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Over the Sahara

November 4, 2012

By Simon Chambers

To quote the illustrious Wil Wheaton, “South Africa, I am in you!”  I arrived at Keiskamma Trust in Hamburg, SA about 1:30pm local time after roughly 40 hours of travel.  I must say, I’ve found a lovely place to end up!  Here are some pictures of Pelican Place, my home for the next few days.

Pelican Place- interior

View from the balcony at Pelican Place

My various flights were full of too many movies with Dutch subtitles (flying KLM will do that) while I was shoe-horned into seats really not designed for someone my height.  In order to give my legs a break, I ended up taking walks to the back of the plane a lot- particularly on the 11 hour flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg.

It was about half way through that flight, as I saw on the inflight map that we were over the desert, that I decided to go and have a look out the window at the back of the plane.

And so I saw the Sahara for the first time.  Wow.

All I can say is wow.

Well, no, I can (and will) say more.  After all, “Wow” doesn’t make for much of a blog entry.

I was stunned and awed by the sheer scope of the desert.  It just goes on and on and on- sand, sand, and more sand.  Dunes so big they’re easily distinguishable at 35,000 feet.  At one point, we saw the shadow thrown by a kilometres long escarpment.

Looking out the tiny airplane window at the desert below, I saw sand before me, sand behind me, sand to the horizon.  And, as I continued to raise my gaze, I saw the blue sky becoming darker and darker as the atmosphere became the stratosphere.  Just incredible!

And as I tried to take in the sheer immensity of this desert, I got to thinking that people have been traversing and living in the Sahara for thousands of years.  They have been finding their way across it- finding water and food- in weeks and months long treks, rather than at the 900km/h I covered it.

I marvelled at the ingenuity of humans.  We have the capacity to survive and even thrive almost anywhere.

And I got to thinking about the work of PWRDF.  How we come alongside people in some pretty tough situations and walk with them, supporting each other in partnership.  Our partners are full of the same kind of ingenuity that has seen people crossing deserts for millennia.  They are finding unique, local solutions to the problems facing them.

These solutions- bicycle ambulances to get women in labour to the clinic safely, seed multiplication projects, etc.- inspire the same kind of awe and respect in me that I felt as I realized what it really means that people have been crossing the Sahara for so long.

So now I try to get some rest before my real work here starts- meeting the people, the partners, the organizations that PWRDF works with through our partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency and our various local partners in South Africa and Mozambique.

As always, I’ll do my best to blog every day to share a bit of what it’s like to be here.  There is no internet access at Pelican Place (so long Facebook for a few days!) but I’ll see what I can cobble together to keep me in touch with you here!

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