Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Night Moves




Against the melting blue sky we saw the shadowy silhouette of a cheetah as he disappeared into a thicket of acacia while the sun slipped behind the hills to make way for the night. A canopy of stars lit the plain stretching towards Kilimanjaro far way beyond Amboseli, but often majestically visible in daylight. The only sound was the shrill short whistle of cicadas and the gentle, velvet whisper of the night air as we drove over the little track across the savannah.

We saw fever trees etched in inky black against the huge African moon and a herd of hartebeest with their sentinels perched on ant hills. Over there, a scattering of gazelle and a waterhole in which the moon was reflected like a large and solitary water lily. We climbed, then turned downhill to a stream bed where we hoped we might see a leopard.

The trees were taller and denser here and multi-shaped. They half encircled another small waterhole on higher ground and we stopped to watch huddled impala drinking and throwing up their heads to listen for the sound of danger. There was a contrast of peace and tension, light and shadow. A nightjar shrieked. Silence mixed with the splash and gurgle of water and the night noises of a hungry Africa.

I looked hard into the moon shadows of the acacia trees and saw a darker shape moving down the trampled mud path to the waterhole. ‘It’s a rhino,’ Guy whispered.

As it came out of the shadows I could see more clearly the thick armour plating of its hide. He wouldn’t be attacked so the animal didn’t have to hesitate or sniff the air. He simply drank from the shimmering pool. We could hear the sucking and sloshing as though water was being slopped from a bucket.

We waited quietly as the Jurassic beast quenched his thirst and we watched the moon rise higher. Silver flooded the waterhole and removed the acacia shadows, darkening others and lighting the rhino’s hide so it shone like metal as he ambled away. Presently a jackal barked shrilly with a suddenness that startled us and a lion roared with the chesty power of Pavarotti. One could almost feel the air tremble, although he wasn’t that close.

He was leading his young pride to drink. We watched them, one, two, three, four young with two older lionesses. The male drank alone while the family stood behind in respect. Once sated, he turned away and gave a cheeky youngster a cuff and a rich growl in passing

The early October night had enough chill in it to cause a shiver. An impala buck, its fine head of horns outlined in the moonlight was standing watching the movement of the lions. It took a few steps towards them and thumped its forelegs on the ground, drumming a warning, then swung swiftly round and cantered away onto the open plain that stretched to the stars on the far horizon. It was time to return to camp. Guy - my alpha male - was hungry!


33 comments:

jinksy said...

Powerful painting from your pen - I could feel the lion's roar stirring the air...

lakeviewer said...

Tessa-You have the heart of a poet. I was transported, in love withe the landscape. You speak Africa with every word you use.

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

You did a superb job describing that, Tessa. You do have an excellent way with words. You surpass many people with your descriptive abilities. It was as if I was there with you and saw it happening. I was perched on the edge of my seat. Thanks for such an excellent bit of writing. You have many tales to tell, I hope to read many of them.

Bee said...

That picture is magical -- and so are your words. I like the image of "fever trees etched in inky black against the huge African moon."

BTW, I was in London yesterday -- soaking up Africa in Daunt Books for Travellers!

Rob Inukshuk said...

A wonderful sunset photo accompanied by an awesome description of night drive. You are indeed talented - a painter of pictures and weaver of words!

Elizabeth said...

Stunning and poetic.
I think I would have been rather nervous!

A Cuban In London said...

Oh, this is powerful narrative! I was lapping up each word I read in the same way the animals you saw were drinking the water. The 'rhino', moving stealhily and sinuously, its chubby legs supporting its armoured body. You have a superb knack for telling tales (rather writing tales) and illustrating with the apposite image. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Yoli said...

This is such beautiful writing. You transported me there, I was with you, I saw through your eyes.

Renee said...

Wow Tessa, you can tell me bed time stories any night of the week.

I can't believe how you can make cabble sound so elegant.

Love Renee xoxoxo

Glad you like the readings babe.

Delwyn said...

Hello Tessa,
Your words conjured up a vivid series of images,
thank you for the beautiful scenes

Woman in a Window said...

Surely this doesn't exist, although I know it must. But so far removed from my understanding. Well rendered.

The W.O.W. factor! said...

My goodness Tessa!!
I just had to pick my body up off of my desktop! I found myself crouching lower and lower, grasping for a glimpse, a sound, a sence of being there...with every letter of every word you wrote!!
Not only do Night Moves pertain to the creatures of the Earth, this picture moves as well! The setting sun readying itself for nightfall...the semi vertical lines, falling slowly...against the solid horizontal lines of the horizon, the trees.
I am "moved" !!
This was an incredible journey you took me on and Thank you!!
I love traveling with you Tessa!!
XoXo
Barb

Lori ann said...

I CAN'T WAIT.

♥♥♥ lori


p.s. gorgeous pic

Angela said...

I once slept outside of a camp, just under a mosquito net, next to the Luangwa River, and I heard all the sounds you conjured - they are true, Woman in the Window, believe me! This was almost 40 years ago, and when I close my eyes, or listen to your words, I am there again! You NEVER forget Africa. Impossible! Thanks Tessa!

karen said...

Beautiful, Tessa. What a lovely photo, and I did enjoy the Jurassicity of that Rhino! x

Sarah Laurence said...

Magical! Oh to see that much in one night! You bring me back to my time in Kenya. Such a lovely photo and such evocative words. You leave me hungry for more.

Lola said...

Yes, yes, yes! All so vivid and touching, I still get very emotional when thinking of Africa, its skies, the wildlife, the aroma, those fever trees...

The first time I heard an Alpha male lion roar, beckoning his faraway pride, I thought I was going to melt away with fear and love at the same time. You paint and speak Africa the way I have it stored in my heart, in my memories. The poetic descriptions brought tears of nostalgia to my eyes. And that acacia sunset... stunning. Thank you

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow! My landscape, compared to the descriptions of Africa I read here and on the blogs of others, is so BLAND. Birds, dogs, cats, squirrels ... big deal!

Wow you saw a rhino in person, under the moon. Wow.

Linda Sue said...

Beautiful and powerful..it is difficult to be an arrogant human being in nature as magnificent as that. I grew up in a similar wild place though not as exotic, still there was a respect given to creatures whose home it was, appreciation that they allowed us pink soft beings to cohabitate, sometimes they ended up on our dinner table and sometimes we ended up being gnawed on- It seemed fair back then. Now it is all out of whack- arrogance poisoned my home before i got to go back to rekindle my love for the wild, open space beneath a back starry night sky. I hope you go back to Africa often. I hope that one day I may go as well.Your writing - beautiful!

elizabethm said...

I am so envious of this - fabulous blog about a fabulous place.

lisaschaos said...

Wow! You painted as lovely a photo with your words as you did with your camera. :)

Jenners said...

Really beautiful. Kind of reminded me of Isak Dinesen's "Out of Africa" a little bit -- one of my favorite books!

Stunning photo too!

Beth Kephart said...

My word, a place, a feeling, a moment I transfer from your beautiful holding-still-of-it-all to my own heart.

A cheetah.

A rhino.

Sentinels.

Renee said...

Educated ignorance; I couldn't agree more how frightening that is.

Love Renee xoxo

studio lolo said...

You never fail to transport me to someplace magical with your words and pictures. It's so very clear that your heart is filled with Africa, your beloved, sacred place.
Thank you for sharing.
XX

Polly said...

I love this post, I could almost smell the African air when I read it.

I saw a rhino in a jungle in Nepal two years ago and I remember thinking exactly the same - Jurassic park beast! It was magnificent... and meeting it was one of the most amazing moments in my life.

Polly

DEB said...

Wow Tessa! I share the sentiments of all these bloggers who have commented! I'll also add that I would NOT be hoping to see a leopard, and I would be GLAD the cheetah was leaving, and I do not ever want to be close enough to a rhino to hear him drinking. I love painting these animals, but 3 dimensions - nope! You are very brave.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

So exciting! I was right there with you. I could hear it all. And see it, and smell it! Marvelous, Tessa.
Catherine

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

Hey Tessa, what a powerful post and the picture just makes it even more powerful!!!! I agree with Lakeviewer that says, " You have a heart of a poet" It comes out in your writing and in your fabulously moving painting! You create magic that soothes. Thanks so much for sharing.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

What a vivid scene of an African night! I particularly loved this line: a lion roared with the chesty power of Pavarotti. Oh yes, sums it up beautifully!

pRiyA said...

You sure are living on the edge dear. If this photograph is so beautiful, I can't even begin to imagine what experiencing the real stuff must be like.

Björnik said...

HAHAHAHA! Hello Tessa, you're very funny and an excellent storyteller too. I have to agree with my friend Renee there. Ok, I'll let you get away with this week's topic.:P

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