Public Key (xLvi)

I woke up with the strangest sensation that I was hanging suspended in the middle of the air. Took me longer than I care to admit to realize that’s just what I was doing.

I must have closed my laptop in the night. It was still plugged in, power cord trailing down like something out of a science fiction movie. I wondered what would have happened had I rolled over in my sleep, sending the laptop crashing to the floor. I wondered what living in a hut would be like without a computer to keep me company.

I sat down with myself and gave myself a good hard talking-to, until I promised myself I’d never do anything that would cause me to find out.

I got myself out of the hammock with the grace of a pelican in power armor. I filled my washbasin and dunked my head in the water. It was as warm as the surface of the moon. I could feel the cold entering my pores and stabbing at my brain. Hell yeah I was awake. Better than coffee.

I resolved not to faff about any longer. For some time now I’d been on a great adventure. I was still on that adventure. This was just the next step on the path. I would ignore the world beyond, however much of it was quite demonstrably out to get me. Buckle down, and get to living my life.

The next stop on my grand adventure was the washing machine.

The main lodge was little more than the big living-room with a little basement beneath. The Aussie – Oakley? – Oakley – must have lived somewhere else. The basement had some store-rooms, all locked, and a washer and a dryer that looked rather new.

There were signs on the wall explaining how use them. Telling you to clean the lint trap, take things out of your pockets, don’t overload. The signs were in eighteen languages. I got the impression that a broken washing machine was not a pleasant thing in Lesotho. Or at least in the Mokhotlong district, which was to Maseru what the Ozarks are to Orange County.

I ran my clothing into the washer, topping it off with a generous squirt of Castile. A minute later I opened the machine and threw in my shoes. I hung around through the wash cycle, then again for the dry, just hanging out with my thoughts. And, like all guys doing their laundry, hoping someone pretty would show up.

I didn’t see another soul. Which was probably just as well.

It was about five hundred yards from the main lodge to my little room. I stuffed my laundry into my suitcase and started to wheel it back. I decided that now was a good time to get the lay of the land. In about ten seconds I’d come to a standstill, and just stared.

I can’t describe what the place was like. I really can’t. I can tell you where everything was. I can tell you how many paces from one hut to another. I can tell you how fast the river ran, how high it got after a rainfall, how deep it was at its widest point, how narrow it was at its deepest. But those are just numbers. I can’t tell you what it felt like. I’ve tried. I’ve tried hard. I cannot.

It was just beautiful.

It wasn’t palm trees and paradise. It wasn’t cold mountains and regal. It was beautiful because it was itself.

I remember I’d taken a trip to the Painted Desert once. That had been a different world. I’d spent two weeks in the redwoods with Luc and some other friends from school. That had been a different world. The first time I ever drove through Co-Op City, that had been a different world. My drive through Madagascar had been a dozen such worlds, and all of them were new to me.

This was another. And like all the others, it was beautiful.

No doubt a Mosotho visiting my home in New England would have felt much the same. If it made him feel like I did then, I hoped he would.

The bushcamp was its own isthmus, bordered on three sides by a river. To the left the river turned and went straight away. To the right it curved and kept curving and went back on itself to make a great hairpin. If I’d walked straight I would have gone down to the river. If I’d crossed it I would have climbed a steep slope to the top of a hill. Just as quickly I’d have gone down the other side and been back at the river. If I’d walked another mile, straight ahead I’d have struck the same river again. And again, a few miles further, but I didn’t know that then.

The river was a hundred feet wide, maybe eighty at its narrowest point. It flowed quickly, this near the ox-bow to end all ox-bows. I would have liked to shoot it in a canoe. If only the canoe had been padded on every side. And I was wearing a suit of armor. And I knew how to use a canoe.

The river had gouged a course for itself. If it had gone straight it would have been a canyon. As it was I had no idea what it was. The main lodge of the Mokhotlong Bushcamp was about five hundred feet higher in altitude than the surface of the river. The difference in altitude between my hut and the main lodge was about the same as it was between the ground floor and the penthouse in an apartment building. A twenty-story apartment building.

The lodge was the highest structure on the peninsula. It was still a hundred feet down from the top of the rise, which was on a level with Majakaneng and Makaoteng and Sekokong and the camptown of Mokhotlong, namesake of the district, some ten miles back up the road. There were three cars parked up by the main lodge, all 4x4s. I hadn’t even noticed them before.

As you walked down the peninsula you encountered the lodges. There was a big rondavel, of a size that spoke of its foreign architect. That was the prissy lodge, where the two couples were staying. Their big SUV was parked beside it. Fifty yards beyond were four square houses grouped loosely around a stone gazebo, like a rondavel with most of its walls knocked out. After that there were two groupings of four rondavels, each four surrounding its own campfire with a bathhouse in between. Then there were four outlying rondavels, two singles, two larger huts that looked like doubles. They were each about a thousand yards from the main lodge. One of the two smaller ones was mine.

My hut was as far as possible from the main lodge, from all the limited amenities of the camp, from any hint of friendly society.


Beyond my hut there was about three hundred yards of land in every direction. Dusty earth gave way to shrubs and then lush grasses as you got nearer the river’s watershed. Then there was a very steep drop, practically a cliff, then the soggy green bank of the river. More or less of it, I was to discover, depending on the swell of the river.

The source of the river was high in the mountains. It was only some ten miles away. I’d already descended from nearly ten thousand feet to around seven thousand.

It was a beautiful day, crisp and clear, the sun high in the sky. It was springtime, there on the south side of the equator. Two months before there would have been snow on the ground. Still I could see some white clinging to distant peaks. I had no idea what two more months would bring. What changes they would make on the landscape. What new things they would bring for me to see.

I hoped that I would be there to find out.


~ by davekov on 21 February 2011.

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