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Time Out -- Love in the Desert

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on November 21, 2020 14:20

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I took time out for a road trip. My son moved for a new job and needed hands to help, but we took the opportunity of getting away from politics, to discover the things that really matter.

I had had enough of politics -- our Minister of Finance raiding health and police services to prop up the national airline that has not shown a profit this past decade, while we have profitable airlines running, for one. The endless American elections, where the President seems to be ready to subvert his own constitution -- an all too familiar event in Africa, for another. An African Presidential candidate being beaten up for contravening COVID regulations after having registered his candidature. The everlasting virus taking on new life as people ignore it. 

Rain looming in the afternoon. Own photo.

My son had started a new job as the pandemic broke out, about 1000 miles away. We decided to help them move house now that his family is joining him, and to return through the heart of the semi-desert Karoo. The excuse was to visit the astronomical observatory in Sutherland and watch the stars, so inevitably ... it rained! No stars to be seen, but pleasant people, good, simple food, and miles of open space. 

The road is long, but there is beauty to find if you look. Own photo.

This ancient ocean bottom and marshland, unchanged over millennia, contains fossils (another trip planned) and a unique habitat, fantastic geology and weird rock formations. While usually one blasts past, trying to get to the other side, now we were forced to slow down on the muddy, unsurfaced roads. We tried to identify birds, count sheep, and identify the bandits of the region like the black backed jackal. (Yes, we did see three, and we are not going to tell where!) You need to look for beauty in this harsh land, but then a surprise awaits you just next to the road. 

Beauty is there if you look for it. Own photo

And then we met her. In the middle of the road she was, marching on to the east with steady deliberation. She hissed at me when I moved her out of danger and into a jackal-proof camp. I got a sidelong look as she resumed her urgent voyage. To where? In this empty land? Twenty miles on we found the answer. He was safely on the side of the road, but marching west with determination. And we knew! The spring rains had sent the signal that it was time to make baby tortoises, and there was an assignation in the air. We told him where we had left her. Within two weeks, we were sure, all political crises and pandemics will be forgotten. And is that not the point -- relationships are what really count, not hatred, fear and power? 

A dirty look. Own photo

Disclaimer: I have been told, and have forgotten, to spot the differences between boy tortoises and girls. And we do not know that they were really looking for each other. But, come on, life in this desert has to have meaning. 

Vast and empty land. Own photo
Coen Van Wyk

Posted on November 21, 2020 14:20

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