The luminously talented Steven from The Golden Fish has inspired his bloggy friends and followers from around the world to write about a transformative moment in their life, and post it today. He, too, will share his absorbing story with us, and will link us to other writers, photographers and artists who have written of a moment suspended in time which changed them, influenced or inspired them.
There have been many moments in my life – as I’m sure there have been for others – which have left me breathless with wonder and awe. Almost all of those moments still resonate somewhere deep in my heart and I have written of these encounters and adventures elsewhere on this blog, with an encapsulation of them in my first ever blog post – Shikamuu. But I think the moment that held the deepest significance for me was during a safari with my sister and brother-in-law to Kenya’s fabled Jade Sea some 30 years ago now. Please, come with me as we journey to Lake Turkana……
Set like a many faceted jewel into the arid desolation of Kenya’s northern frontier there is a lake of insuperable beauty. It is surrounded by volcanic boulders and purple hills blanketed by brilliant sunshine and star-bright nights. A hot dry wind stirs the sand into wavering drifts which veil the rocks and fill the water carved gullies that jut out like dragon’s teeth from the deep blue-green waters of a lake called Turkana. Hemmed in by an apocalyptic moonscape of extinct volcanoes and towering ants’ nests, this inland sea whispers of legend and mystery.
The little Cessna banked steeply and we flew low over the water like a seabird seeking its quarry. Approaching the tiny cluster of bandas on the far bank, Ian waggled the wings to announce our arrival as the plane skimmed the makuti roof of the main building. Beyond the lodge the terrain spread wide and empty to the far horizon. A thick cloak of dust enveloped us as we landed and when it settled, Ian opened the door and we clambered out over the wing into the searing heat of a desert sun. The air thrummed with cicada song as I turned and squinted towards the fabled ‘Jade Sea’ which glistened with a sharply aqueous light in an almost surreal contrast to the ochre and blackened earth which spread away from it to the hazy purple mountains beyond. The cicadas stopped their cacophonous clamour abruptly as the throaty roar of the pick-up Land Rover gathered momentum and crashed its way over stony ground towards us.
The water was deliciously cool against our burning skin as we slid, gasping, into its silky embrace. After a fast burst of crawl, we stopped and treaded water. I lay back and looked up into the blue expanse of sky where the pale slither of a ghostly moon drifted imperceptivity along its celestial path towards the night. Floating alongside me, Janie touched my arm and in a menacing whisper hissed “Here be croc-o-diles!” We shrieked simultaneously and a rush of adrenaline propelled us back to shore.
Wrapped in kikois we walked away from the lake and out into the scrubby desert. It was here, in this rocky wilderness that we met the Turkana herdsman with whom I swapped my bush hat for a dozen brass bangles. With no common language, we communicated with nods and smiles and laughing gestures.
It was a little later, as the sky turned from deepest blue through a paint-chart backdrop of bold reds, succulent pinks, soft mauves and moody purples to herald the night, that we realised with a transcending certainty that we were at the very heart of Mother Africa. I sat close to my sister in the flickering light of our campfire as we listened to the symphony of an African night backed by the gentle murmur of the lake breathing softly onto the shore. For a moment my eyes caught the dance of firelight on the bangles given to me by the herdsman and then I looked up into the night. It was at that precise moment that I knew that it was indeed possible to reach up and touch the stars which, here at the pulsing heart of this majestic continent, had gathered like a million dancers into the vast folds of darkness. I knew, too, that I would never leave Africa.
“It is never easy to keep reaching for dreams. Strength and courage can sometimes be lonely friends, but those who do reach, walk in stardust.”
So you see, dear bloggy friends, you can touch those stars. Yes, you can. I promise you.