Settling in

DE HOOP NATURE RESERVE broke us in a bit. To three ridiculously delicious organic meals a day, much animated banter about everything from music to the redeeming potential of hemp plantations and, oddly, the perplexing ethical dilemma of whether or not to use your electric blanket on an eco-trip. I don’t have that dilemma – I carry a hot water bottle in winter. Though it’s the same fossil fuels burning to warm the water as the blanket, innit? #conundrum

The untold trip lay quiet before us while we sucked in the surroundings. The area’s serene vlei, icy air, swarming stars and martian sanddunes take one back in time to the cradle of civilisation that it is.

 We didn’t find fossils but we found fairly chilled buck and dassies.

As you can see, it helped us get past the awkward camaraderie that comes with suddenly living alongside near-strangers 24/7.

We loved the dunes, the shore, our beds, the meals, the skies.

We loved less the bus and its cranky tunes. It got us into some neat industrial yoga postures, though, and otherwise impossible tummy twists (mine).

We wandered around with animals and, with a little help from the aforementioned ‘tuning in circle’ that was to become a mainstay along with our breakfasts, we got to talking about ourselves a bit. The topic was ‘why I chose this trip and what I hope to discover through it’. Everyone seemed to be looking for something, whether it was a new personal chapter, a different profession or the matches that were here a minute ago.

This made for a cuddle of very cooperative, compassionate people who are as interesting as they are interested in the world around them. Our daily dinner parties were alive with contemplations of worm wee and how best to pilfer dumpsters, and when we unabashedly discussed the origins of women giving birth lying down over a main course, we realised we had a definite case of table talk. It was to flavour the trip entire and didn’t stay seated, either. As random groups of travellers go, Bridging The Gap drew individuals full of optimism and respect who are more than willing to chip in and chill out with equal fervour.

Speaking of fervour, our vehicle seemed out to kill us. The changing screams and squeals from its axle were like something out of a B-grade horror film. I’ve travelled alone in Africa, India, Madagascar, Israel, Turkey and Europe in all manner of vehicles, and the reason I’ve done so without being raped or having a single accident is not only the grace of the gods but that I know  when to put my foot down or to put foot and run. Sometimes your fears are your best friend and in certain contexts it’s worth risking being (seen as) ridiculous instead of, well, your life.  Fix it or I’m leaving, I said. Turns out I wasn’t alone in my concerns and after a few days’ layover we were downwind of the damned thing, on the road in a much better beast of a bus, full of questions, and keen to put on our green belts and plant some trees. First we had to learn a little Italian.

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