Friday, 22 March 2013

Amorphous Boundaries

The change comes suddenly, created by a drop of only a few metres and a distance measured in cycle lengths: a new place, another world. We’ve been flat-running alongside a lake, the landscape high, open, impoverished Bolivian puna, when the road suddenly plunges into a tight ravine. The walls rear up, the horizon shortens, the sky shrinks. Trees swell and stretch, the cliffs drip ferns and vines. We’ve stepped over a boundary. Plunged down into cloud forest. 

The descent continues, this plunge through a tangle of contours, this dive into the dank arboreal. Humidity and heat in an inverse proportion with altitude, my bike in a thrall to gravity. Exuberant foliage swells and swallows all our views, a man leaves the road, the jungle eats him up.  The boiling mist that’s newly sprung from the valleys, the mossed limb that hosts a fernery. The tangled skein of trailing lianas, the swelling cordage of buttress roots, the vibrant flicker of  waltzing butterflies, the incessant cadence of vibrating cicadas, the raucous caw of concealed birds. The roadside weed of flowering orchids. 

Verdant assault. 

Stereotypical jungle.

The pinwheeling, the careening, the blitz screaming. A swift cuts the sky. Such grace, such effort just to catch a fly. A fly in the desert? It seems unlikely. No fly-struck carrion, no rotting vegetation, no obvious source of contagion. Yet it and it’s neighbours have established a squat, burrow tunnels hollowed from the soft, exfoliating sandstone. But why here?

We round a corner and ride through a deep rock cut,
passing through another boundary and along a timeline of geological evolution to encounter an agricultural revolution. The polychrome of tan and dun meets the monochrome of green and monoculture. The wind-vexed, desiccated sand batters into flooded wetland paddy rice. A ribbon of monocrop fills to the brim the narrow valley, mirroring the twisting flow of the provender river.

Verdant assault.

Quintessential oasis.