Ghosts of ancient oceans

I can no longer tell reality from a dream.

The Karoo region of South Africa is a canvas of such arresting hues, textures, languages, ecosystems, elevations, and cultural mixes, that when I close my eyes, the bizarre landscape of imagination pales in comparison.

We began the day on a desolate road that bordered precipices while being a thoroughfare for freely wandering livestock that questioned our understanding of a passing lane. By midday we climbed up a bolder “road” that the Range Rover clawed at for dear life before reaching to a highland meadow 7000 feet above the flatlands. This was Shangri-la, a forbidden place that provided views into antiquity that only poets could fathom. Towering buttes stood sentinel over the ghosts of ancient oceans.

“Must be a good resource for dinosaur fossils?” I asked David the night before. “No”, he replied. “It’s too old.”

Yet, this ancient, endlessly dry and barren expanse was just recently a thriving grassland. Great herds of eland, springbok, impala, and zebra, followed by their predators, lions, leopards, hyena and jackal, ran for as far as the eye could see, like ark flotilla in a sea of amber grass. Abundant springs, and fountains, or fontein, as the settling Dutch called them, dotted the region, creating sapphires of replenishment and inspiring names such as a Venterfontein, Springbokfontein, and Wolwefontein.

Humans created this semi-desert.

Humans can reverse it.

On the way home, a near full moon guided us through the veld. Families of kudu ran before us, their slick brown fur dampening the reflection of the headlight beams, like phantoms, before gracefully leaping over roadside barbed wire, disappearing into the darkness as mysteriously as they emerged.


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