Close Up Natural Facials…and naked fear

So there I was, camping in the wilderness and fascinated by the animals on the plains. What would happen – I wondered – if I asked them nicely for a few close up portraits? I had to find out.

c3Zebra didn’t mind at all, although she insisted on combing her mane first. She wanted to look her best.

c5Elephant couldn’t care less and ambled past. “You have once chance, Buddy. Then leave me alone…” The threat was unmistakable.

c2Mrs Aardwolf wasn’t interested either. Her new baby needed all her attention and left no time for cosmetics or a visit to the hair salon. “Come back in three month’s time,” she pleaded, “I’ll try to look a bit more presentable then.”

c4The young lovers were…er…busy. “Please…this is a private moment. Leave now or face the consequences. Stick around and you’ll see….”

c1That’s when I heard the roar behind me. The camera bumped against my hip as I ran back to the vehicle, snapping the shot.

Up close? Maybe not a macro, but close enough…

Fia’s Story

048Rolbos has, purely through circumstances, an overwhelmingly European population. A small one, it is true, but still. It is extremely rare for them to play host to ‘other’ races despite the fact that they view themselves as  ‘very modern and open-minded.’  The subjects of gender equality, same-sex marriages and mixed-race relationships often lead to lively debates, but the group in Boggel’s Place has long ago adopted the motto of live and let live. They’ll be equally critical of the national teams’ performances or Oudoom’s sermons, simply because these things afford ample opportunity to explore diverging views in a safe environment. The exception is the government and the president: these they don’t have to debate at all. There’s no need to overemphasise the obvious…

Credit: isnicethat.com

Typical Herero dress and headgear       Credit: isnicethat.com

Despite this, the group lapses into a surprised silence when the Herero lady enters the little bar in Voortrekker Weg on this sunny morning.

“Good morning,” she greets after her eyes adjusted to the gloom inside the building. “I wonder if you can help me. I seem to be lost.”

Her accent is pure English, despite the traditional dress she is wearing. Gertruida (who else?) immediately gets up to offer her help after introducing the group.

“Oh…I am Fia. I’m on my way to Namibia but I must have taken the wrong turn somewhere?”

Gertruida quickly figures out that she took the wrong turn-off at Grootdrink and explains the way back.

“We don’t get many visitors, especially not Herero’s like yourself. Please, come in and enjoy something to drink? It’ll be our pleasure and our treat?”

An opportunity to listen to a stranger – hopefully with new stories – cannot slip through their fingers. Anyway, Gertruida’s curiosity won’t allow Fia to escape without learning where she is from and where she’s going. The group listens with rapt attention as Fia tells them about her visit to America.

She promotes ethnic art, she tells them, and often travels to the far-flung corners of the globe to seek opportunities for local artists. 575349450“So this year, I went to Los Angeles to attend the World Championship of Performing Arts. Man, was I proud! I watched the  Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers dance their way to three gold medals! Not with modern dancing, mind you, but with the oldest dance form in Southern Africa. Riel dancing originated with the San people and was handed down from generation to generation. They were even asked to dance again, at the closing gala event!”

The conversation drifts to Namibia, its beauty and it’s history. Fia is a natural conversationalist and well versed in the history of her country. She tells them of the years of war – reaching back to the Herero massacres by Germany in the later 1800’s. “But now we are a free and prosperous country. Our president isn’t like yours at all. Hage Geingob is a fair man and a devout Christian. And he’s married to only one woman.”

“But what about South Africa and Germany? After all the bloodshed – don’t you hate them?”

Fia laughs. “Hate the Germans? Are you crazy? Sure there were a lot of atrocities, but that was long ago. They left infrastructure, songs and music and for many years German was the lingua franca. They did exploration, mined minerals and built many churches. Today we play host to many, many German tourists every year – making a significant contribution to our economy. ” Her gaze grows distant before she adds, “The Germans were hard taskmasters, yes, but in some ways they left more than they took.”

After she leaves, Gertruida says that’s how history should be handled: with forgiveness and tact. But even she gasps in surprise when a letter arrives a week later.

Dear Rolbossers

Thank you for your kind hospitality. I really enjoyed my little visit and would love to entertain you in my B+B in Ondangwa sometime. Feel free to visit whenever you are in the vicinity.

Love,

Sophia Kauffman.

Note: The money was raised. They went to LA…and they did it!!

Charlie’s Molybdenum Experiment

IMG_4607aThey always said that Charlie looked a little…weird, And that he should thank his lucky stars. Charlie doesn’t like this gossip (even if some of it is true), which is why the old man lives quietly on his barren patch of Kalahari sand and very seldom comes to town. Once a year, in fact, to pick up the new Landcruiser the dealership has ready for him – papers done, licence and everything. He never squabbles about the trade-in – he’s far too rich to worry about such simple trivialities.

Vetfaan recently witnessed just such a transaction and now sits at the counter in Boggel’s Place, recounting the event.

“Man, that old man didn’t even say good morning or anything. Held out his hand for the keys, sort of nodded his thanks, and drove off. Cash Banks – remember him, the dealer? –  shrugged and pocketed the cheque before heading off to the Oasis Casino to celebrate. Invited me along, saying he wished he had more customers like that.”

“To think it all started by accident,” Servaas smiles wistfully. “Just goes to show…”

***

Charlie – with his short legs, skew teeth and underdeveloped jaw – detested his nickname. Donkey isn’t exactly complimentary, after all. Boys joked about him, girls avoided him (‘Imagine being kissed! Ugh! It’d be like a rabbit working his way up your neck…’) The only good thing to come from all that, was Charlie’s determination to prove he didn’t deserve the moniker. After school, he studied chemistry at the University of Cape Town, paying his way by working on the railways (as stoker) during the holidays. These two facts determined the luxury of his later lifestyle.

Sure enough, Charlie graduated and obtained a BSc  degree – but then failed to find employment. At every job interview the employers gaped at the weak jaw and declared the position already filled.  When at last he returned to the Kalahari, he was a broken man. Donkey, indeed! Society had been right: he had no prospects.

What could he do? He decided that his degree was a waste of time and that the only place he wouldn’t be ridiculed would be in the veld, tending a small flock of sheep. At least they didn’t care about his looks. Sheep didn’t not giggle behind his back and didn’t run away when he called them.

molybAnd so we find Charlie next to his little fire one night, staring at the small, blue flames dancing upon the embers. Why were they blue? The question bugged him until he remembered Molybdenum, the trace element one of his professors mentioned. Could it be that the heat-resistant, hard and rare metal was responsible – and was the last thing in the wood to submit to the intense heat of the embers? And if so, could it be that the hard camel thorn wood of the Kalahari contained enough Molybdenum to be a source of the rare material?

But, of course, the problem was much more complex than that. How, indeed, was he supposed to find out what caused the blue flames? He had to get a sample of the mysterious stuff and then have it analysed. Maybe he could send it to his professor? Donkey wasn’t entirely stupid: if he were to send a piece of wood t the university, he would be the laughing stock of the department (again). No, he needed to be scientific about this: a purified specimen was what he needed.

Charlie started experimenting – but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t catch a little blue flame in a bottle. Eventually he realised that whatever caused the blue flames, must be caught up in the smoke. The smoke was the answer! It surely contained the gaseous traces of whatever caused the blue colour. Okay…but how do you catch smoke?

And so Charlie set about – first with a towel, later with a large, wet sheet – to catch the hot smoke rising above his fire. He burnt a number of shirts, rags and even part of his tent before he managed to get a linen bedsheet filling up with smoke.

It is said that many scientific breakthroughs were the result of accidental findings. Antibiotics, X-rays, and falling apples contributed to this view.

Charlie was no exception.

***

“So he’s still living out there on the farm, all alone?” Kleinpiet downs his beer and signals for another.

“Oh no, my friend.” Vetfaan sighs. “He has this blonde running his business. A gorgeous thing with legs all the way to heaven and a body to die for. He met her up in Kenya, I heard. Apparently she was the one to convince him to expand. He adores her.”

“Ja, I heard she’s got some business degree. Clever girl, by all accounts.” Gertruida has to show off again. “MBA from Harvard, if I’m not mistaken. He had the idea, she had the knowledge. Formidable team.”

“Imagine that, hey?”

“There’s no telling why people get attracted to each other, Boggel. Apparently she was teaching at the university in Nairobi when Charlie went up there to see if his idea could work. They met at one of the colonial clubs, and bingo! The rest is history.”

“Well, what are the chances? A chap from the Kalahari and an American girl, teaming up to create Charlie’s Hot Air Balloon Safaris. Now they’re running one of the most lucrative businesses up there, in Malawi and Zambia. Rich tourists fork out fortunes to see Africa the CHABS way. And don’t forget: she was also the one to suggest the luxury lodges. Only royalty, celebrities and some of our politicians can afford it.”

“Goes to show,” Servaas says again. “Staring into the embers late at night is never a waste of time. It could unlock the most glorious future if you’re brave enough to dream. A bit of hot air, a brilliant idea and  blind girl.” He sighs heavily, staring out of the window. “…and no Molybdenum,”

“So what,” Vetfaan asks, “causes the blue flames?”

“Oxygen, Vetfaan. The stuff you breathe.” Gertruida, of course.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half

Every country offers the traveller something unique – something that makes you come back time and again. Namibia has it all: people, culture, comfort and wilderness. The countryside offers vast vistas of unspoilt nature where one can simply sit down and wonder about the magnificent creation around you. It’s a place filled with silence, solitude and…surprises.

For this half-and-half challenge, looking for some symmetry in the picture, the following:

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The contrast between the dry veld and the sky – with the thin line of mountains in the background – made me stop for this one.

IMG_4610Drawing nearer, the landscape changed as the sun slowly released its grip on the desert in the later afternoon.

IMG_4883aThe next day, the landscape was covered in withered grass and stunted trees – but the hills of ancient volcanic rocks formed a barrier between sand and sky.

IMG_5070aAnd here the surprise waited: a shallow pool, where two juvenile desert elephants posed for a while.

I’ll simply have to go again.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The colours of the rainbow..

Colour defines Africa. Across the world, people assume it’s a  Black/White thing, with colonialism and politics dominating the conversation at the mention of Africa’s hues. But over here, we revel in the true colours of the continent and it’s cultures.
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There are the red Himba people, proud traditionalists and fiercely independent. Red ochre, herbs and fat help to enhance the natural beauty of the women.

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And yes, there are green forests – plenty of them. The most beautiful green in the whole wide world, however, is found next to unexpected little streams in the desert.
breekyster 2010 140aBlue is for the sky. No Telephone poles, no power lines, no sign of man’s invasion. Africa’s blue heaven is a statement of her unblemished purity – a haven of peace when you leave the cities and the townships behind.

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It’s not that man doesn’t add colour to the environment. In the remote bush pubs tourists and lorry drivers leave mementos to spice up the scene.

IMG_3001Yet. nothing beats the colours of a real rainbow, like this permanent one at Victoria Falls. The symbolism is there for all to see: despite the raging torrent, the cascade and the noise, the rainbow hovers quietly to assure us that beauty can be found if you view anything from the right angle.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Off Season…

When the rains have gone and the waterlevel drops, Life becomes harsh.

420The veld loses it’s vitality as the small pools dry up.
Trip 2012 305 The fishermen give up hope. The boats will wait patiently for their return.

begin 2004 114a

The elephants are the last to leave. They know the way to a hidden spring.

begin 2004 130aAt last the veld is empty. Silent. Waiting…

103_0319aBecause Nature knows: the winter will pass. The rains will come and the animals return.There is – indeed – a time for every season under heaven.

Stoney Steenkamp’s Dream Factory (#3)

IMG_2578“It’s simple, really.” Stoney finally caved in and agreed to share his secret – but only after Gertruida swore she’d never breathe a word.

“Look at what’s happening in the country. All day, every day, we are bombarded with bad news. Corruption. Bribery. Farm murders. ESCOM. Strikes. Social unrests and protests. Police brutality. Municipalities going bankrupt due to inefficiency. E-tolls. Petrol prices going through the roof because the Rand is worth peanuts. Education and nursing. It’s almost as if the fabric of our society has unravelled and we are a lost nation.”

Gertruida nods. “So….?”

“What do we do about it?” He waits a second before answering his own question. “Nothing. We do nothing. We belong to a section of society that has been rendered powerless by history. No matter what you or I say, it’ll be labelled as ‘racist’ or blamed on Apartheid. And what do we do? We accept it. Why? Because we’ve been conditioned into accepting the blame for other’s mistakes. We have accepted our fate as a lost generation, just like a springbok stops running once the lion has its neck in his jaws. It’s still alive, but it knows what’ll happen next.”

“Thanks for the psychoanalysis, Stoney, but how does this tie in with your dream factory?”

“Look, there are two major opposing emotions at play here. Fear…and ecstasy. Poles apart, the outer borders of being an intelligent being. Add to that the power of suggestion.”

0 (1)Gertruida knows a lot about suggestion. Subliminal suggestion is why we follow – mindlessly so – the adverts we are bombarded with in the media every day. We get sensitised to believe certain products, and we get desensitised about other aspects of life. The trick is, she knows, to convey a message confidently and repeatedly – eventually the individual will follow the lead of whoever expresses a certain view. Advertising agencies and governments take full advantage of this simple fact and lulls the populace into buying certain products or accepting certain policies. The more aggressive the proponent and the less questioning the audience…and the more the message will be driven home with devastating accuracy.

“So, every time before you went to sleep, we had a good chat about what you could expect. Suggestion. Your brain now gears itself to think along those lines and it helps you to dream specific stuff. But that’s only the add-on. The real stuff is in the chocolate.”

By now, Gertruida cannot contain herself any longer. “Ye-e-e-s…?”

“Look, I’ve had a lot of time to look after my sheep. If they graze near the river, the flock is restless at night. However, when they feed on the stunted bushes near the hill, they are as content as our president when the Speaker silences the opposition. Now, that set me thinking. There must be something they eat that controls their moods.”

“So you found new herbs?”

Stoney smiles wryly. “No, Gertruida. I tried everything. Twigs, leaves, roots, branches. Mashed them, chewed them, cooked them…and nothing. Got diarrhoea once or twice, but that’s all. There’s something that happens in the sheep that doesn’t happen in humans. And that’s when it struck me: whatever happens, happens inside the sheep’s digestive tract…that’s where the answer lies. And whatever happens there, gets absorbed, affecting the sheep’s mood. And….some of it would be present whenever the sheep gets rid of whatever is left in its tummy.”

“Oh. My. Word!”

“Ja, Gertruida. Chocolate-coated droppings. Marvellously simple, eh? I thought it out all by myself.”

He waits until Gertruida stops gagging before offering her a double peach brandy.

“From then on, it was easy. I had the two opposing emotions: happy and scared. It’s just a question of getting the mix right. The river…er…product produced horrible nightmares. Called it Devil Drops. The hillside stuff gave the ultimate happy dream – which turns out to be rather erotic quite often. Those are Happy Crappies. More of the one and less of the other gave me a spectrum of possibilities.” He goes ‘ping’ and imitates a little lightbulb above his head. “Genius, right?”

“But, for goodness sakes, you can’t go about selling sheep droppings to people? It’s unethical, to say the very least.”

“Of course I don’t. I grind it up in a paste, boil it to get rid of parasites, en then roll it into little balls before coating it with chocolate. It’s a wonderfully simple process.” Gertruida’s horrified face makes him pause. “What…?”

“Listen, Stoney, you’re on thin ice here. If the Medical Council finds out what you’re doing – or any other authority you can think of – they’ll slap you in jail for so long, you’ll never see a single sheep again for the rest of your life. If I were you, I’d approach a pharmaceutical company and let them do some proper research. That’s the only way…”

***

Gertruida often remarks about how we live in a strange society. We have laws prescribing what food and medicine we are allowed to ingest – and even more laws prohibiting other products. But, she says, we have no laws protecting us from the bulldust we have to hear and see in the media every day. It’s not okay to take sheep droppings coated with chocolate, but political offal is fed to us without even a sugar coating.

She reckons Stoney is onto something, though. Imagine a parliament full of Happy Crappies?

She really gets angry at this from time to time. That’s when she locks her front door to take one of her precious but dwindling supply of sleepy-chocolates (as she calls them). The Rolbossers know the signs – especially when she arrives at Boggel’s Place wearing a brilliant – if tired – smile the next day…

Stoney Steenkamp’s Dream Factory (#2)

e 1Gerttruida is running as fas as she can. She hears the wind roar past her ears as her legs move at maximum speed, her feet constantly slipping on the oily surface of the smooth cement. As far as she can make out, she’s in an underground passage, stretching away ahead of her. The overhead halogen lights are flickering, almost in Morse-code, as if warning her to go yet faster and faster.

She can hear the breathing behind her: untroubled, regular, calm. A total contrast to her rasping, burning gasps as she attempts to get away, away, away

Moments before, she was sitting at the desk of Neil Barnard…or was it Jacob Zuma? Or were they both there, morphed into a single person with an ominous smile and unreadable eyes? Cold eyes, calculating eyes, fixed on the big red clock against the shimmering wall with its both hands on the 12.

“You can’t get away, Gertruida. It’s too late. The clock has stopped, your time is up.” The accent is a strange combination of African and Afrikaans; the words uttered in an unearthly growl.

She doesn’t know what was too late, nor does she know why, but she knows with unwavering certainty that there is no more time. It’s finished. If she didn’t escape, she’d be devoured by the monster.

Aaah…a light! She must get to the light! Only then does she notice the firing squad kneeling behind the spotlights: men in camouflaged uniforms aiming automatic weapons straight at her face. When she skids to a halt, a million spiders descend on her, crawl up her legs and poke their long legs into her nostrils and mouth. Frozen by fear, she isn’t able to move at all. Behind her the monster closes in, folding a hairy arm around her waist. She prays for the firing squad to end it all…

“GERTRUIDA!”

Stoney’s voice is loud in her ear, and she wakes up with a start.

“Wha…”

“You asked for a nightmare, so that’s what you got. Are you convinced now?”

She shakes her head to clear the cobwebs. “Dammit, Stoney! You could have killed me!”

“Ja, these dreams are extremely graphic, aren’t they? Seems all too real. But, in the end, they remain just that: dreams. The terror-dreams  are the best. It’s like you can’t escape. Mine is a lion with huge teeth.” He uses his fingers to show how long. “And I can feel his hot breath on my back as I scramble through the bush. Can even feel the thorns on the branches tearing at my skin. It’s so real, I’ve considered going to sleep with my shotgun next to me.”

“But….how do you do it?”

She arrived at Onkruidbult the previous afternoon to see what Stoney is up to. He entertained her with his stories of funny dreams, sad dreams, nightmares and happy dreams, before they sat down at his new dining table to a scrumptious dinner of leg of lamb and pumpkin cakes. Stoney avoided all her questions until at last he asked her what type of dream she’d like to have that night. She didn’t hesitate: not known as a frightened woman, she insisted on a nightmare.

Now, with dawn only minutes away, she sits up to stare bleary-eyed at Stoney. “I’ve never been so scared  in my life! Wow! It was terrible…”

“You took a long time to get to your dream, Gertruida. I sat here all night waiting for some sign that you’re dreaming, and it only started a few minutes ago. Some individuals scream and shout, but you just panted. I must say, it is very rare for somebody to request a nightmare. Mostly they want happy dreams…some even of a …er…sexual nature. Those dreams are so popular I can’t keep up with the demand. The politicians usually want victorious dreams, while artists commonly want dreams of inspiration. Those are much easier to supply.”

“But how do you do it, Stoney? This is phenomenal! Didn’t you drug me, or something? You gave me that little chocolate after dinner…”

He laughs heartily. “No, no drugs, Gertruida. You’ve seen my house – I don’t have a laboratory or anything like that. Only a kitchen. Yes, it’s the chocolate, but that’s as much as I can tell you. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my life, it is that you can’t trust anybody. Once you’ve told a secret to one individual, it’s not a secret any longer. And the next thing you know, the grannies are talking about it at the bridge club. No, I’m not telling. But tonight I’ll give you something more…delectable. You’ll enjoy it…”

They spend a lazy day on the veranda in front of the house. Gertruida still feels a little unsettled, but she brought along a stack of National Geographics. Stoney seems content to sit and doze in the sun.  When dusk arrived, Stoney cooked some chops on the fire, adding a pot-bread he prepared that afternoon. Once again he regaled her with stories of the type of dream she might encounter.

This time, the carefully wrapped chocolate was followed by a rich brew of coffee and a promise that she wouldn’t like to wake up.

In the months to follow, Gertruida will wish she could have another dream like that. She was young, voluptuous and ever so slightly drunk when the yacht dropped anchor near the deserted island. The pristine beach, the swaying palm trees and the fragrance of frangipani created an alluring invitation to swim to the shore and explore. It didn’t worry her that she was alone on the yacht – it was a minor technicality of no consequence. She didn’t guess…she knew that he would be waiting for her.

He was the nameless hunk she had dreamed about when she was sixteen. Tanned, ripped muscles, sparkling eyes and an irresistible smile. Body sculptured to perfection and a mind to match. He, the childhood (and childish) imaginary companion with the strong arms and the soft voice.

She was right, of course. He waited behind the ferns in the long grass next to the waterfall. Ahhh…he was magnificent…

This time, Stoney was kind enough not to wake her when she moaned softly. He just sat there, dozing quietly next to her bed. When she woke up at last, he left her to savour the afterglow of the experience…

“I have to know, Stoney…I have to! How do you do it?”

Stoney Steenkamp’s Dream Factory (#1)

sunrise“He did it!”. Kleinpiet points at the advert in the Upington Post. “I always thought he was a bit mad, but now…”

The small advertisement under “Personal Services” is almost unremarkable between the others offering body massages, willing-to-travel-girls and the prominent one of Hot Naught who promises ‘exquisite joy and release of tension‘. Kleinpiet hastily explains that he saw the advert ‘quite by chance‘ while he was searching for a new carburettor for his pickup. Still, the little insert on the back page is responsible for a pregnant silence after the group read it.

Dreams available at bargain prices. No previous experience required. Completely organic. Contact Stoney Steenkamp, Onkruidbult.

“That man! I remember the first time he started experimenting with that crazy idea.” Gertruida adopts her lecturer-mode, which means you cannot even think of interrupting her. “But it is a known fact that certain foods have an influence on tryptophan and serotonin  – as well as other neurotransmitters in the brain. Cheese, chillies, and especially red meat are the prime foodstuffs that may influence the brain’s function during sleep, often causing lucid dreams in the process.

“Now, Stoney had this theory about dreams. He reckoned that something in the meat triggered the brain to conjure up certain images. That’s what his research was all about. Maybe he made a breakthrough?”

“Nah…” Vetfaan empties his glass and signals for another beer. “His ‘research’ was way too crude. Imagine! If you eat lamb, you’ll dream of green pastures and rustling brooks. And if you eat springbok, you’ll be the only man in a herd of lovely ladies – what a nightmare! I mean…that is pure bulldust, man! I tried it and it doesn’t work. Anyway, I can’t remember my dreams after I wake up…”

“Maybe that’s his secret?” Joining them at the counter, Servaas sits down with a sigh. “When you wake up, Stoney tells you what you dreamed. That way he’ll have a 100% accurate result on his prediction and you can’t prove him wrong.”

Stoney Steenkamp is one of those strange hermits you tend to find in the Northern Cape. Living alone on his farm, he turned to science to combat boredom. It is entirely true that this arid and sprawling landscape has been the source of many of South Africa’s most creative minds; a fact Gertruida ascribes to the many idle hours spent alone. People here – like in other isolated regions of the planet –  are forced to use their minds to escape the monotonous days and nights during which nothing happens. Walter Battiss, Eli Louw, Olive Schreiner, authors, songwriters and numerous clergymen attest to the creative instinct that prevented men and women  from talking to themselves all day long.

Stoney’s tendency to fall asleep while watching his sheep made him curious about the only entertainment he had – his dreams. He started keeping a dream-diary, noting what he dreamed and when. Then he tried to correlate the type of dream with environmental influences. For instance: during the cold winter nights, his imagination conjured up images of igloos and polar bears. Or when he slept through an occasional thunderstorm, he’d be storming up Amajuba to shoot at the Brits. Should the wind pick up, Stoney would be standing at the helm of a schooner, chasing a pirate across the ocean.

Of course Stoney couldn’t keep these scientific findings to himself. Whenever he arrived in Rolbos to buy sheep dip from Sammie’s Shop, he’d inform the group at the bar about his latest observations. In one of his sarcastic moods, Servaas once suggested that Stoney’s research was truly unique and that his findings should be published in one of the scientific journals or even the Huisgenoot, which only served to encourage Stoney to be more enthusiastic about his research. His need for more  information resulted in a need for more sleep, which of course had a negative impact on the size of his flock.

The last time he visited Rolbos, Gertruida told him to take note of what he ate before dropping off in yet another slumber, as this may also influence dreams. Stoney tried it the same night. The next morning he announced that peach brandy was a dream-killer. Gertruida had to tell the poor man that alcohol should not be part of his research, explaining that alcohol dissolves fat, and that fat is a major component of the brain. Stoney wrote that down in his journal, as well.

“How can he advertise dreams on demand and then have the gall to charge money for it? It’s a ridiculous idea.” Servaas knits his brows together while he concentrates to keep his bushy moustache from sinking into the froth as he downs his beer.”He should do something constructive with his time, like advising ESCOM or something. They need a few big dreams, if you asked me,”

Like with so many foolhardy ideas hatched in an around Rolbos, it would have been entirely normal for the group at the bar to have a good old laugh at such silliness before forgetting about it completely. And they would have….if Stoney didn’t rock up a week or two later to say he needed to buy some sheep to replenish his flock – with cash! 

“My dream-business has taken off! You won’t believe the orders I get, specially from politicians, artists and people in the advertising community. I’ve pushed up my price, but that doesn’t deter them…the orders just keep on flooding in.”

Now…we all know Gertruida. She hates a mystery. No-one was surprised when she announced her intention to visit Onkruidbult.This is in keeping with her natural curiosity, after all. What they didn’t expect, was her reaction on what she experienced there….

(To be continued…)

Trusting Liar (#10)

Liar's Meteorite

Liar’s Meteorite

Once the helicopter disappeared over the dunes, the group finally stops laughing.

“Oh, Liar, you are sooo convincing! Damn! I started believing you when you threw out that bit about the radioactive Boron. And then you…you…you added the bit about manhood! Shew! I almost burst out laughing right then.” Gertruida slaps Liar’s back as she starts giggling again.

Liar’s indignant response is immediate. “And what, Gertruida, do you think, do they use to accelerate electrons and bits of atoms in Switzerland? Or do you imagine that I’d be roving around here for my entire life, looking for lost diamonds?”

“Oh, stop it, Klasie! You’re killing us!” Vetfaan wipes the tears from his eyes as he succumbs to another bout of laughter.

Servaas gets serious all of a sudden. “You are looking for diamonds, aren’t you? Walter Kempf and the Wolf’s Tears? All that you told us? It’s true, isn’t it?”

Klasie Louw, known as Liar, scoops up a handful of sand and lefts it sift through his fingers. “There are many stories buried in the sands of the Kalahari, my friend. Legends and myths and tales that are more marvellous than anything you’ve ever heard. Here you’ll find the ghosts of the Dorsland-trekkers who tried to escape to an illusive Utopia. Amongst these dunes the history of the Bushmen, the Koranna and the lost civilisation of the gold-miners of Zimbabwe are whispered in the night breezes. Once this was an inland lake bearing boats filled with riches – then the climate changed and the earth moved…and now only the sand remains. This, Servaas, is a magical place. A place were everything is possible.”

“But that doesn’t answer the question, Klasie. I just want to know whether your story is true? We did pick up that diamond, didn’t we?” Getruida points to Liar’s pocket, remembering how he had snatched it away from her.

It is Liar’s turn to smirk. “Ah yes…the aeroplane wreck! Come, I’ll show you. It’s about an hour from here.”

***

lancaster_desert_500Sure enough, after tramping trough the loose sand in the valley between the two dunes, they arrive at a little plain – an open space with the dunes forming a natural amphitheatre around it. Off to one side, the wreckage is clearly visible.

“This was Walter’s plane. And this is the direction the flood washed his treasure away.” He points towards the south. “And over there,” pointing again, “is the rocky outcrop. I wouldn’t suggest you go near it.”

***

“I’m still not sure,” Servaas says. They’re gathered at the counter in Boggel’s Place, relieved to be back in Rolbos. “I mean, can we really believe everything he said?”

“Well, all I can tell you is that Boron is an extremely rare element in the universe. Scientists don’t believe it is natural to our planet, and that most of the Boron found on earth is due to cosmic dust and possibly meteorites. There is, indeed, radioactive Boron and it may very well be used in reactors – although the rarity of the substance makes its common use impossible. If that rocky outcrop of Liar’s is pure Boron, it could very well be the remains of an ancient meteorite and as such be a unique find.” Gertruida shrugs. “Who knows? Anyway, I made a few discreet enquiries: our friend Klasie Louw is a multi-multimillionaire. The story of the Reserve Bank taking notice of his activities may be true…”

“And the men? The helicopter and the search?”

“Oh, read the papers, Servaas! There are so many scandals in our country, it’s hard to pick the most likely one. But….I like my theory about somebody wanting to buy silence. Suppose you bribed South Africa into hosting the World Cup in 2010 and now people are starting to ask questions. You have the FBI, CIA, Fifa and even Morocco breathing down your neck. If the story is proved and evidence confirms the corruption, it won’t just impact on one single person. It’d mean that the government, the local organising committee and especially the governing party will be left with more egg on their faces than they can clean off. People will have to resign, and some will go to jail. It’d be a diplomatic catastrophe of massive proportions. International credibility – already at a low point – will fly out of the window.

“You see, Servaas, for some of the officials – from president down to the ticket-sellers – the outcome of an intensive investigation will mean the end of their careers. The money-barrel will run dry. The authorities involved with drugs, smuggling and money laundering will be forced to face the wrath of not only the local populace, but the international community as well. Can you imagine the fall-out?

“So…it is entirely possible that certain men and women will want to buy their way out of trouble – and that’s going to involve massive payments to the investigating forces. Just like FIFA bought Ireland’s silence and avoided legal action, so it may be possible to influence the reports of investigators. For that, not only would billions be required, but there cannot be any paper trail. No Banks, no transfers, no documentation. The answer: diamonds…”

“Ja,” Vetfaan signals for another beer, “desperate times. Desperate measures…”

Servaas shrugs. “Be that all as it may. I still don’t know whether I can believe Klasie Louw…”

l15 copy_edited-1“We’ll never know,” Getruida says as she puts down  her glass. “But he has a good story. Maybe we should trust Liar for a change…”

Below the counter, Vrede thumps his tail on the wooden floor. He sniffed around the wreck and the strange rock out there in the desert. He knows exactly what the facts are. But, even though he’d like to tell them about the weathered shoebox he found under the one Nara-bush, he’d rather keep the secret. It’s much more fun this way.

The End.