Monday, November 18, 2013

Something this way comes.

Ten days in the desert felt like a month. Away from ringing telephones and television, newspapers and traffic, time passed in a different way. The days were long, and very, very hot. 45 Degrees Celsius is 113 degrees Fahrenheit. If this were the temperature outside, you could expect to be sweating profusely and almost baking. Indeed.

The late afternoons brought psychedelic sunsets - a few drops of rain evaporated before they hit the earth. At night, Venus shone like a burning torch and the Southern Cross was unmistakably bright. It was good to get away from the circus. Sometimes the Props Master and I would make a light supper and drink a cold beer. We'd sit on the deck listening to moths beating their wings against the cotton lamp shade.

At the end of every day, I'd be covered in a layer of dust so thick, that the first few moments in the shower brought the smell of rain hitting a dry red road.

This is leopard country. We found tracks on the sandy little path we walked every morning and night. Thinking about this one morning as I walked to breakfast, I heard the sound of scissors cutting fine sandpaper. Ahead of me on the path: an adult Black Spitting Cobra, hood spread, every little scale gleaming dully.
"Preys on puff adders, spits neuro-toxic venom up to 1,5m
with amazing accuracy."

I froze, but he didn't even look my way. Off he sailed through the sun-warmed rocks.

We drove vast distances on bad dirt roads. So rutted they make your teeth rattle and your fat jiggle. I had to stop one day to answer nature's call. As I hunkered down in the shade of the pick-up, I heard a rustle and looked up. A giraffe towered over me, looking at me curiously. He turned his head and called some friends over. Soon there were three.

I smiled, and then I laughed.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Desert bound.

I left a brooding Cape Town on Wednesday - dark clouds draped over the mountains.
On the way to the airport, the shuttle passed oak trees of an impossible green - their bright new leaves not yet turned leathery.

The familiar feelings of travel: trepidation, wonder about the unknown, flutters of excitement.

The tall man I have to leave behind. He sends me modern day love letters that need no words.

In the tiny embryo jet, surrounded by Namibians, I listened to their harsh German sliding easily into smooth Afrikaans. The large man next to me folded himself up like a buddha, resting his head against the seat in front of him for the entire bumpy flight.

From the air the earth looked scorched - shades of red and black and brown. Striations like long legged spiders and dried seaweed or the whorls inside ears.

At Upington International Airport, a sleepy little place, the plane drops you at the door. At 11 in the morning it's already 36C, a few ragged clouds far up in the sky.

Our schedule has been relentless - the Cape Town days passed in a whirl of ballrooms and war offices and apartments and hotel rooms - we dressed Berlin and Cairo and Mombasa.

Here in the desert we build African villages and tented camps. I have only one 8 ton truck to dip into and we packed it to the brim. In the nights preceding I had dreams of making forgotten things with cardboard and scissors.

The distances are relentless, cellphone reception is scanty. Water and ice are paramount. Often I am alone when things need to be done. At dawn one morning, I taught myself how to operate the tail lift of the truck. The farmer's son said to me later: My mother always says, "if you can read, you can go to the moon."