Five more sleeps until my movement begins again. We made last night count by sleeping on Dune to Nowhere under a full moon. Talk always turns to the stars on nights like these and we wondered how many different narratives of constellations there were. Surely as mankind has probably gotten lost staring into space generation after generation, different stories about the stars emerged. The sailors must have their own stories for sailing across the sea navigating by the brightest stars. The Greek projected their myths onto the stars. Communities around the world created shapes of animals they’ve seen where they live out of the burning balls of gas. It would be cool to see all of these different maps of the night sky and overlap them to compare shapes and stories.
We walked back to the farmhouse this morning just as the horizon was lighting up with deep reds and purples. I watched the lights come on in the meerkat volunteer blocks as the time approached field o’clock. Then I made my way back to the sleepy molerat block where members of the lab and I start a little later in the mornings. Five more sleeps, then this place will fade like a dream.
On Friday morning I will say goodbyes and leave with the project manager to head to Joburg. It’s about an 8 hour drive there and there will likely be at least 2 police stops along the way. I’ve spent the last week figuring out if I could in fact leave the project and what permits I would need to travel across the country. Our lockdown has lifted from a level 5 (where it was for about a month) to a level 4, but interprovincial travel is still heavily restricted. However, since my Workaway is on a farm, the business is considered essential so theoretically travel from the research station to the farm should be allowed. I have a folder full of paperwork now to prove this – permits of the farm, a letter of invitation to work there, and a lease agreement to show I am moving my residence. I am planning to work with the horses through June, and maybe through July as well depending on the status of the world. But the lease agreement is valid until October, which is also when my Visa expires.
Once in Joburg I will stay a night at the airport hotel, then pick up my rental car from the airport rental company, one of the few which are still open. I’ve booked the cheapest car – a Datsun Go which should be pretty comical. I’ll drive about 4 hours South across the provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Free State. At the border of Free State and Kwazulu-Natal, the owner of the ranch will meet me and we will caravan down to the farm together. He informed me the roads are heavily monitored with police and military and it may be easier to drive down together from the border. I need to drop the car at a city further South from the farm, Pietermaritzburg, so I’ll spend the night and unload my bags, then we’ll caravan down together to the city, do some errands, and return to the farm.
The drive will be an adventure in and of itself – I’m really not sure what obstacles there will be or what the real world is like. Our station is isolated as it is and completely disconnected from what goes on outside of the desert. I’ve been asked to report back on what it’s like out there, though I’m not sure I’m the best guinea pig to send out. It’ll buff out though, one way or another.
I’m excited for the mountains and horses and green. I’m sad to leave the sand and my friends. After the havoc of sorting myself out and closing out my work in the lab, I’ve hit the calm. I know this means I’m ready to move on.
The sunset last night looked like the skeleton of a huge whale floating over the desert with a long, thick spine of a cloud sinking into the horizon and rib bones splayed out across the dunes.