Asa a inceput ziua: cu sute de antilope Sprinbok, zeci de girafe si Oryx. Plecasem, noi doi si nebunul de Vital, in ceea ce avea sa devina un trip gen Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, in cazul nostru insa numai pe baza de alcool.
That’s how our day begun: hundreds of Springboks, dozens of giraffes and oryx. We had embarked, the two of us, plus Vital, on what was to become our own booze fueled Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas trip.
Intai a trebuit sa ne conformam traditiei si sa bem o sticla de lichior de ginger pentru a evita o pana pe drum. Asa ca am tras la bodega din catun, pentru tarie si bere. Aici, o zi normala de luni: lumea o ardea la o barfa, biliard cu minge de golf, o fisa la automatul de poker, muzica la maxim din jukebox, liquid-dancing…
First we needed to observe the tradition and drink a bottle of ginger spirit, to avoid a flat tyre. At the next village joint, where we stopped to stock on the lucky-charm drink and beer, a regular Monday was at play: people were chatting and liquid-dancing to the blasting jukebox, pool was being played with a golf ball, nickels were being dropped in the poker machine.
Apoi harta a devenit inutila. La capatul drumului incepea adevarata calatorie. Inaintea noastra se intindea cel mai vechi desert din lume, pro-Namib, iar in aparenta pustietate, in implauzibila naluca, nimeni. Iarba uscata lasa din cand in cand sa se vada pamantul, in zone circulare cu diametrul de 5-8 metri, ca niste enigmatice urme ale unor farfurii zburatoare demult disparute.
Then we were out of the map. The end of the road was only the beginning of the journey. We were driving across the unpeopled, formless, oldest desert in the world, the pro-Namib. The vacancy, the remoteness, the sheer implausibility of the place was astonishing. Wisps of dry shrubs covered the earth with a scabby pattern of circular, barren patches, like enigmatic landing spots of some past flying saucers. The average diameter of these patches: 5–8 m!
Acestea sunt “inelele de zane” din Namibia, unul dintre cele mai misterioase fenomene observate in regiunile desertice ale sudului Africii. Pana in ziua de zi, studiile pe specimene de sol prelevate din sit nu au elucidat originea acestei texturi (s-au avansat diferite ipoteze: radioactivitate localizata, actiunea termitelor, compusi chimici eliminati in mediu de Euphorbia damarana etc). Dar permanenta relativa a inelelor de zane sugereaza o legatura critica intre acestea si sanatatea ecosistemului, specialistii considerand ca inelele ar putea fi un fel de mecanism adaptiv prin care este regulata captarea, stocarea si reciclarea resurselor limitate din desertul pro-Namib.
These are the so-called ‘fairy rings’ of Namibia, one of the most enigmatic phenomena in the desert regions of southern Africa. To date, the bioassays conducted in soil samples collected from these sites failed to support any proposed explanation for this patterning (localized radioactivity, termite activity, growth inhibitors released by dead Euphorbia damarana plants etc). But the relative permanence of fairy rings in the pro-Namib desert is believed to be critically linked to the optimal functioning of the ecosystem. The fairy rings may be some sort of adaptive response to extreme arid conditions, facilitating capture, storage and recycling of limited resources.
Dar ciudateniile peisajului nu se opreau aici. Copacii aveau burtile pline cu apa, bolovanii se sfaramau in placi subtiri, vantul slefuia culmile de lava. Si in mijlocul acestui Oz, un telefon pentru a suna in delir zeii.
But this was not the only strange feature of the landscape. Chunky trees rose swollen with water. Crumbling rock scattered. Winds honed lava outcrops. And in this world of the Oz, a lonely telephone, to give a call to the gods.
Locul nu este parc national, sau zona protejata, doar localnicii stiu ca aici traiesc in libertate numerosi elefanti si lei de desert, alaturi de alte animale salbatice.
This is not officially a wildlife reserve, national park or protected area. But locals know: the place is teeming with wild desert lions and desert elephants, and many other animals.
Pentru a patrunde mai adanc in acest vest salbatic, am coborat in albia secata a raului. Fundul nisipos era plin de excremente si urme de elefant. Linistea era deplina si am incercat sa rulam cat mai silentios printre copacii de acacia de circa 15 metri inaltime. Albia era atat de lata, incat demult nu mai zaream malurile raului. Ne simteam liliputani, pierduti intr-un univers enorm, absurd, de neinteles. Aparitia elefantului insa a restabilit scara si logica peisajului.
To go deeper into the wild, we had to descend into the dry river bed. The sandy bottom was full of elephant poop and eventually we spotted some foot prints. Everything was so quiet, and we were cruising at almost zero speed, trying to make as little noise as possible. 15 meters high acacia trees shaded the river bed so vast that we were unable to see the banks, our lilliputian vehicle lost, dwarfed, nullified. Then the bull appeared, and suddenly the astonishing scale of the landscape made sense.
Elefantul ne-a ingaduit aproape; era atat de liniste incat il puteam auzi rontaind la scoarta. Elefantii de desert nu au nevoie sa bea in fiecare zi si au fildesii mai mici, tociti, datorita dietei mai sarace in nutrienti. Dar masculul acesta era imens. Speram sa-l revedem spre seara, caci urma sa ne instalam tabara in aval, chiar in albia raului. Cat am mai bantuit in cautarea locului potrivit, alte animale ale desertului ne-au aparut, ca niste fantasme, in cale: girafe suple, antilope Oryx, struti, pasari de Guineea…
He allowed us to watch, and it was so quiet that we could hear him chewing on bark. Desert elephants don’t need to drink every day and their tusks are smaller, due to the scarcity of nutrients in their environment. But this guy was an impressive size and we were hoping to see him again later, as we would set up camp downstream, into the river bed. Looking for a spot to pitch our tents we met more surreal creatures: slender giraffes, Oryx, ostriches, guinea fowls…
Urma de girafa: ghiciti sensul de mers!
Giraffe footprint: guess the walking direction!
Braai-ul a fost insotit de vin rosu, apoi veni vremea sa ne bagam in pat, adica sub plasele de tantari, unde trageam “in piept’, neintrerupte, imaginea cerului instelat, mirosul uscat de nisip fierbinte si chemarile sacalilor si ale pasarilor de noapte. Am dormit neintorsi. Ne-am trezit cand inca era intuneric: un elefant isi lua o gustare, cativa metri mai incolo si am ascultat fericiti cum natura isi recapata, domol, energia. Bausem ceva alcool in ajun, dar nu halucinam: animalele au mai mult respect pentru noi decat noi pentru ele. In acel moment, in acel loc, oameni si animale eram din nou un intreg, dormisem, ne hranisem, traiam, in armonie, impreuna.
Rasaritul a umplut cu o lumina alba, psihedelica, valea. Ramuri moarte zaceau in dune iar florile de desert isi deschideau delicate aromele.
We enjoyed more red wine with our braai, then it was time to have some rest. Lying under our mosquito nets, we saw everything, we heard everything. The sky was white with stars, jackals and birds were calling their mates, the river was silent, smelling of heat and sand. It was one of the most relaxing places we ever slept in and we woke up when it was still dark, when the bull from earlier passed by our camp, snacking on more bark. We were humbled by the respect wild animals had for us, keeping the right distance from our camp, allowing us in their home for one surreal night. And we don’t think we were under influence there, it is that simple. We live together, we share, we survive.
Of course, the sunrise was just as psychedelic, a white haze filling up the valley, deserts flower delicately scenting the dry, fresh air.
S-a fiert ceaiul, s-au mancat sandwichurile, s-au facut bagajele, s-au sters urmele efemerei noastre tabere. Aerul era deja incins, ochii orbiti de lumina, mirosul sufocat de arsita. Sacalii, antilopele, strutii si babuinii isi vedea deja de treburile zilnice.
Tea was brewed, sandwiches were fixed, tents were packed, careful to remove all traces of our ephemeral campsite. The sun was obliterating smell and vision, air too hot already. Jackals, antelopes, ostriches, baboons were going about their business.
Am ales un drum diferit pentru intoarcere, amanand iesirea din albia uscata, in care radacini imense zaceau marturie a nor moment in care raul readuce la viata valea. Am urmarit o vreme, inca increduli, urme si excremente proaspete de elefanti, in aparenta pui insotiti de adulti. Si cateva curbe mai departe chiar i-am intalnit, la umbra, luandu-si o racoroasa baie de nisip.
Going back we took a different way through the river bed, wondering at the huge exposed roots of the trees, unsuccessfully trying to picture the river flooded with water. Some fresh elephant poop and recent footprints appeared: two babies with some adults maybe. Incredulously, we followed them along, and here they were, a bunch of elephant mammas with the little ones, taking a lovely sand bath!
In acest taram al ierbivorelor, pradatorii nu ar fi trebuit sa fie prea departe. Si in curand am avut dovada: urme proaspete de lei, pui si adulti, insa animalele au ramas ascunse, camuflate in culorile dulci ale ierbii.
With all the antelopes swarming the land, that had to be a predator’s heaven. Soon we met the proof: fresh lion foot prints, lots of them, cubs with adults. We tracked them for a while, thrilled, but of course the lions remained elusive, minding their own business in the perfectly matching colors of the veld.
Urma unor pui de leu
Lion foot print
Laba de leu adult si palma Anei
Adult lion paw next to Ana’s hand
Pe masura ce ne apropiam de iesirea din albie, nisipul a devenit mlastina, iarba uscata si scaietii au lasat locul unei vegetatii inalte in care un elefant isi facea dusul de noroi.
As we drove on, the sandy bottom started oozing water, brittle desert plants giving way to a marshy field of tall grass, where another bull was enjoying his beauty mud bath.
Prin cheile de piatra am iesit inapoi in campie: eram la fel de magnetizati ca si cu o zi in urma, insa mai tacuti, nostalgici. Escapada noastra se apropia de sfarsit.
Exiting the river bed back into the veld, our party of three was still as boozed as the day before, but more quiet, nostalgic, really. Our awesome escape was coming to a close.
La intoarcere ne-am oprit, desigur, pentru o alta sticla de lichior de ginger: doar nu era sa riscam o pana de cauciuc, nu-i asa? La 80 de km de “casa” ne-am amintit insa ca nu e ok sa conduci baut. Lodge-ul din pasul alpin era in drumul nostru, proprietarul e tovaras cu Vital, asa ca era normal sa ne abatem pentru a ne reveni dupa vin si bere. Era momentul pentru cateva randuri de gin tonic. Cabana este construita chiar pe buza canionului, intr-o rezervatie naturala. Acum 132 de miloane de ani Gondwana s-a fragmentat pe aceasta muchie de lava, pe care ploile o transforma inca intr-un peisaj ametitor. Gazdele noastre au fost prea ospitaliere: casa (bungalow eco pe marginea prapastiei), masa (cina de fite). Romani si belgian, ne-am zis, in unanimitate, sa sarbatorim evenimentul cu doua sticle de vin.
On our way back we stopped again for the mandatory ginger liquor, but some beers later, 80 kilometers before home, we remembered one must not drink and drive. So we parked at the pass lodge, which belongs to a friend of Vitals, to collect our composure with the aid of several double gin and tonic. The lodge was built in an environmentally friendly way in a pristine conservancy, on the rim of the ancient Gondwana split, among 132 million years old volcanic mountains. But the night was young, the view was stunning, and our generous hosts proposed dinner and bungalows perching on the edge of the canyon. So we stayed. Tempering the pampering with two bottles of red.
In tarile noastre asa-zis occidentale, traim departe de natura, de salbaticie. Muncim din greu pentru a mentine distanta. Unele voci insa spun ca am devenit o specie decuplata de la mecanismele vietii. dar intr-un astfel de loc, singura intrebare este: “cum ne-am putea dori mai mult, altceva?” Deschide ochii, si vezi.
In our so-called Western world, we live far from the wild. We work hard to maintain the boundaries. Some even believe that we have become a species disconnected from the natural mechanisms of life. But in a place like this, one cannot help but wonder, “how could I possibly want more, something else?” Just open the eye into the world, and see.