The dust blows across the high plains in grey swirling red clouds. The ‘painter’s palette’ landscape rolls by in a blur of brick red, ochre and ethereal greyish greens. Stepping out to buy goat cheese and bread is like stepping into oven. So it is surprising that just 12 hours later I was bailing out the tent with a bath sponge…
The desert-scape north of Carafate has features with such evocative names as “the devils mouth” Unsurprising given the red, the heat and the, well, mouth shaped valley. But only an hour later, I am back in the low lands, the tobacco fields stretch the width of the river valley, the clouds cut some of the glaring heat from the sky and the population more apparent, in clusters of houses around colonial buildings and vineyards.
Given the appalling headlights on the van I am loath to drive at night, or even beyond dusk really so I pull off the main rain and wind a small road toward a lake I can see on the map. First available access is a one building lot, with about 30 cars. A fishing establishment, and for a handful of note the slightly puzzled old man is happy for me to park the night on the lake shore.
The clouds have blackened and the night if falling. The first flashes of thunder fill the sky in flickering high-sky electrical storm style. Meanwhile on the shore ten to fifteen house boat style catamarans are put-putting their way out onto the lake. 20 fishermen a side, poles out. Night fishing, it appears is a popular pastime here.
At ten I’m reading in the tent, almost by the light of the constant electrical discharge in the clouds above… .At eleven the the drumming sound of the approaching curtain of rain is weirdly unsettling. The impact on the plastic hardtop of the tent is a roar. it is probably worth pointing out at this point that the tent is more like a boat in many way. Fibreglass top and bottom contracted like a clam shell, with a canvas side wall…
At 11.05 I’m feeling damp. At 11.07 I pull the mattress up to find running water and an expanding puddle. Now, given there is no egress, it occurs to me that the bottom ‘tub’ is basically going to fill up until I’m washed out of the main door. Once again happy I sleep in shorts in a van, I hastily climb out into the deluge and within pico seconds am sodden. Open van. Find bath sponge and begin to bail. All the time thinking and thinking. Happily there is an outbuilding in the woods so I splash over to see if I can fit the van in. 20 minutes later and, although the noise on the tin roof is hilarious, at least I am no longer taking on water.
The lightning is closer now and the banging thunder reverberates the column of air in my throat. “Its a Faraday cage, its a Faraday cage”
At 3a.m. about 200 slightly frightened very wet fisherman return from the their trip. And commence an hour of struggling to get their vehicles up the mild grade track back to the road which is now a riverbed. Astoundingly the weight of water pounding the ground has barely lessened and I imagine all the dry washes in the desert now a torrent of muddy gravel rivers cutting the landscape into its unique forms.
At 4:30 someone turns off the tap. Silence. A sigh. I close my eyes take a deep breath and look forward to some rest.
At 4:45 the birds begin their morning shouting and the dogs need to have a fight. FFS!
Anyway, in a completely unrelated nature, here are some photos of some mountains, a big bird, and some cacti.