Feeling Small


sunset over rift


If you stand at the edge of the Rift and look down, far, far, far down, you can see Zambia sprawled scrub below you and veiled in dust. If you wait long enough, you can watch the sun setting, as if this is the precise place that the gods, having scoured the planet, deigned that this is where one could witness it sink to greatest effect – all bleeding pinks and molten oranges – and settling to sleep behind bruised western hills.

If you stand on the shore at Lake Malawi with the concertina’d Livingstone Mountains crashing and collapsing into blue depths behind you and caramel coloured sand beneath your feet, you’d swear you were at the seaside: you can’t see the opposite shore. Just water. Miles and miles and miles of it. You expect it to taste of tears. You anticipate the crackling of salt against sun dried skin. But no. None of that. We watched a dugout beach itself and unload enormous pots fashioned to perfect rotundity by hand. No wheels. Just careful, perfectly dexterous, perfectly patient, hands.


water water ...


And if you stand in Tanzania’s chilly southern highlands you’ll need a fleece. Perhaps even a scarf. Or a beanie. The nip there pinches hard and long and it’s difficult to remember you’re still in Africa, just degrees beneath her wide sultry equatorial waistband. I couldn’t get close enough to the fire in the southern highlands. A hot water bottle, I enquired? But how to explain, in Kiswahili? Lily-livered feeble framed thin-skinned white woman. Not that anybody said so: they just smiled kindly and said that no, they did not have a rubberized container that I could fill with boiling water and take to bed with me.

I don’t know how many miles we did. A thousand? Two? A road trip that took us, Hat, husband and I, on a horseshoe arc from the centre of the country to the very tip so that we rubbed shoulders alternately – according to our night-time destinations – with Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia and back home through Lupa in the west. I lay in my bed there, on our last night, and listened to what nothing sounds like. And I smiled into the dark, and I thought I lived in an outpost …

Sometimes life distils down to tiny. Tiny little me. Getting out, onto that long road, beneath those big skies, to witness those huge, vast, overwhelming vistas reminds you that, in the grand scheme of things, you’re really very small.

big views

 I think it’s good to be reminded of that from time to time?

We arrived home to smiling dogs and our own beds. We clambered from a car strewn with gum wrappers and dredged heavily with biscuit crumbs. We stretched limbs tangled too tightly for too long and we agreed, It’s good to be home.

15 Responses to “Feeling Small”

  1. carol Says:

    Brilliant pictures, wonderful writing, and SO, SO, SO GOOD

  2. Mud Says:

    Beautiful. I am heading to Africa this week and this post has filled me full of anticipation for open skies, over due horizons and a different perspective. Thank you.

  3. carol Says:

    Oh – why did my comment vanish when I hadn’t finished!? to continue – so good to have you back blogging. I have missed you and I’m sure that others have too. Lots of love

  4. Roberta Says:

    Anthea, this is lovely. Your soul is so rich and your ability to display it in words a great talent.

  5. Grannymar Says:

    I felt I traveled with you. Lovely pics.

  6. rosiero Says:

    You transported me with you on that trip.As always, wonderful writing. I bet it is good to be home though.

  7. Sophia Says:

    I laughed at your hotwater bottle description. It’s so funny to look again at the small things we take for granted. It’s another way to make us feel small. Wonderful post.

  8. Rob Says:

    Great to have you back on line. You don’t know how lucky you are to live on the doorstep of that vast, unspoilt part of Africa, even though it mightn’t feel that way sometimes. Such adventures are the things which feed and sustain us through the drearier times.

  9. The Gossamer Woman Says:

    Sometimes I envy you and at other times I don’t because of your loneliness. Now I envy you for having felt very small in a very large world. I’ve never had that experience and it almost sounds scary, but something I want to feel once. I would always feel small on that continent in your circumstances and always feel like a small white person and not like the great Memsahib.

  10. nuttycow Says:

    Your post makes me yearn for Africa again. I can’t wait until December! Kenya *sigh*

    Shame you’re so far away otherwise we could have an African blogmeet!

  11. Maternal Tales Says:

    As always, such beautiful writing. And beautiful pics too. And yes, it is good to be reminded about how small we are sometimes – it’s incredibly humbling. Thanks x

  12. karen Says:

    Oh, how beautiful.. I just read this and was blown away! I’ve also read some of your much earlier posts before.. I know exactly how you feel, being one tiny person in the vastness. I’m still in awe of my African surroundings..

  13. R. Sherman Says:

    This post awoke the wanderlust in me. Sounds like a great time.


  14. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    You took me back many years. My favourite view embedded on my brain is of part of the rift valley. How I envied you!

  15. Stinking Billy Says:

    Hi, just to let you know that I am back in harness, as of today. x

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