acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Saturday, May 28, 2011

far far away

So how did this start.  I think it was an article in a travel magazine read sometime ago. A one page story about how a remote coastal village on the edge of the desert subsists on diamonds and tourism. A cold water bay inhabited by seals and seagulls, where atlantic mists roll in at a moments notice blanketing out the bright sunlight.

Here intrepid deep sea divers hoover gravel off the sea bed with giant suction pipes attached to robust trawlers. The gravel is sifted for diamonds, and these are brought to shore and sold to the concession holders. The trade is strictly controlled.

Diamonds can cause so much trouble.  They are glittery and gorgeous, and their main use is to adorn the lobes and limbs of the rich and famous. Somewhere on the path from seabed or diamond pipe, to end user - there can be a wealth of stories involving skullduggery, ingeniousness, and master craftmanship.

Blood diamonds are those taken from war zones, and traded for weaponry to continue violent wars that are often about the diamond resource itself.  They sparkle just as much as legal diamonds.

We became intruiged. Port Nolloth had to have a few intreresting characters walking about. We hadnt been to the west coast in a number of years but as a destination it was very far away.  Then there was a birthday, and that called for something out of the ordinary.  'Lets do it - even if its far?'  'right'.

It was two days solid driving.  Firstly circumventing the city sprawl of Gauteng, and then the endless corn fields of the north west province.  When we got into the wine growing regions along the orange River the view became a tad more interesting. Its always good to see how much effort goes into growing wines.  

From here the towns became progressively smaller and the landscapes grew into vast ancient seabeds where black rock mountains floated like glaciers.  We left the other road users behind for a time - there was just us, the giant landscape and the endless blue skies. Desert was all around and we felt ourselves slowly dropping in altitude with each mountain pass.

We fuelled up in the little town of Springbok. It was close to sunset and this was some of the most dramatic scenery of the trip.  Rocks and boulders with strange desert plants towered close to the road. This area is famous for wildflowers in the winter but we were three months too early.  We wound down through successive mountain passes  and then there was sand. And then there was the sea.  A small settlement of houses, like coloured boxes nestled behind the dune and the town.

It was quiet here. The sea crashed on rocks beyond the bay, but nearby it was gentle and calm.  Strands of kelp lay on the beach or rolled lazily in the waves like seals.  We spent two days here in this tiny town where time appears to stand still.  Due to recent rains there was no diamond hoovering in progress as the river mouths were too clouded with soil from flash floods; and thus many of the diamond divers had left town.  We drove along the coastline to Alexander Bay. A diamond settlement at the mouth of the Orange River border with Namibia. This town used to be high security. All along the way were diamond diggings. This desert landscape  of lichen fields and fossils,  has been successively poked, proded and excavated in a perpetual search for these earth born treasures.

We chatted to the few locals we found. We went to the little museum and looked at relics from shipwrecks and pioneering mining efforts. We even looked at property for sale.  We ran out of time and buckled up for the long road home, promising ourselves a rerun  when the whales pass by and the desert sands are speckled with fields of flowers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


'Dreaming while dawns left hand is in the sky'
from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Those words have been nudging at my brain these past days.  They had to nudge hard because the old grey matter has been clogged with flu, but is fighting back hard and  emerging triumphant.

This little book lives by my bedside now. It belonged to my father.  The small leather bound, travel worn, edition was a gift from my mother to him in 1943.  It never left his side through all his journeys.  I love the words.

1943 - what huge changes and perils people were living through then - hardly daring to hope for a shining future, but pressing on anyhow. And here we are in a tumultuous time of change again - with the added drama of climate change and prophecies of the Ends of Days.  Change is in the air - its the only certainty.

On a smaller scale, news from here is that a swarm of bees has moved into  one of the old leadwood fencing posts in our driveway.   I have been leaving them dishes of sugar water to make them feel welcome.  The lions have been back, keeping us awake in the dead of night with their deeply reverberating calls.  It really makes you appreciate being tucked up in bed within a bricks and mortar dwelling.

The grass is drying out fast now, and the green is turning yellow.  We have one guinea fowl left now in our domestic flock and he is looking quite traumatised. For the first few days after his pal was taken by an eagle, he just ran around calling madly. Now he has settled down a bit. Anyone have some guinea fowl for sale?

As winter takes hold on the southern continent, the Okavango River continues to rise with water pushing further into the Kalahari Basin and the ancient lake beds.
Perhaps we will see the return of a waterworld here in the desert.

I like to think that Dawns Left Hand is in the sky and to remember that our time is finite and precious anyhow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


twin calderas mark the view

This morning I woke up from an incredible dream. I dreamt I ran away from the troubles of the world. I packed a small bag with a change of clothes and a toothbrush (and a few things besides). The bag was so small there was no room for a book - or even an extra mosquito.

Then I climbed into a metal bird, and flew high into the hazy blue sky, looking down on some of Africa's best places as we flew by.  Big powerful rivers like the Limpopo and Zambezi meandered off into the distant haze;  lake malawi shone with cloud reflections; mountains, plains, salt lakes, craters, all finally obscured by giant billowing clouds.

We climbed down from our metal bird in a smoky city filled with the noise of industrialisation.  We pushed through some crowds of people; passed through a couple of check points and then climbed into a smaller metal bird escaping once more to look down on the world man has made.

We landed at last in a sea of yellow grasslands where the light was so bright and crisp it pinched the eyes. 360 degrees of wide open horizon brimming with possibilities and discoveries  all presided over by a giant mountain capped with snow.

I rode on a white horse whose name was 'elephant' - and whose ancestors had been knights chargers in the times of the crusades. Giraffe stopped browsing to watch us pass and strange stunted thorn trees tugged at our clothing, but the singing sunwashed grasslands would not be denied and we rode out into the endless plains kicking up puffs of volcanic dust.

The Chyulu hills were our home for this dream time.  By day we climbed up to the crumbling edges of ancient volcanic craters, and explored mystical caves formed by tendrills of lava flows.  Here the molten lava had turned to stone forming ceramic walls moulding shapes of faces and fantastic creatures, all overgrown with creepers and lichens. The lava tube flowed downhill like a waterfall of caves sliding in and out of bright sunlight and cool damp darkness crunching dust and bones underfoot.

At night the star scapes obliterated the daytime scenes of wonder.  Sunrise and the big mountain taught us humility and awe - putting us firmly back in our tiny place on the planet. A giant landscape that felt somehow strangely familiar - as if I had always known it.

All too soon the iron bird droned into view. It lifted us up and away from the kind faces and new friends, the singing grass and the purple hills. We landed home with a bump last night. Today I am picking up the pieces as reality nudges its way back in, but I am hanging onto my dream pictures and tonight i will ride away on my white horse again.