The Scribe

Here is a voice narrative of the text below, if you prefer.   He sat at his desk in a clearing under a giant sausage tree. His table was self-made and somewhat rickety; heaven knows how far and from where his bush-ravaged plastic chair (and the single one for a customer) had come. A well-worn path suggested that his dwellings were a few hundred paces further towards the river, but close by was a flimsy thatched structure for when it rained during office hours. I simply had to stop to meet him. He must have been well aware of...

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Reconnoitering for the Future

Dear companions, You can listen to this voice narrative or read through the text below. I have been absent for some weeks, away on a reconnaissance. I have long wanted to form an idea of what the far western part of the Kalahari of Botswana looked like on the ground. From Google Earth imagery, and, a few times, from hazy views out of aircraft windows at cruising height, it seemed tantalisingly deserted. Not a single fine scribble that might indicate a road, nor any pin-sized dots that could mean dwellings. Just the endless savannah, flecked here and there with...

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Two Worlds in Time and Space

You can listen to the vopice recording, or read the text below. Enjoy!   Late afternoon, and now a hand pump in a bare space, mounted in a concrete basin. Someone, perhaps the local chief, perhaps the chefe du posto, had once, when the excitement was still high about the arrival of the drilling machine and all the strange activity, decided that the shiny new pump was really special and should be covered. But the idea seemed to have run out of steam, and it ended up as a few twisted poles, more suggestive of a primitive shrine than...

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Solitude

You can either listen to the voice recording, or read though the text below: The open savannah parkland of earlier this morning had changed, to stands of  marula, knobthorn and acacia with groves of raisin bush, sickle bush, shrub acacia and bush willow. Progress with the vehicle had become a twisting torture through the thickets. It was hot and dry and dusty. I got enclosed in a cocoon of scraping and cracking and thumping, battling the unwilling steering wheel, or getting out to chop or clear or fill obstacles, or unclogging radiator screens… My senses were being saturated and...

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The Wisdom of the Wilderness

You can listen to the voice recording below, or read the text. Enjoy!   The bush was a windless oven. Plants stood in their swaths of shade, gasping through their stomata. Animals clustered in the coolness that they brought, heads lowered, barely stirring, save for the flick of a tail or the twitch of an ear. Birds sat with wings hanging and beaks gaping. It was time for us to seek the shade, to rest, to chat, to mend, to fiddle, to read, but mostly, to learn – by revisiting what we had seen and heard and smelled and...

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A Wanderer’s Haven

You can either read the text below, or listen to the voice recording.   A pleasant morning coffee in my base camp. I had just, the previous afternoon, arrived in the area after four days of breaking through the bush, and I decided to linger here for a few days, maybe a week… I dislike moving through virgin bush in a vehicle. It reduces the experience of Nature to a mechanical grind that tends to soak up all one’s energy and attention. It is noisy and disruptive to the environment, and on top of that, it is fraught with...

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The Waterhole Trap

Either listen to the voice recording, or skip to the text below.   The footpaths began to merge. They became more trodden out. They were whispering, “You will find it soon.” The bush unravelled till there were only a few trees, shattered by years of breaking and browsing. And then, there it lay, open to the sky, its surface as smooth as polished glass, a mirror to the clouds. It was as tranquil, as inviting, as soothing to the eye as had been anticipated. And there were signs of carefree indulgence, in the huge pale patches and the roll...

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“I knew you were there all the time…”

A zebra blew through its nostrils. It was faint, and not an alarm sound, just a casual snort. But I instinctively froze and checked the wind. There was a slight breeze, in my favour. I could not see anything, only make out muted snapping and rustling of foliage, and hoof stomping as they tried to rid themselves of the biting flies. It had to be quite a herd. They were moving through the thickets towards me, grazing as they went. They were getting close. I could hear the swishing of their bushy tails and the ripping as they plucked...

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The Morning Walk

The morning walk is a spontaneous thing. It has no set time of beginning or end, no specific place or direction. It carries no obligation, no demand, only impulse. It is an exploration and it happens at a pace that allows for observation and wondering (and wonderment). The time and the place for the morning walk comes with arrival in the bush. But arrival is not (only) the event of finally finding myself physically located in the bush. It is much more. Arrival is a slow process of changing awareness – actually, “process” leaves the wrong impression. The latter...

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The Rhythm of the Nomads

As we journeyed northwards, the bare salt flats of the pans gradually became patched with ever bigger islands of stiff salt grass, until they merged into continuous grass plains. On the horizon, palm trees quivered in the mirage, like fine fur in the breeze. And here, there were zebra and wildebeest, some in little clusters, some in quite sizeable herds. They were restless, these last stragglers of the migrations from the Chobe area to the north, and the Okavango to the west.  The salt grass of the flats, for which they had come here months ago was now cropped...

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