Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The road goes ever on and on

Thick dust boils up behind us in a dry foam, barrelling inward in grey-white plaits, like the swirls the beater leaves in half-whipped eggwhite. We are in the plank flatbed of the mini-truck on our way to Lethem. Minutes pass like hours, hours like dreams. We reach red rubbly trail, hard-crimped into vertebrae by work machines. I can feel the road’s spine in my own: mine compresses in sympathy, one vertebra shorter at the end of the six-hour journey than it was at the beginning. I remember on a previous juddery journey, trying to explain to a local lady about Slendertone. She wasn’t even amused: paying for excess vibration is the last word in absurd.

A family hitch a ride with us. (I think Percy only picks up people he knows, but he knows everyone in the Deep South so that doesn’t cut it down much). The three of them sit in the spare tyre: father heavy and pugnacious, mother slim and pert in her ‘No more autographs, I’m far too busy’ t-shirt, daughter ravishing with her perfect skin and first lost tooth gap, hat carefully aligned. I warm to the dad when he places his fat leg carefully along the tyre’s rim to hold his lovely ladies comfortably in place as we crash and bump along. The last time I rode in this flatbed was on the way to the August Games, with all four sisters. They truly ride in style: a double thickness bench cushion, a huge picnic and a set of wooden steps for climbing in and out, which would be a bit of an Everest for their short legs.

On the way to the Deep South Games

Pure white shocks the eye in two places. Great egrets perch ridiculously in the tiny sandpaper trees, dwarfing them, like an eagle roosting in your tomato plants. A massive, perfectly white cumulus cloud bulges over half the sky. This cloud was certainly not washed in a Guyanese machine. The grubby scuds in the foreground look more in place; the shoddy and mungo of the cloud world. Shortly after this I relish my glimpse of a peccary in a puddle, a hairy-hog waller.

Ironic that you’re all driving around good roads with your fantastic lumbar support, and here, where it would be most useful, we don’t even get a seat, and crash around in the back of an open flatbed, if we’re lucky enough to get a ride at all. The nearest thing I have to a cushion is my ipod, my tiny time machine that rescues me from too much reality and fills the engine roar with stories of other journeys, other cowboys and horses, other lives being lived differently.

He couldn't photograph the butterflies so took a cheeky zoom of me watching them!

Beauty assaults us twice more. At each creek is a swarm of small yellow butterflies, plain and blunt like cabbage whites. They flutter up in shoals as we drive through. And once, near the end of the journey, a raucous stag party of macaws rises up to flaunt and roister at the top of the tallest ite tree. B is tortured by the juxtaposing of suspense and a complete lack of suspension. The camera cannot cope with the truck’s tremolando. Photos blur, the view blurs, the hours blur until all that is left is the road’s spine and mine, and the miles still to go.

The disastrous macaw picture- there's a limit to what even Nikon's vibration reduction can do!

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written! Sounds like quite a trail. The photo of you is really lovely! This writing reminds me of Tolkien :) lyrical in the same way.

    Love you lots