Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy St. Helena

On Saturday afternoon I returned from An Expedition. An Excavation. In fact, An Adventure. The reason why I put off posting about it until today is that on the way home the question came up of who, exactly, the patron saint of archaeologists is, and one of the awesome people I met on the trip later found out that the answer is Saint Helena. To our great joy we discovered that her feast day (in the Roman Catholic Church) was the 18th of August, just around the corner. So in her honour I decided to wait until today to publish my archaeological post.

Somehow, I managed to come back from the trip with lots of pretty pictures of birds and flowers, but none of people actually digging. Instead of posting my photos from previous years (which feels vaguely as if it should break some sort of Bloggers' Code of Ethics), I'll give you links. Go and look at this page for all the background on the dig and who we went with. Also take a look at this archaeology blog, which belongs to Lu, another of the awesome people I met on the trip. (Hi Lu!)

Here's our camp at night. What I'll miss most from this time is lying in my tent, listening to the night sounds: the hippos gronking in the river (that's my coinage for the noise they make, not some kind of obscure swear word), the Egyptian geese cackling, the haunting whoops of the hyaenas, and, every now and again and the best of all, the distant roars of the lions.

Isn't he gorgeous? I'm excessively pleased with the misty, hipstermatic effect in this photo. It comes from the golden light of early morning shining through the dust on our windscreen. I had to confess.

Elephants are the most photogenic of animals. Also the only ones you still need to be afraid of when you're in a car.

This is a Longbilled Crombec. He was so curious and unafraid.

Impala lilies! (Adenium multiflorum). I have them (only just) growing in pots at home. Here it's warmer and they grow wild, and all the camps have them planted in their gardens.

Nymphaea capensis, or Nymphaea nouchali var. capensis. People can't make up their minds. Either way it's our indigenous blue waterlily, closely related to the sacred blue waterlily of Egypt.

Look in the river for more elephants. Archaeology and Africa are similar in this: Traditionally, both have been wildly romanticised. Now, more often, you see people try very hard to dissociate from the traditional stereotypes of romance and adventure. It's not really like that, we say. It's actually boring to live here, to do this. I'm a serious person, take me seriously. And yet the romance, the adventure, are still there.

I mean, just look at it!


  1. Just look at it indeed!

    I soaked in every last morsel of this post Lesley and loved the word gronking, it made it come to life!

    The colours, and movement, the light and contrasts - glorious all.

    I have a very romaticised image of Africa after being swept away by movies, TV series and books in my teens ['The Flame Trees of Thika' was a paricular favourite] and can imagine that falling to sleep with the smells and sounds of your magnificent land filling my sense that I wouldn't be disappointed.

    Happy day Lovely,

    xx Felicity

  2. Gorgeous photos! Yes, your argument about the romance is lacking when you post shots like that.

  3. Thank you both so much! Felicity, when my mother was small, she devoured all the "Billabong" books and had just as romanticised an image of Australia. Your kangaroo post (which I saw just after posting this one - made me feel much better about my cliche-perpetuation) reminded me so much of that.