A Storm in Sikasso

I move into consciousness, the cobwebs of sleep cling, 

desperately trying to drag me back into warm slumber. 

Leaves on the trees outside begin to rustle restlessly, 

a door deep inside the house slams closed, a branch taps lightly on the window announcing the inevitable arrival.

The stillness of the dark morning is broken by the surging wind,

The darkness of the still morning is shattered by a blaze of lightning.

The tension builds as the wind picks up, 

hot, silver flashes punctuate the darkness with regularity,

A thunderous roar reverberates through the very walls of the house, windows vibrating, curtains swaying. 

A distant rumble starts to build, 

At first it’s almost imagined, a plop against the pane, a splatter in the sand,

and then all too suddenly the distant rumble rolls in,

as the storm unleashes its soaking savagery. 

I walk onto the verandah, the cool air rushes to meet me,

the sky is ablaze, the atmosphere is electric, rain hammering down, thrashing all that it can reach. 

Trees straining, thunder deafening, wind gusting back and forth, reaching all that it can thrash. 

Slowly abating, a steadiness sets in, 

rain slowing down, wind dying off, a rhythm develops,

as if a truce between land and sky has been agreed.

Flashes of distancing lighting illuminate the turquoise dome of the minaret across the road, 

gently the sky starts to lighten as dawn begins to ease over the city.

A rooster hastens to welcome the lightening sky, as if caught unawares.

The gentle rhythm resonates all around, a soulful melody creating calm and peace.

The earth soaks up the rain, a peaceful calmness creating a melody for the soul. 

Dark Clouds Brewing as the wind blows in…

Peterborough to Petrolina (Brazil day 1)

Brazil has always been an enticement and when an opportunity arises to go and see this powerhouse of the southern hemisphere in action, it needs to be grabbed onto with utmost vigour. 

Airlines are always going to try and cram as many people to a flying tube as possible. They calculate their costing as number of humans per square centimetre, and somewhere in-between all of the excitement and profit projection they forgot that 1 human did not fit onto a square cm, and TAP is no exception. TAP goes the extra mile by ensuring that you can’t check-in on line in time and can’t select you seating between Lisbon and Recife, the net result being a feeble attempt to sleep in mid space without the luxury of a window to slouch on.

The Portuguese once ruled the world but that was many centuries ago and the chaos that ensues from a collapsed empire is still evident in the way the airport is designed and operated in Lisbon. No clear transfer zones means hanging around waiting for directions from an over-crowded official. However the long walk through a glass divided corridor soon reflects happy home comers and tourists flocking to the Portuguese capital. A brief, relaxed slander through security, while holding my shorts up (belt through the scanner) and before long one is enjoying TAP hospitality for the next 7 hrs.

It’s always a tossup between keeping the belt on, thereby risking some random security guard frisking you where no man wishes to be frisked and sending it through the big black box and holding your shorts up while tiptoeing through the metal detector. I pity the sorry soul who’s forgotten his keys in his pocket and taken his belt off. He gets frisked with his shorts falling down.

Mid air sunrise
Sunrise over the Atlantic

Arriving into Brazil you start to get an idea of the immensity of this country. Parts of the NE region are fairly dry, with rainfall averaging on 600 to 700 mm per annum. Vast areas of brown thorn scrub are broken occasionally by irrigated farmland and a few towns and villages. The down side of only transiting a city is that all you see is the airport and normally a dingy view of the said city’s less attractive side, on landing and take-off. Well if the city of Recife is anything like its airport then it’s definitely worth visiting. Clean, bright, new and quite impressive all round.

Tour note: rumour has it that the little village of Olinda has a fascinating  history, slave trade market still standing, and “chicken beach” being a must see. When the “entire” world had banned slavery, the Portuguese decided to list them as chicken cargo….hence the name “chicken beach”.

The one hour flight to Petrolina is fairly uneventful. If taken at night one will miss the impressive Saõ Francisco river snaking below. This bright blue (or brown depending on the season) water mass is at least 500 m across in some parts. The city is built on the bank of the SF and doesn’t bode much except for being the centre of a massive grape and mango production region.

Judging from the flights in and out of Petrolina, not many people arrive and leave this place. All four of these flights taken were less than half full. This Ibis hotel is apparently a new addition to the Petrolinian landscape. It’s a 10 min drive from the airport and holds true to its global image that one ibis is as practically identical to the next one (the sales idea is that if you know what you’re getting, then you’ll go for what is known instead of stepping into the unknown). That’s the practical side, the reality is that you never get to experience the culture of a new region unless you take a few risks, and book into something slightly more cultural.

In this instance, after travelling for 27 hours, practical is more appreciated than cultural and stretching out on clean sheets and a comfortable mattress with the air-con blowing gently in the background at 4 am htz (home time zone) beat having to sleep in an upright aircraft seat hands down.