The Expanse

Loreto Secondary School Kilkenny

Dear Jane,

I apologise if the envelope was filled with sand. Despite my best efforts, I think I’ll be finding that stuff for weeks to come. I know you asked in me in your last letter to describe my trip, but I doubt there are words that can capture the Sahara. (You can stop rolling your eyes now, I promise to give it my best try.)   Picture mountains and valleys, plains and oceans of coppery sand, stretching as far as the eye can see. Every so often the expanse would be dotted with tough little bits of shrubbery struggling to survive. And if the land was immense, then the desert sky was endless, a clear blazing blue that burned my eyes. In those first few moments, I felt like a speck of dust, insignificant and easily swallowed by the vastness of the desert. It gave me a lot of perspective. But that was soon overshadowed by the oppressive heat of the African sun. Throughout our trek, the ground stayed bone dry, but ironically, I could not. Instead, the heat rolled out in waves that reduced me to a puddle of perspiration. As we walked, I felt the weight of it slowing me down, shortening my breaths. On that first day, every inch became a mile, and mere seconds stretched into hours under the sun. I would often inhale deeply to regain my strength, breathing in the sweet earthy scent of the surrounding area. The cotton covering the lower half of my face felt cool to the touch, offering a brief respite from the muggy air, and flying dust.   Despite the heat and fatigue, crossing the desert was amazing, particularly because of the four-legged creatures that helped us along the way. I’ll admit I was a little intimidated by the camels’ towering height and the small mountains protruding from their backs. And don’t even get me started on the smell. I had to resist the urge to gag every time I approached one. And of course, I had difficulty actually getting on the thing. My camel had the attitude of a fussy eighty-year-old woman, and I swear Jane, it actually sneered at me. Or maybe I was delirious from sun stroke, it was hard to tell. You, more than anyone knows that I possess the grace of a newborn foal. So it should be easy for you to imagine the tangle of limbs and awkward manoeuvring it took for me to mount. But eventually, after some floundering and flailing on my part, I managed to get into a comfortable position and straddle the camel. It had a jerky movement, but soon enough I settled in and closed my eyes to let myself sway to the irregular rhythm.   It was then, in the middle of the Sahara, with the desert sun bearing down on me, that I felt completely unrestrained.   I wish you were here to share this experience with me but for now, words will have to do.

Don’t worry, you’ll have your pick of desert stories when I return.

See you soon, Shalom