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.