It’s silent. It is always silent here. A rural area, farmlands everywhere, small villages with sturdy inhabitants that live with nature and the direct surroundings. The only “foreigner”, beside the many English that buy more and more houses in this region, is a 70+ year old farmer. His roots lie in Bretagne, he is “different”. There was a time he wasn’t alone, that just a couple of kilometers away another person from his home region lived here. But she was older than he, although just as sturdy. Even right before her death she managed a great kitchen garden, slaughtered her own chickens for dinner, milked a goat, only for fresh bread she had to wander into town. She might have been a foreigner in this region, she was as French as that fresh baguette that was preferred on her table.
On one early and freezing cold morning our guide led us into the nature of the Limpopo region in South Africa. For weeks we had seen the most incredible animals and we were all curious about what we could see by travelling on foot for a change. There were no signs, there was no path, and all we saw for the first hour were rocks and trees. One of those rocks was our destination of the day, there were no animals that day. What we got to see, what our guide shared with us were the ancient spirits of South Africa. On this sole rock in the middle of nowhere the ancient San had once painted whole herds of kudu, springboks, humans, a hippo. And one sole giraffe.
That giraffe was so incredibly lifelike with its long legs and red spots, and it was painted far away from the other animals. Giraffes are relatively solitary animals and the distance from the other paintings struck me as it captured the wandering spirit of this animal perfectly. Half of the pictures I took that day are of that lonesome creature.
Recently I visited the famous site of the caves of Lascaux, a humbling and wonderful experience, where you can only see replicas to protect the original cave. It was a sharp contrast from this remote site in Limpopo where I easily could have touched the paintings if I wanted to, although our guide would have strongly scolded me if I did.
I realised I was happy. Sitting in the shade of a weathered pine tree I was happy.
It wasn’t the prospect of underwater adventure, or the lovely food we just ate. It wasn’t even the blue sky and even blue’er sea that brought upon this feeling of contentness, if anything at all it was the wind. Free roaming, warm, salty. A slight touch of pine and thyme in the air. The smells of the hot, rocky parts of the Mediterranean. Scents as old as time, as old as my surroundings.
Smelling all this made me realise I wasn’t home. That therefore, I wasn’t necesarrily “me”. I would come back again a slight bit different, transformed by travel and new experiences.
And this made me so happy I felt the soft smile break through the tired frown.
– Plakias, Crete