Sunday, 13 March 2011

Wild and Not so Empty Campings.

The digger has scraped out the sand choked gullies, the storm cundies that run under the road, a preparation for the next flood. The spoil heaped in a bing that offers us a perfect screen from the road. We
 s a bit like two nights ago. Again a wild desert camping, surrounded by heavy thorn, a compacted area with a narrow tunnel for an entrance, a discrete entrance along which I shredded irreparably my only shirt. There is, however, a pony trail near by, and I had at first considered it for a site. It was bigger, flatter, but weve seen what speed a spooked, unbroken horse can do. Were pitched, we've cooked a meal and just about to turn in for the night. The frogs and the hoppers are in full chorus, yet above their clamour I can hear a human voice singing. Vaguely falsetto, fully off key and its coming our way, getting louder, less harmonious. A gaucho passes on his horse, waves and passes on. It would appear that hes seen it all before, gringo cyclists camped by the side of the road. It was his path that Id considered for a site.
 its safe out here in the campo’ roadside camps arent a felony, its quite acceptable, even normal.
Towards the beginning of the trip, we might have considered a pack-up and move on, to find a new, secretive site. Not now: our streetwise senses have for some considerable time been saying
 s rolling stock. A level of screech, that in the industrial work place would arouse the interests of the safety officer, and require the mandatory use of ear defenders. They could out perform, out compete any Argentine camp ground a 3am on a Sunday morning, however unlike their electro-amped competitors they come with an off button. They can all stop instantaneously, for no apparent or obvious reason, stop in perfect unison, an achievement that any choral master would be proud off. Our cola lorry site had its excavated drains, but what I hadnt noticed on my initial inspection tour was the muddy puddles that had formed out of the last downpour, a short walk along the road. Now muddy puddles in the desert have the attractive ability of an electro-magnet in an iron fillings factory. In Australia, to encourage patrons to put the lights out in the toilet they place a notice on the back of the door: s pure coincidence, but our amorous amphibians have acquired an amped sound system that any stadium rock concert venue would dream about. A man-high corrugated pipe, two full carriageways wide. It's remarkable what a din a combo of five frogs can achieve, its got the insistence of car alarms, yet without the annoyance. They employ the speaking tube, the sounding horn to maximum efficiency, sending echoing calls, love songs far out into the bush, far into the night. In the morning I check out the muddy hole; its pock marked with flooded hoof prints, each off which are a bubbling agitation of mosquito larvae, the whole area a churned up soft red glutinous ooze, into which our frog chorus plop. Theyre no bigger than a thumb nail. Only proving the adage: small bodies, big noise.
Our supposed, quasi secretive sites have one character in common. They come with critter noise. Our gaucho spotted place has cicadas and grasshoppers who set up a cacophony of chirrups, that merge and amplify as the sun wanes, a collusion of noise that sounds like the un-lubricated wheel bearings of Scotrail

Lights attract moths,
Moths attract frogs,
Frog attract snakes.
Now put the lights out!

Our water hole attracted the bell clanking cattle and the frogs. It
 s all too easy to look at these big open spaces and to expect to encounter emptiness. The tracks disappearing off from the highway will lead, eventually to a habitation, the dried out dung will have come from a cow, goat or horse. It might look like a semi-arid desert, but as our last two desert campings prove, its not depopulated, its not deserted.
ve established ourselves under a thorny acacia tree, reading books, writing blogs, studying maps. Sitting out the last of the days heat. Its a perfect spot, it seems quiet, devoid of evidence that might suggest recent activity. No car tracks, no hoof prints, no river beds. We should be undisturbed. Which begs the question: where did the bell wearing cows clang in from? And, how did the Pepsi-Cola tooting lorry see us?.