A while back I published a post called "Help...!" about some writings of mine that I lost in cyberspace. Bog be praised, I found them all safe and sound, archived by the website ws.geocities this drab Dutch afternoon after another despaired fit of rummaging the internet for my lost memories.
Let me just celebrate this moment of relief by posting an excerpt of one of the lost texts and tell you that the whole story is visitable here again, in all its former gore and glory.
That day was not a day of rest for the elements of the dessert. The day was one the air was astir. The wind was taking off the tops of the dunes and carrying them away, whipping the sand on, along the plains, and between the rise and fall of the landscape. It was a day the dunes were wandering. Travelling like us.
We had been stuck in the little place in the middle of nowhere for two days before we found a lift out -now on the road again, we got caught in a minor sandstorm. Translucent banners of sand could be seen waving, drifting off the crests of dunes. And even though the tops of each hill our 4-by-4 climbed were tall and set wide apart, you could not see beyond the top of the next hill, so densely was the atmosphere hung with dust.
The mountain range of Hombori hid in the mist like the silhouette of a fat snake having swallowed a hat. The dirt track we were gliding along on send off thick cloud-like mushrooms of sand in our wake, rising up into the air like a wall of smoke rising from a fire. Fleeing the ground to unite itselves with the wandering dunes. The sun lingered behind these yellow curtains of dust, feebly, sickly yellow itself, crushing the day with heat, a jaundiced juggernaut in the discoloured sky. It was still long hours but when it finally lost its blinding luminosity spilling over its limits, blurring its contours and eventually gained edges -that was when you knew it was about to set. It would soon simply be too weak to pierce the swaying curtains of dust. Then, violet twilight would descend unglamorously, rendering the atmosphere nothing more than more opaque and soon we were shook and knocked about in the dark. "It is amazing how the sky is so naked now" said Kati to me, but then, of course, one by one the stars came out and soon Cassiopeia had assembled herself straight ahead, right in our field of vision, humming her great M down on us. The moon in the meantime had hung up its waxing sicle backwards as is her habit down there, like some sort of sardonic smiley, so eery without eyes. Before midnight we stopped to spend the night.
When we got up in the morning, the wind had settled and over tea our eyes reached out to that long mountain ridge, clear cut and imposing in the early light, clutching the ground with broad elephant feet. It was to run parallel to our route this morning, those few hours of our bumpy ride, till the distance would begin to colour the red cliffs in our rear blue, and they they would start to become pure silhouette, ever shrinking. Fastening my gaze onto the former towering heights reduced by distance to those unspectacular zaggy slabs pressing to the ground -ducking from the greater, brighter blue of the vast sky- I watched their final dissappearance, becoming mere shadows, disturbances on the horizon, lurking behind, not even reaching up over the low bushes of the savannah.
And so, we made it to Timbuktu.
It is amazing how one country's proverbial epitome of a town at the end of the world is another country's bustling metropolis. Or appeared to be so coming from where we'd come from right then.
The place we had been stuck in had had one single dust-swept main street lined with six or seven stores, all with the same limited stock -hairgel, tea, biscuits, batteries- who refused to sell anything if you didn't have the right change. So now once again being on a tarred road felt uncannily like "being back", and when we were dropped off in the first village after the river where we were about to spend the night, we threw ourselves rapaciously onto the food stalls lining the street. "I'm going to spoil myself and splurge! Salad, mayonnaise, potatoes... I don't care even if I spend, like, -a dollar fifty!!" Kati flipped discovering the range of foods available.
My travel companions were also gifted story-tellers. Same story, different view point here: Through the eyes of Kat.