acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Sunday, June 26, 2011

its things like that

Driving to the Mozambique border through Kruger National Park. Having to stop and wait as two massive bull elephants walk towards us down the road in that unbreakable rhythm of long distance travel.

Driving the long road to Sao Sabastiao past lively markets, trucks piled with charcoal or coconuts, potholes and acres of coconut palms that reach to the horizon.

Stopping to buy piri piri (hot chilli sauce) at a roadside stall, only to have it explode like a roman candle when we open it at the table days later, drenching everyone and their food in red liquid spray.

Mozambique and the tropical sea turned to glass. The black silhouetted shapes of  fishing dhows crease the mirrored water - their sails sharp like a lions claw or the hooks on a palm frond.  Sea and horizon meet at a vaguely discernable point about half way.

Canoeing in mangroves flooded by the solstice high tides. Sneaking up on herons, egrets and plovers that roost on the islands of trees.  Slipping over barely submerged aerial roots of mangroves, encrusted with barnacles.  Looking down on schools of silver fish that flit through the sunlit water under the canoes.

Watching the dhow fishermen trawl the reefs and floodplains endlessly - hauling in acres of fish nets while sunlight bounces in shards of light all around them.

It is visiting the school at Matsopane Village to deliver letters from America, and a pile of new stationary - kids laughing and playing around you, while others watch with solemn concentration to hear about their new friends in USA.

It is sunsets and moonrise,  and starscapes that dazzle the brain.  It is time with friends. It is sand between the toes, pansy shells and starfish, and snorkelling on a reef full of wonder.

Mozambique - it is things like that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

elephant games matinee

There are elephants all around our house this morning, eating our island of trees.  Awake before sunrise, i stumble over to the kettle and light the gas. Staring out the window into the middle distance I realise those are not trees I am looking at  but elephants legs. There is an elephant standing next to the track feeding on small bunches of leaves and sticks.  They are so quiet when they are here.

The sun tips the horizon flooding golden beams through what is left of the island forest. The elephant moves slowly towards the house, munching along the way.  We hear - or feel - a deep rumbling sound.  A small breeding herd emerges from the forest on the left to join up with the first elephant.  Some stay and browse, others move out onto the sunlit floodplain.

The wooden house creaks and pops with the wind that follows the sun.  We move around inside from window to window as the elephant feeds directly below us. I can see how neatly her ears fit together on top of her head.  Her trunk curls up to strip some leaves near our window. We could reach out and touch her - but then the moment would be gone and so would she.

Clutching cups of coffee to warm our hands we move out onto the deck and watch the herd spread out on the floodplain among the hebaclada bushes.  A young calf - maybe two years old - spreads his ears and charges at shadows.  He has tufts of hair inside his ears.  He comes our way to join with his mother, forcing his way under her chin into that special zone that is his alone, for now. His mother keeps on feeding but the touch is there.

A buffalo wanders in from the west.  The elephants turn to face him, ears spread- curious, alert, defensive?  The buffalo lumbers along  a steady path right through the nest of elephants.  They follow him to the water hole. He doesn't look back but quickens his pace a tad.  The elephants are on the point of chasing when he turns suddenly and they back off. It looks like a game. 

Successive elephants arrive at the waterhole. Each one spreads its ears and faces the buffalo who has turned to stone - sunlight glancing off the tips of his horns.  They hurry past.  A youngster trumpets loudly and then hurries back to his mothers side.

Golden sunlight floods the scene, and then vanishes behind a cloud leaving the world a sadder place.  The ambient temperature drops with the disappearance of the sun. The world has turned grey and cold.  Not a moment too soon light bursts through the clouds again dazzling us with its star quality. 

A deep sonorous rumble from the matriarch calls the herd, and one by one they join ranks and head back into the distant forest for the day.  The buffalo stands alone. Next time i look, he too has gone and there is only the wind through the sunlit grass.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Two days on the road, a late night with an old pal, and an early morning race to the airport.  A moments consternation about luggage. "You are overweight - its too much. The plane is full.  but wait",  phone calls and a mood of co-operation follow. "Well that bag is our food, and its the heaveist. If necessary it could come on a later flight".  "Ok, lets see - if we can fit it in the plane its fine."  We pass through the finely tuned metal detector and onto the apron.  There is bright sunlight as the little baggage vehicle ferries us to our 206 air taxi.There is one passenger missing and with luck all our bags squash neatly into the pod fixed to the underbelly of the plane.  We climb in, buckle up and soon  swing up into the air looking down on the sprawling safari town of Maun in central Botswana.

Immediately we are transfixed by the spectacle of the meandering blue arms of the delta channels. My heart swells with the beauty of the place.  Pristine water - breeding grounds for fish and birds, brings life and abundance to newly filled lagoons.  There are islands of green trees and grasses interlaced and connected with the threads of well worn animal paths.

The reflected sun follows us along the water like a lazy hand trailing fingers of light.  It shows me that the wild grassy plains are themselves under water reflecting sky and clouds in a giant mirror fringed with green.  I watch the tiny shadow of our plane coast over the subtle contours of the land from island to island. 

Hippos bask in the wintry sun on islands that no boat or car will ever reach.  The deep water channels are tea stained, showing white sand banks and water grass brushed like mermaids hair by the push of water.  
The magical mystical waterworld gives way to the dry hinterland between the Delta and the Spillway.  The colours now are greys, browns and golds, speckled with sandy waterholes where elephants gather to drink and bathe, or snooze in the shade, on their long trek between waterworlds.

We land on the white sand strip. A spray of floodwater splashes the plane where water has inched under the sandbags. Our friends meet us. The air smells of dust and sage. The view is yellow grass and palm trees touched by a gentle breeze, their broad leaves scraping a distinctive sound.  We catch up on news as we negotiate the flooded tracks to camp.

I havent seen this in far too long.   If you fly anywhere in your life it should be here, at least once.