I would have asked for one thing only. That I was better introduced to a place so cursed with beauty.
Instead we arrive on the epilogue of a dark starless night frivolously rubbing blank tired eyes just to see two steps ahead, the neon sign of a supermarket offering the only connection to the city life we’ve taken an involuntary recess from. Our bus having been consumed by distance and the imperceptible horizon, we struggle to identify signs of life.
A man we immediately identify as the security guard of the supermarket reveals himself, detaching himself from the background to which he had blended so well he catches us by surprise. Upon quick inspection I notice on him an axe, a panga, a spear and a nuclear football. Sufficiently armed I would say, though you might feel inclined to disagree. He is exceptionally tall and intimidating but all the posturing and tension evaporate as soon as he offers a greeting.
We greet him back and identify ourselves as guests of the owner of the supermarket and seek his advice for the nearest guest house where we tell him we hope to complete our quota of sleep for the night. He duly offers his assistance pointing us to a building that stands a fair distance away, lights from the top floor giving it the ethereal feel of a beacon in the night. He stops halfway, the tension creeping back into his face as a dark covered pickup strolls past, turns a corner and parks a few paces away for the length of time between two hiccups before moving on.
‘You can never trust these small personal cars. Always carrying the suspicious type.’
We inquire whether they’ve given him trouble before.
‘Plenty. Heh, but we always know how to respond, without mercy.’ He swipes his panga across the air.
We thank him for his help and set off to the guest house which initially appears deserted until the security guard there also melts away from the background that had swallowed him (seems to be theme in these parts) and greets us before he and a stumbling receptionist show us to the last rooms available. This exercise, like the rest of the night thus far, is not so straightforward, seeing as the rooms were sparkling new and thus unnumbered and the receptionist also hasn’t kept track of those that were occupied already and those not. We embark on a quest to try the keys yet to be taken on every door on the top floor, cause such a ruckus as sparks a protest from sleeping guests that threatens to set the whole building on fire.
We identify empty rooms for us to occupy eventually. I jump in immediately and set down my head on a pillow that smells of cigarette smoke and itches my cheek like crazy, unaware that in the morning, none of it would matter, as this land in the middle of the greatest of rift valleys would, like a bride on a her wedding night to her groom, dramatically and unashamadely reveal her charms to me.