"Ex Africa semper aliquid novi", quoth Pliny the Elder. There is some debate about what he really meant, but most likely he meant trouble. In this sense has the phrase been used most often since but I hope to reverse the trend and on these pages bring you the exciting, novel and curious out of Africa.

And wherever I am I hope to remain,
Ex Africa Semper Yours,

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Devil's Kitchen

Long, long time ago (in this galaxy, though) there lived in Merafa a very rich tribe of cattle herders. They had so many cows, sheep and goats that they cared not for their milk and used it to bathe and wash their clothes in. Such wanton wastefulness angered the gods, who sent a mighty storm to destroy the tribe. All the people, cattle and houses perished in the chasms that opened in the ground and the mud of the huts, milk of the cattle and blood of the men painted the sand, orange, white and red.

Regardless of whether indeed it was created in such dramatic circumstances as the Griama people believe, Merafa Depression is simply stunning. There is not much to write about, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. The beauty is enhanced by the fact that more likely than not, a visitor will have the place to himself, like I did, for the place is still very much off the tourist track.

What you see here is not rock but sand: Sand of three distinct colours, which blend, intertwine and diffuse creating a magnificent spectacle. The place changes with every rain as more sand is washed away and new gorges are created. It also changes with the time of the day or night as the sun and moon play with the hues.

To get down to the gorge you need a guide. He will tell you about the legends and myths surrounding the place as well as point out various plants and describe their properties. There are ebony trees, acacias, desert roses and baobabs. If you are lucky you can also see dik-dik antelopes, baboons and, wait for it…. Aardvarks! Unfortunately, only at night and that also with a fair amount of luck.

Devil’s Kitchen is another name for Merafa Depression. Apparently in early mornings you can sometimes see fumes rising from the crevices of the gorge and smell food being cooked. The place is too serene to hold an evil presence, but it is certainly mystical. At the foot of one of the sand pillars you can see shattered pieces of glass bottles and bones. No, it’s not the naughty tourists but the elders of the Griama people, who in accordance with their animistic traditions, still throw offerings to the spirits and pray there for rain.

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