behind the tree line - breathing cool dust laden air . The wind dries my eyeballs, reminding me of a Rolling Stones song from way back when. The song runs around my brain repeating half remembered words. A hyena comes running in to the waterhole flicking his tail. He lies down quickly in the muddy water, drinking it in and lying in it at the same time.
Baboons arrive. The whole troop walks purposefully in. They are earlier today than usual. The hyena is lying down in the water blinking slow blinks - keeping an eye on the comings and goings from the water. Baboons watch him warily and settle on the opposite side of the water, leaning forward to drink - rear ends in the air - tails hanging in a row. Having drunk their fill they file off to the shade of a small hebaclada thorn bush resplendent with yellow pompom flowers. They rest in the shade - mothers feeding small babies, bigger babies hanging on the branches.
The hyena lies flat all day. We start to wonder if he is sick or injured in some way.
There has been an elephant in camp all day. He has been keeping a low profile whenever we walk or drive past. He has been peacefully feeding- leaving large brown droppings along the pathways like giant bran muffins gently steaming. He is hardly visible amongst the greying leaves and tree trunks. Sometime after midday we see him hurrying to the waterhole. The hyena is forced to move away from the waters edge.
Clearly the elephant's radiator is close to boiling as he spends a good half an hour sluicing water onto his parched feet, and throwing water over his back and ears, fanning his ears constantly. Finally he starts to relax and after a long drink he slowly walks off into the grasslands for a change of diet.
The sky is no longer blue, but a soft dust grey.
Evening, and the convection happens in reverse. A welcome breeze cools the sweat running on our bodies and faces. The yellow grasses glow brighter in the late afternoon sun - outshining the sky.
The sun sinks - a giant dayglo beachball in the sky. It descends slowly through the layers of dust fading inch by inch. Francolins proclaim the end of day loudly calling from their vantage points. Daylight ebbs away and the sky belongs to the stars again.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The hugely talented Nicky, at Absolute Vanilla.blogspot.com, and whose prolific writing and creative imagination have me awestruck – has very kindly listed Monkeys on the Roof on her roll call to receive this illustrious award. Thanks Nicky!
The award is the Kreativ Blogger award and the rules are:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.
Ahem so seven things about me that might be interesting….even mildly….thinks…
1. I first popped into the world in Canada – New Westminster, BC. Apparently it is beautiful there though I have yet to return. We left when I was small (was there ever a time?) but I think I get visceral memories when I see north american scenes, lakes and coasts with big pine forests. I own an inch of a totem pole somewhere there, but still haven’t found the certificate to prove it;
2. I did schooling in England and often still miss my English friends and life, but I have an amazing African life – living in wild beautiful places which is full of adventure and wonderment;
3. My sister had a horse called Kennedy who had a huge barrel chest and frequently ran away with me like a express train – all well meant of course but I am of the sack of potatoes style of riding. He also used to stumble mid gallop. It’s a wonder I stayed on at all – and I didn’t always. I still love horses but prefer ones that can stop when you want to;
4. Monkeys have been thundering up and down my roof all day.
5. I once did a bike trip through the Kalahari with my friend Pam to prove we could. It was the best fun.
6. I love clear night skies and the change of seasons, my wonderful friends, reading a good book, hearing lions at night, dark chocolate, being in the blogosphere, listening to elephants browsing quietly, the smell of first rain, having water on tap, that first cup of tea, laughter, incense, music, art and the miracle of life; and so many more things..
7. sometimes I wonder…………..
The seven Kreativ Bloggers I nominate – and this is the toughest part – what only seven?? – and trying to avoid those that have been nominated already….
Petie at Verily I go
Bonnie at Original Art Studio
Tam at Fleeing Muses
Pink Dogwood from Wandering Mind
Kathryn from Last visible dog
Chris from Middenshire Chronicles
Lauri from Thoughts from Botswana
Janelle from Ngorobob Hill House
Janet from Under a Blood Red Sky