|A Golden World
In my last two years in Africa I lived in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city. My house was part of an estate that straddled the border between city and countryside so it was ideal for taking my dog, Josie, for walks in the evening. The open bush stretched for miles just a hundred yards or so from the property.
It was very different country from the long grass savannah typical of my previous home town, Harare. Bulawayo was close to the Kalahari Desert of Botswana and the rainfall was much less than in the rest of Zimbabwe. As a result, the grass was sparse and short, the trees fewer and lower. This meant that it was possible to see much further than in the long grasslands. It was the perfect place for a dog to run to its heart’s content and Josie did exactly that, covering at least three times the distance that I did on our walks.
The red Kalahari dust in the air gave Bulawayo the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. One in particular remains as an experience that I will never forget. When Josie and I entered the open expanse of bush that evening, the sky was divided in two by a blanket of cloud that covered half the heavens. The line between sky and cloud was perfectly straight and, right down low at the horizon, the cloud ended, leaving a thin gap where the sky could be seen as a light edging to the land.
As I watched, the sun appeared exactly at the point where the line between sky and cloud met the land beneath and its rays, reddened by the filter of dust in the air, turned the underside of the cloud into a flaming gold colour. This light then reflected on to the land, turning everything the same bright colour so that Josie and I swam in a world of molten gold.
Twilight is short-lived in the tropics and it was only a minute or two before the sun was beginning to slip below the horizon. This turned its light darker and redder so that the world moved from gold to pink and finally red, as though we had been plunged into an endless photography development room. That rose pink stage especially was beyond anything I have experienced before or since the event. There are some colours in which the mind stuggles to accept the familiar, worn, old world as real. It was unforgettable.
Probably the most photographed event in the world is the spectacular sunset. Hundreds of amateur camera jockies have tried to preserve such moments that have held them spellbound. And every time they have been disappointed with the result. Somehow the photograph is insufficient to convey the glorious and expansive experience that is the great sunset. The only thing that can contain such a sight is the memory and that is why I’m glad I had no camera with me on that walk.
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