Poems 1985-2021 – Part 3

Figure in Rain (photographer unknown)

BLACK (The curse cannot be ended)

Black below
Grey above
Like river’s flow
Devoid of love

Follow the line
Where it leads
To endless time
Where death feeds

No matter who tries
Black comes back
Hope never flies
The mirror cracks

The wounded soul
Cannot be healed
A bleeding hole
Love congealed

So stumble on
Through life’s rain
To a futile end
Of hurt and pain

© 2017 Chris Harris.

About this Poem

Life is full of ups and downs which we all experience. But for some life is a misery, a dominant feature of their life….and the black dog a dominant feature of that misery and something from which they never escape.

Two women in the light (creator unknown)


A dream, two women, a blurred vision
My dream a moment of indecision
One woman, smaller, walks up the hill.
She turns, looks, her face and eyes still
That look, they say, that could kill

She appears to me as a faint image
A memory of some past damage

The second woman calls a name
Awakening past memories of pain
Hidden, deep, below some shame
Moments past and tears came
Emotions, feelings, suddenly aflame

In my mind forgotten images rise
Of hope crushed among the lies

I seem them still through the mist
I follow, then, I cannot resist
Like the first time we kissed
A primal force pulls me, insists
But they’re gone, nothing exists

© C. Harris 1985

About this Poem

This was a recollection of a recurrent dream. not always identical but always featuring these same two women (whom I never recognised) and always in an unknown beach location. It has no specific meaning or significance, so far as I can tell

Woman with Golden Hair (photographer unknown)















I see your golden hair fly
I hear your golden laugh
I touch your golden skin
You smile your golden smile

We walked the desert lands
We rode the canyons rivers
We paddled the icy seas
And strode the high plains

We laughed and fought together.
Loved and cried and danced
Shared the best, the worst of times
Watched the red and silver sunsets

Down the never ending miles
Sharing the endless road
I was careless of your love
I took your heart and emptied it

Until it was just an empty shell
Then filled it with bitter tears
And, when you were gone
I discovered what I had lost.

© 2020 C. Harris

About this Poem:
There are few people to whom I have talked about their past relationships for whom there are not aspects of some of those relationships that they regret. Something they have said or done that they regret. Unrequited love or desire. Affairs. This is about one of those possible regrets –  which is that of not recognising what it was someone offered to you.

Image: Woman with hand in front of face (credit: churchmentalheallh.org)













I laugh and I smile
But my heart aches

My mouth forms a joke
But my heart breaks

I smile at the crowd
But feel only pain

Surrounded by friends
But absolutely alone

My successes are many
But I see only failure

With everything I want
I have nothing I need

My life is so totally full
But so completely empty

Life so very sweet
And oh so very bitter

© C. Harris 2021

About this Poem

This is about the masks we all wear. The appearances we put on even when we are feeling uncertain, depressed or lonely. How we seek to appear happy when we are not. The sense of being an imposter in a room full of people who appear more successful and who we believe can see right through our own veneer of success and confidence. This is the veneer all of us will wear or have worn at one time (and which, incidentally, is a big part of toxic masculinity).

Woman behind curtains (photographer unknown)

SLIPPING AWAY (The final journey)

I see the sadness in your eyes
The final journey ahead of you lies
A final crossing of the bridge of cries
Your final days just the sound of sighs

Is it regret for a life not fulfilled?
Do you sigh for the love that was killed
For the career that marriage stilled
For all the tears that were spilled

Or perhaps you just cry for life’s joy
For the memory of holding your little boy
For the feel of your very first toy
The love that nothing could destroy

Your beloved sister now long gone
All that’s left is her plaque on the lawn
An empty space in your heart at dawn
A space that leaves you sad and forlorn

The passing of friends leave you alone
Everyone gone you’ve ever known
Your children have left now they’re grown
Every birthday an empty milestone

Of your generation now it’s only you
You wait now for the last rendezvous
Nothing more left in this life to do
Soon you will slip away in the night too

© C. Harris 2021

About this Poem

As I’ve observed my Mum, Aunt, Uncle and their friends and other relatives getting older, as I’ve observed some of them fade away and die, I have often wondered about the sadness this must create. The sadness of being the last or next to last of your generation of friends and family.

That’s not say that there isn’t also joy and pleasure in the things they have always enjoyed; the family in the next generation, nature, food, film or many other things but it has always seemed to me that there must be some ineffable sadness in losing most of those one has loved.

It’s a generation of people that doesn’t talk much about their feelings whether they be joy, grief, sadness, loneliness, love or any other emotion. Do they regret missed opportunities? Lost loves? Abandoned or forgone careers? So much remains unspoken, unexplored.

Figure on pedestal (creator unknown)


The pedestal
Makes them tall
Before the fall

The pedestal
Takes the humble
And makes them vain

The pedestal
Takes the onlooker
And makes them a fool

The pedestal
Takes the writer
Makes them a flack

The pedestal
Takes the gentle soul
And makes them mean

The pedestal
Takes the mythical
Gives them feet of clay

The pedestal
Such a little step
Such a terrible thing

© 2017 Chris Harris

About this poem

Between 1982 and 1989 and again between 2010 and 2015 I worked, frequently, with politicians, those with ambition to be politicians and political staffers and party apparatchiks. One of the things I learned was that no matter the party, the people attracted to being candidates and politicians were narcissistic, egotistical and arrogant. There are exceptions, of course, but, in general, few of those people are really people we should be electing.

A part of the problem is that we frequently adulate these people, putting them on pedestals, hero worshipping some. We treat them with a respect that many have neither earned nor deserve. This tends to simply bring out more of the qualities, in those people, that are least desirable. Even in the best of them it can be their downfall. Power corrupts.

But it’s not just the people on the pedestals that behave badly. We all do. We ignore their worst qualities and accept behaviour that we wouldn’t normally accept. And those who should hold them to account, such as journalists, are blinded by becoming too close to them.

Woman pouts while taking selfie (photographer unknown)

NARCISSISM  – #40  –  In the series, “Writing from the Road; poems, prose and images from 65 years on the Road”

This is my 2021 project to use all my finished writing and some of the 35,000 images in my Flickr archive: https://tinyurl.com/3j5utzm3

To see more visit my blog: 
Home Page: https://www.idiottraveller.com/
Poetry: https://www.idiottraveller.com/travel-poetry/


Look at me
Looking at me

It’s a call for you
Quiet, I’m looking at me

Vote for you?
What’s in it for me?
Oh, Narcissism.

Take a picture
A picture of me

It’s your friend calling;
I’m taking my picture

Give you a hand?
What’s in it for me?
Oh, Narcissism

Look in my soul
Just a reflection of me

It’s your brother calling
Quiet I’m taking my picture

Give you a dollar?
What’s in it for me?
Oh, Narcissism

Look in your eyes?
No, I’m looking at me.

It’s your Father calling
Quiet I’m taking my picture

Do I Love you?
What’s in it for me?
Oh, Narcissism

I don’t see you
I just see me

It’s the hospital calling
Quiet, I’m taking my picture

Pay my taxes?
What’s in it for me?
Oh, Narcissism

It’s your Mother calling
Quiet I’m taking my picture

It was your Mother calling
What did she want?

She called to say goodbye
She died yesterday.

Oh, Narcissism

© C. Harris 2021

About this Poem

It’s interesting to look at the Instagram feeds of some people these days. The number that contain nothing other than endless selfies is extraordinary. Their vision is nothing other than themselves. They may be in the most extraordinarily beautiful places but they are completely focused inwardly.

Not only are they self-absorbed but that self-absorption is accentuated by the nature of the images. Some photograph themselves in few, if any, clothes. It’s a form of soft porn and, for young teens, a form, almost, of kiddy porn. Facial expressions reflect what people see in the beauty and fashion industry, posed and pouting. 

All of that is a reflection of the superficiality of our society where looks are more important than substances and where celebrities and “influencers” have millions of followers but those who should be celebrated (nurses, teachers, ambos) work long hours, for little, in relative obscurity. 

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Poems 1985-2021 – # 2


Image: elderly woman with head in hands (photographer: unknown)


I watch you there,
Over by the sink
Or climbing the stair
A little more bent,
A little less certain
About what is meant
Each year more frail
Your steps slower
Your recollections fail
Living slowly somehow
Your strength ebbing,
Everything hard now
In the grey zone
Between life and death,
A life now on loan
My heart breaks
To see you so,
My soul aches
As you fade more
Each passing year,
Your old bones sore
I know you so well
And at once so little
At the tolling bell
The missing years
The untold stories
The unknown fears
I want to hang on so
To what is left
But I must let go
We must all depart
Before anyone’s ready
Torn heart from heart

© 2017 C.H

About this poem: Written in 2017 and posted on Facebook then, this now forms part of this series of poems, prose and photographs. It was written observing my Mum getting progressively frailer and less sure about life. More anxious and more uncertain.

It’s something we all endure and I’ve seen other people go through the same process of watching their parents age. It’s a process that is hard to endure for all but one which we must all bear with stoicism and with acceptance.

Image: Albatross (author; Pearson Scott Foresman)


The azure line marks our path
Human lines on the lifeless ocean
Empty horizons in the lifeless sky
Liquid deserts to the eye’s limit

Above in the blue bowl clouds scurry
Witness to the innocents slaughtered
In my minds eye the teeming ocean
A vision of our planet’s recent past

The last albatross has flown to its grave
Just a memory of the ancient mariner
The frenzy of tuna now only a picture
The frigate bird sails the sky no longer

Now we count just the floating plastic
Below the limitless marching waves
The bleached skeleton of a dying reef
The whale turns its accusing eye to us

The agony of the acid polluted seas
Eats the very foundation of all life
When the great seas are lifeless now
And all its living creatures dead

We will look upon the great blue grave
And we will know the cost of our greed
As we walk our lifeless empty planet
And our souls weep for all we have lost

© C.H 2020

About this poem: This was written during my voyage aboard a freighter from Antwerp to Cape Town. I was surprised that sometimes we would go for days without seeing any life, not even a bird. Speaking to the Captain, Marius, he commented that 20 years previously they would see wildlife including whales, seals, dolphin, albatross and other seabirds on a daily basis but that they had progressively diminished with each passing year until, today, the ocean often appeared lifeless.

Sunbaker (photographer: Max Dupain)


Blue blue, blue water
Beneath the yellow sun
Fingers of heat sear in
My skin takes it deep
Earth beneath burns me
Body opens and breathes

© 2016 C.H

About this poem: There is something primal in the addiction of many of us to the sun and I’m not sure that it’s a need that the medical profession really understands. I think it’s ingrained deeply in our attachment to natural cycles and the joy at the coming of spring and summer that stems from our ancient dependence on the natural environment. I spent most of my childhood in the tropics and still cannot resist that sense of wellbeing that comes from the hot sun striking through the skin and warming me entire being, despite the exhortations of the naysayers. Still, these days, I restrict myself to ten or twenty minutes rather than hours and only in the mornings and evenings.

Sunset over Byron (Photographer: Chris Harris)

Unbroken Heart

I tear my heart from its flimsy perch
Give it to you to break asunder
Hearts unbroken are lives un-lived
A spirit that has never flown free
Like the purity of a blue sky
That never saw the gold of cloud

© 2016 C.Harris

About this poem: I take the view that a life without risk is one only partially lived, whether it by in work, recreation, relationships or anything else. While, like most people, I have become more risk averse as I have got older, it’s still my view that we need to push our boundaries even if they are little lower than they were in our twenties and thirties. It’s one reason why I detest the “nanny state” approach of Australian Governments and believe they are counterproductive to our welfare.

Australian flag with bloodstain (creator: unknown)


Blood spilt
For an idea
Lines on a map
Drawn in blood
Blood of Indigenes
Parading their hatred
Hatred of others
Wrapped in a cloth
The flag of Empire
Symbol of oppression
In the corner
Like a stain
Australia Day
Parading like goons
Patriotism, loyalty
Shouting their myths
Clinging to the tribe
Grasping at the past
Like a cult
The Nation
The Party
The Flag
A twisted love
Of a twisted idea
My country
Wrong or Right
My Party
Wrong or Right
Simplistic rhetoric
Thoughtless allegiance
Red, Blue or Green
I Detest you
You are the seeds of war

© CH 2017

About this poem: I detest nationalism in all its forms, be it the nation state, the flag, the national anthem or national days (eg Australian Day). Contrary to the views of many that is not the same as rejecting, or not loving ones land.

But loving the land you live in (which is a real physical entity) and the people that inhabit it is very different from liking the mythical and dangerous symbols of the nation state. In fact like religion I view these all as a form of devotion to a cult (in this case the cult of the nation state). I view all these things as part of a power system designed to maintain the rich and powerful (read the sociopaths) in power. Similarly, this is not the same as rejecting the need to belong to our “tribe” or “community” or rejecting “identity”.

We can have community and identify without these dangerous symbols to which people attach and which have a principle driver of conflict. In essence it’s a belief in “culturalism” in stead of “nationalism; noting that the latter is often a principal force in destroying cultures and languages.

Image of person shooting Aboriginal man (Photographer: unknown)


My heart lies heavy on this day
Crushed by ignorant, hate and fear
The blood of centuries past still celebrated
Its colour reflected in the foreigners’ flag

The poisoned waters now still and deserted
A land devoid of a thousand stilled tongues
The shouts of the raped and killed now silent
The survivors voices still mocked and scorned

I cry for the unconfessed nation’s shame
And for the leaders’ ignorant blindness
For the celebration of nation on such a day
When all should repent the darkened past

But more still the ignorance weighs heavy
Blind to theft, poison, death and pain
The spitting tongues and pens of hate
Against those who raise their voices in protest

Twisting like a knife in the soul of the nation

© 2017 C.H

About this poem: This is very simply a rejection of the inherent racism and nationalism of Australia day. One that leads to the incidents such as the Cronulla riots and to nazism. Certainly we should not be celebrating Australia Day on a day that led to wholesale murder and attempted genocide of the Aboriginal people of Australia and, in my opinion we should not be celebrating any day based on the nation state but instead should substitute it with a day that celebrates our multicultural diversity.

Cartoon of Morrison as Gollum carrying a lump of coal (author: Van 2019?)


You have poisoned our land with lies
Taking their money and selling our soil
Our beaches swept before your rising seas
The forests laid waste by your mines

The farmlands poisoned by gas wells
Our rivers become ditches of brown
Lifeless channels devoid of great fish
The water sold to friends for a fee

You talk of freedom and of values
But you give us a brave new world
Places of razor wire, damaged souls
Whose hearts blows away on the wind

Hope crushed like refugees on our shore
Smashed in the face of lust for power
Far from the guns from which they fled
Dreams lie broken, scattered on the wire

Your corruption seeps like acid on skin
Burning up the people we wished to be
Eating the very soul of this sacred place
So that the red heart has but a faint beat

Art is pillaged and culture condemned
We are blackened by your casual evil
The fair go lies broken on the ground
Your fires char our peoples’s birthright

The ghost of the 1940s walks this land
First peoples abandoned, ignored, cheated
Everything you touch sickens like the plague
Greed like gangrene eats our country’s flesh

You speak of the bush but steal its life
A billion dead creatures your legacy
Their dying screams scars our soul
Innocence destroyed by your half truths

You talk of God but worship Mammon
Know the cost of all but value of nothing
You talk of family with serpent tongue
Hypocrisy so thick God would choke

We await the day of final retribution
Where powerful will meet judgement
Where the deniers and climate criminals
Will burn for their sins in the fires of hell

About this poem: I wrote this after the fires at the end of 2019 when we say our country scorched by the some of the largest fires ever seen (25.5 million acres). In terms of damage to forest and wildlife they were arguably the worst. These were fires that, if not caused by the Morrison Government were, at least, exacerbated by their ideological refusal to lead on climate action and their stubborn refusal to listen to the experts about the need to upgrade our fire management and control abilities. In my view the current government is undeniably evil in the sense that its actions are deliberately and consciously, via its denial of climate action, contributing to the death of millions worldwide.

Belongil Creek, Byron Bay (photographer: C. Harris)


You worship your fictional Trinity
And ask that we respect your God
But each day you are killing mine
The real God beneath your feet

So close you cannot see it
The God of forests, of oceans
The God of abandoned places
That feeds your body and soul

I feel the anger come quicker
Seeing the destruction you wrought
Killing the places of my childhood
Leaving just my dusty memories

I crave the touch of the fallen trees
The swell of ocean on living reef
The ride of the dolphin in the waves
The free and clear flowing river

The sight of the albatross on the wind
The howl of the wolf at the luminous moon
The dance of the Brolga on the plain
The song of the frog in its swamp

Instead hot sand blows to the end of time
I hear the forlorn call of the boo book owl
Alone now out on its endless range
Looking for the last of its dying prey

Long across the ocean the blue whale calls
A haunting cry to the last of its kind
In it’s cry a message to humankind
Of the coming of the end of the world

Of the death of our common God
The abandoned God of abandoned places.

ABOUT THIS POEM: I have always disliked conventional religions, of whatever type for two reasons. Firstly that they are one of the great causes of conflict, hatred and division and never mind the hypocrisy of institutions that preach poverty but hoard great wealth, and of their adherents whose behaviour is the absolute opposite of their claimed beliefs. But also that it seems to me that if there is anything Godlike in our existence it’s the very beauty, intricacy and diversity of the planet we walk on and that, some religions seem intend on destroying with the biblical messages of human dominion.

At Eternity’s Gate (Van Gogh)


Was it really so long ago?
17 years now since you left
Not a soul seemed bereft
Your memory now a shadow

To resurface sometimes

But on your birthday
I did think of you
Existing like a shadow
In my unconscious mind

To resurface sometimes

I wonder at your life
A life so unknown
Was there loneliness?
Was there pain?

No one asked

Did you long for love?
The love you pushed away
Did you hope for touch?
Touch you could not give

No one asked

I feel for you now
Alone in your soul
Alone for 90 years
Alone with your fears

The fears no one knew

About this poem: My Dad died in 2004, 17 years ago, at the age of 90. He was a man that scarcely anyone knew in any real sense; like many of his generation he rarely spoke of his feelings, showed little emotion and was uncomfortable with any expression of emotions, either is own or others. No one asked him about his life or his feelings. He died a man unknown. No one in our family talks about him and, I suspect few think about him. He’s like a shadow that exists only in our sub conscious like, I suspect, many men (and some women) of that generation.

Baron Empain Palace, Heliopolis, near our home in Cairo, now renovated and open to the public


I crossed the dry dusty street
Following behind my feet
I touched down yesterday
I walked the old roadway

Landing then from overseas
Took the bus past old Ramses
Living by a six lane highway
Must be his last indignity

It’s been fifteen years this year
Since we last lived and played
When we all were then just children
In the Pharaoh’s city of legend

Passing the old Baron’s Palace
Provides some small passing solace
For broken memories of home
For the broken stones of Fayoum

Only the corner flat still stands
Of our precious childish heartlands
Where our games we fought and played
The street where our family stayed

I hear the cicadas frenzy
The wailing of the muezzins plea
The bougainvilleas colour
Smell the rich Cairean odour

I walk down the street where we ran
Crossing the road past the old tram
Standing by the first mango stand
With juice running all down my hand

Past my favourite pastry shop
In the shade where we’d always stop
For a millefeuille each all round
With the teeming street’s raucous sound

Every bit has all gone now
Sent to oblivion somehow
They’ve taken all my memories
Buried the place of my stories

The distant pyramids still stand
In this ancient mystical land
But the place I now can recall
Is just a faded print on a wall

© Chris Harris 2020

About this poem: The five years I spent in Cairo with my family between ages five & ten (1960 to 1965) were some of the most formative for me. It was a time of indolence with endless days spent running in the streets.

Memories are of heat, sand, the life of the streets, the welcome of local people, mango juice, pastries (a legacy of the French) & history.

We lived on the ground level of a magnificent old three story, stone building, cool & characterful where we spent endless nights playing cards on the front verandahs.

We were part of an extended expatriate community that worked and socialised together but, to my great regret, not very integrated into the local community.

The imprint of Cairo was so great that, 20 years later, with no maps I could find my way around the streets to our old houses & haunts. Most those places are now gone, destroyed in the rush to development in a growing city. This is about my sense of loss in seeing those childhood places destroyed.


Leopard, Chobe National Park, Botswana (Photo: C. Harris)


Leopard, Leopard moving light
Grassland shadow ever slight
Slipping away from hand and eye,
Your path marked by distant cries

Your faint shadow in the distance lies
We see only the fire of your eyes
What a vision of beauty you inspire
Even as the world around you dies

Leopard, oh Leopard a vision right
Of a world renewed with light
Where hopes of better times still fly
And animals, for humans, do not die

© C. Harris 2020

About this poem: In 2020, immediately before the COVID pandemic, I took a 21 day trip through the Western Cape of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Namibia. It’s rare to see a Leopard in the wild but we had a fortunate trip, seeing a both a wide variety of animals and, in most cases, many of them. Nevertheless it’s difficult not to be conscious of the disappearance of many species or, at least, their increasing rarity, with the risk that, for future generations that they may never see, at least in the wild, many of the magnificent animals we were privileged to see

Broken Heart (creator: unknown)


You taught me so much my love
You came like an innocent in the night
I saw your beauty then as others didn’t
I gave you everything then I could
But you followed head not heart
The tears ran wet across empty miles
You held my heart in your hands
And crushed it with a single cruel blow

© C. Harris 2020

About this Poem: This is simply about the common experience many of us have, in life, of being rejected, for any number of possible reasons, by someone or something we love (in this case romantic love). Normally it is a rejection by a lover but, more broadly, the same sort of crushing emotional experience can come from being rejected by family, friends or even employers and can lead to depression and worse. We see this not just in personal relationships but in people being sacked by employers, in the end of careers (eg sports people). Generally we are very bad at recognising the damage done and providing support.

Grey haired woman (Photographer: unknown)


Your auburn hair has turned grey
I see the pain in your soft brown eyes
The hurt in your damaged soul

I’m sorry, my love, for all the pain
I treated you so carelessly each day
Pushing you away every day

I did not understand my cruelty
I did not see your bleeding wounds
Arms at length are not arms at all

All you asked was a gentle embrace
Some help to soothe the lifelong pain
Where words are not enough

You gave me your skin, your soul
Getting in return a hard heart
Cutting you with only lust and logic

Two years of longing cruelly denied
Two years of loving harshly replied
Nothing but rejection and pain

No apology can soothe the wounds
No penance can bind the damaged soul
Maybe time will heal the endless hurt

I wish I could undo the bitter words
If only I could unmake the careless acts
So many years, so many regrets

© C. Harris 2020

About this poem: It took me a long time in life to realise that there was a big difference between rejection and indifference (one being, usually, a short sharp pain and the other prolonged cruelty), . It may seem obvious but there came a point when, talking to others, that I realised that it was unethical to withhold from a relationship to which your partner is committed, simply because you are not confident of its longevity. It’s quite wrong and very hurtful.

It’s a behaviour that many of us, not least myself, justify on the basis of “well, my lover will be hurt less when I leave, if I hold them at arms length, if I withhold my affection”. I realised, on the contrary, that it was quite cruel because not only will they be hurt, anyway, if the relationship does end but, in the meantime, they have been deprived of their emotional needs for the entire period of the relationship. Mostly the indifference is worse than a rejection.

Adelaide Hills Fires 2019/20


I see the fires’s dull dangerous glow
It flickers like the anger in my soul
A burning rage at the failed leaders
The tentacles of grief grasp our hearts
For the destruction of our olive land
Like the wreathes of smoke curling up
Each fire the death of a thousand animals
Murdered on the killing fields of climate
A bloody plain of lies, greed and deceit

Thirty years of our hopes denied
By the grasping men in grey suits
Their souls stained with blood coal
Their pockets lined by fossil bribes.
The rising water and drowning islands
Just small talk for men with no morals
Each meaningless marketing mantra
Every empty slogan, a death warrant

How good does it get for the dead?
Victims of Morrison’s moral vacuum
Everywhere the skeletons of houses
Like some warning of apocalypse
Scar the blackened smoking hills
Each one a mark on someone’s soul
Seared by an uncaring Government

In the graveyards the families gather
To farewell the needlessly dead
Murdered by the Captains of industry
Condemned by Murdoch’s mendacity
Abandoned by a cabinet of criminals

In the minds of the bitter people
A vision of the judgement day
When the guilt of the climate criminals
Burdened by the souls of a million dead
Drags them down to a hell of torment
As the flames of a thousand fires
Sears their empty blackened souls
And the screams of burning victims
Asking, for them, the never ending eternity
Promised by their vacuous religions

ABOUT THIS POEM: Written in early 2020 just after the bushfires of that black summer. it’s simply a memorial to that summer and its millions of dead animals, people and trees, as well as call for a reckoning in which the climate criminals such as Morrison, Taylor, Canavan and multiple other politicians, along with the purveyors of shock jock and media lies (Murdoch et al), the propagandists of the IPA and the captains of industry finally face judgement for those they have killed.

Poems 1985-2021 – Part 1

And Thus Spake God to Scott

Lake Timk, with reflections of Mount Anne, Tasmania. Photographer: Chris Harris


I lie awake under the vast silent sky
The stars stare down unsleeping
Like the bright eyes of yesterday’s Gods
Or the dreaming millions of tomorrow’s spirits

As the false security of sleep creeps forward
Your ethereal body approaches
Moving close on the mists of my dream
You smile, gently, secretly

I reach out my arms to caress your naked body
But as I touch your misty vision
You move away smiling still
Always just beyond reach

I touch only empty space
Where once there was something solid
I wake again in the cold night
Under the bright eyes of the Gods

On the wall your picture hangs
As if taunting my soul
I try and read your mind across the miles
My mind whispers to you gently

“Do not abandon me,”.

© C.H 1985

About this poem: This was written during a trip to Lake Timk. I had a disturbed nights sleep and during the night dreamt about a recent lover. 

Sand Dune, Morocco. Photographer – C. Harris


Where the pain produces a pearl
So it is with love, laughter, pain
We hold the pain of sorrow
Of bereavement, of abandonment
The hurt of failed love, fallen hope
Holding them like a kernel in our heart
The kernel of pain brings memory
Of what was and will be again
Shared passion, joy, laughter, love, life
With the pain comes the scarring
Cut deep in each soul
To help us remember the good
To keep us searching for the seed
For new hope, the dawn that never fades
Without pain we are diminished
The compassion, less strong
The hope, less enduring
The pleasure, love, diminished

© C.H 1985

About this poem: I was reflecting on how no experience is quite as profound unless you have experienced the opposite. Love can beget hate, pleasure is more acute if we have experienced pain. Loss makes one value what has even more. So in this sense we should welcome the uncomfortable (at least to a degree) in order to appreciate what we have.

Rapid, Jane River, Tasmania. Photographer – C. Harris


Traveling your cold waters
A journey much like life
With no turning back
Just one destination
Journey’s end
Accepting all your moods
Like vagaries of life
Smooth placid reaches
Deep black gorges
Thundering rapids
All through the journey
No escaping contact
Swept along relentlessly
Hit, dumped, damaged
At your whim
And when nerve fails
Faced by brute force
Clinging to the side
Avoiding that slip
To doom
Waiting for better times
So to glide serenely
Enjoying the life force
Immersed in beauty
At ease
Watch the myriad turns
Water slides over rock
Swaying Huon fronds
Timeless dark pools
Fearing only fear
Like the life force itself
The pleasures, pains
Events beyond control
Waiting journey’s end
Later or sooner?
We have so little control
One immutable truth
The journey like life itself
Must end soon.

© C.H 1983

About this poem: I feel this is a rather cliched analogy comparing a river trip with our trip through life. It was written after a trip, accompanied by Peter Robertson, down the Jane River (a tributary of the Franklin River, in Tasmania), in 1983. 

Wategos Beach, Byron Bay. Wind in the casuarinas. Photographer: C. Harris


Moving through life like a zephyr
Stirring emotions like eddying leaves
Tantalising, impossible to catch
What driving force moves you on
Stepping close disturbs the calm
Altering the balance between us
And then you’ll disappear again
To rise again elsewhere, more distant
So I keep you at arms length
Measuring the safe distance
Feeling the gusts of your presence
The whirling leaves of emotions
I try catching them gently
Movement makes them fall
It’s dangerous to get too close
Winds, strongest in the centre
Like a cyclone, unpredictable
Is there calm in your storm?
Is it possible to know?
The path to safety not clear
All fates are unknown
But one thing we known
All like to walk in the wind
Feeling your cool breath
Not knowing where you go
Only that like the wind
You will change direction
And pass out of each life
You cannot be held
And so no one will not try
Not knowing the damage
You may leave behind
But when you smile
And you turn your gaze
Then the pain is worthwhile
For a brief moment of warmth

© C. Harris 1984

About this poem: Written during a tempestuous relationship where the object of my affection was one minute keen and the next very distant – an experience fairly common to many people – something that is highly confusing and which create emotions that change like the wind.

Image: Photographer unknown


I travel the steel line
Rhythm beneath like time lost
The wastelands of the mind
Littered with lost hope of youth
The steel whispers to me
Of all the melancholy days
Of the great dying to come
The bitter taste of hate
Survival a matter of mere fate

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: This was written on the train across the Balkans. The endless empty factories, the abandoned houses and other buildings made me reflect on the wastelands into which we threaten to turn our earth and the “dying” which will arrive in those times. A dying bought on by hate and greed.

Sea turtle from above. Photographer: unknown.


From a distant hill, turtles swim
Landing on the bleeding beach
Life still beats its wounded heart
These greats beasts of hope
Older than the damaged soul
Harbingers of future worlds
On a journey from fear to hope
The battered cross is bent and rusty
But the turtles pay no heed
Their vision of a former world
Devoid of doom and strife and fire
When holy dragons bestrode the sky
And the striped tiger still rode the hills

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: This is an interpretation of a dream which I had repeatedly for around 20 years, up to about 5 years ago. In that dream, which I had several times a year, these giant turtles would swim past as I looked down from the cliff above. I could “hear” in the dream the turtles imagining a world long ago before mass extinctions brought on by climate change.

A display in the Jewish Museum of Berlin representing the thousands of Jewish dead. Photographer: C. Harris


A continent’s history
Written on your streets
On your buildings
Like scars across the wrists
The knives of dictators
The swords of emperors
Your arteries of concrete
Your rivers of blood
Bandaged, healed
With a flag of blue and gold
Staunched with an idea
An idea of shared humanity
History’s sins, six million dead
Washed by a million refugees

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: This was written after walking through Berlin where I had visited the Bundestag (Parliament), The Berlin Jewish Museum, the remains of the Berlin Wall. All these buildings flew the EU flag. For me it symbolised, somehow the ability of people and communities to transform. In this case from a fascist genocidal state to a leading proponent of a pan European ideal which, for all its faults, still somehow represents an idea of how diverse people can share a peaceful and prosperous future – and in the case of Germany, partially erase the sins of the Holocaust by welcoming more than a million refugees during the 21st century.

Melaleuca, Yellow Water, Kakadu. Photographer: C. Harris


Beneath the casuarina’s whispered breath
Where the wind speaks of aeons past
On the ancient rocks toppling edge
Above the flooded river plains
Ten thousand cicadas calling out
Cascading their flowing sounds of life
And each random flower is a world itself
Here where distance silences a city’s chatter
Every trouble is small besides the whisper breeze

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: I spend a lot of my life away from Australia. Thoughts of home and family are aroused mostly by the sights and sounds of Australian trees; Eucalypts, melaleucas, casuarinas. For me, the sound of wind in a casuarina is one of the sounds most evocative of Australia, of nights camped by the beach.

The Grim Reaper. Photographer: unknown


I think of you gone
And her
Her bed empty and cold
I see her face in the window
And you
The missing smile
I think of me
I stand still on the edge
And I fly

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: This is about all those who have gone from our lives, either through death or through the end of a relationship, friendship or when a change of circumstances separates as, such as through work or life separates two people. In reflecting on those lost from our lives, I think we often look inward and reflect on our own lives and the decisions or actions that led to those separations.

Abandoned building in Croatia. Photographer: C. Harris


Like the detritus of the soul
Abandoned, weeping
In grey Croatian mountains.

Empty windows, lost hopes
Building shells slip past
Today’s reflections of tomorrow
Of the coming fires of hell

The remnants of yesterday
Reminders of our sins
Of our inferno of greed

Our own funeral pyre
A cauldron of the damned
Created by our ignorance
Fanned by winds of hate

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: Like “The Steel Line” this was written on a train across the Balkans, in this case Croatia. Similarly it reflected the feeling of emptiness created by the wastelands of the ex-Yugoslavia and the sense that the mistakes of past generations continue to be repeated, driven by greed and ignorance.

The ubiquitous barbed wire and razor is a potent symbol of the divisions created by such as Peter Dutton. Photographer: unknown.

(Ode to the political class/Peter Dutton)

The blood of putrefied corpses
Running deep red upon our soils
Your dread ambition’s deadly end.
Grasping hands reach for power
Tearing live fibres from our being
The camps, your cruel legacy
Where the persecuted lie dying
Abandoned for power’s pursuit
Bloodied hands grasp your razor wire
Death heaped on your hard black heart
The stench of your lies pervades us
Your career’s million stories
Each told by a dead Arab’s corpse

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: This was written after spending time in the Balkans and visiting the genocide museum in Sarajevo, snipers alley in the same city and the fortress above Dubrovnik. Each held a myriad reminders of the wars and genocides that flowed back and forth across these beautiful lands – and across the Middle East – all largely driven by the ambitions of politicians and the hatreds they strive to arouse. Regardless of where we live these hatreds are stoked by individuals such as, in Australia’s case, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton, and are aimed to divide us and so maintain the grip on power of the elite.

Turtle, Maldives. Photographer: C. Harris

The Great Empty

When the great fish no longer swim
The steely blue oceans now empty
The Forests dead, dying grey brown
Speak of a life long ago gone
I swim the white reefs, now lifeless
The shadows of sharks long absent
The presence of the great turtles
Now just memories of the past
You can walk the trails you walked
Where giant eucalypts once lived
Before the climate fires took them
Now just the charred stumps stand
Pointing lifeless to the blue sky
Like accusing fingers of scorn
You can stand on the eastern point
But the leaping whales leap no more
Since acid waters took the krill
Just celluloid memories left
And the bitter tears run freely

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: This reflects my experience diving on some of the world’s great reefs over a period of 35 years and walking in some of the great forest lands; in which places I viewed the destruction wrought by humans.

Woman with head in hands. Photographer: unknown.


Every second soul carries its secret
Hidden behind the mask
The smile hides the grimace
Lips forming “I’m fine”
As the soul’s jagged edges rips;
We walk among the half-living.

© C. Harris 2016

About this poem: This is about our propensity to be in pain, to be sad, to be angry or bitter but to hide those emotions beneath a false smile and to reject the offers of comfort or help and, in doing so, to consign ourselves to continue to live in pain, to continue to pretend. As a result,  we continue living a half life in a grey world.

Devil Image. Photographer/creator: Alessio Zaccaria


All my works are gone to waste
All the beauty that I placed
The music of the waves on sand
The setting sun across the land

You destroyed that wondrous beauty
Failing in your basic duty
Taking more without the need
Every day you drove that deed

Scott Morrison “prays” Photographer: unknown

You say you serve me every day

But you deny me in every way

When you move your lips you lie
And the famous idiot wind does fly

The fires of hell now above
Burning the very things I love
Forests now black and dead
Everywhere this land has bled

The rivers are running dry
The great fish gasp and die
Killed by the Devil’s crops
Taking the river’s very last drops

I see you wave your arms
You talk of the placing of palms
But every decision is the devil’s works
And In every false prayer your evil lurks

You imprison my sons, my daughters
Those who fled the deadly slaughters
Who sought your compassionate decision
But you gave them only endless prison

Your murder of the wild places
Brought the plague of many faces
You don’t even pretend to care
Leaving even your own over there

Your hateful black black soul
As black as the devil’s coal
Part of your hateful cult
Adding injury to insult

Don’t give me your devil’s eyes
Your twisted Devil’s lies
Your sanctimonious devil’s work
Your hypocrites devilish smirk

You talk of social media sin
You say the devil lurks within
Its posts corrupt our very soul
Just the same as does the dole

Look then in the mirror
And see its very real terror
You are the Devil walking the Earth
You are the very Devil on my Earth

About this poem: I sometimes reflect on what it takes genuinely evil: a lack of compassion, a deliberate policy to do harm, a lack of care, greed. A desire to cheat, lie and mislead; base corruption. The Morrison Government, in Australia, has all of these in spades. It’s a corrupt kleptocracy that is evil to its bootstraps, a fact it tries to hide behind the faux Christianity of its Hillsong cult.

Fear and Loathing (and a whole lot of love) on the Rainbow Bus (part 2)

With Apologies to Hunter S Thompson


All of my images from this trip can be found here

The group which will travel across southern Africa, together, has met up in the hostel the previous night and we now decamp, immediately after breakfast , stopping along the way on the northern beaches, just out of Cape Town, where we pose on the beach for our departure photos and for a final view of Table Mountain across the bay. From here we head north across the Western Cape to Cederberg.

Cederberg is a gentle introduction to the trip. A pleasant green lawn to camp on, bar and pool. It is here that Jeff discovers his fate which is to share a tent with me for the rest of the trip. No amount of cool will save him from this fate.

We receive instruction on tent erection, which Jeff and I manage not to hear properly thus taking twice as long as anyone else to erect our tent. There are no particular disasters on this day but instead I receive a bonus of free and cheese tasting for some unknown reason related to my bookings having been changed to a different date than those I originally booked.

The main events are swimming and wine tasting events which, when taken together, can often have a mixture of hilarious and disastrous results. In our case, aside from being regaled with tales of naked swimming by previous visitors, which seems to have provided a degree of voyeuristic pleasure to the owners and seems to be aimed at persuading us, without success, to do the same, the evening passes uneventfully, if pleasantly, in a haze of sunshine, wine and food.

Evening on the Orange River

Day two brings us to the Orange River. named after the Dutch royal family (the House of Orange). It’s the longest river in South Africa and a key provider of electricity via its hydro station. On the other side is Namibia. The main activity here is swimming the river and illegally entering Namibia though, for anyone other than committed drug smugglers or poachers, it might be a long walk to the nearest town.

The river and associated campsite is quite a beautiful spot especially in the soft morning and evening light and we collectively add to the several million photos that must have been take of the river since the advent of digital cameras. We are treated to an ongoing display of swimming and fishing virtuosity by a resident darter bird.

In the morning a committed few take a kayaking trip on the flat water. There are seven of us who go, myself, Hannah, Mike and Kerry, Ceci and Nico and Sonya.

This is a good opportunity for anyone to argue over ownership of the Malvinas or how long it will take the UK to become a fifth rate country, once it leaves the EU and has to survive on its own, and confront Iceland over fishing in Icelandic waters.

Fortunately, Mike and Kerry have approximately the same levels of kayaking skills as Eddie the Eagle had ski jumping skills and were so far behind the rest of us that the second Malvinas war was avoided.

Rumour has it that they were still on the river the following morning and had to be rescued by Gift in order to ensure that we left on time. Indeed such was the stress of their paddling feats that they strained their only paddling muscle and were unable to wash up for a week.

The rest of us had a pleasant paddle, though Sonja, my paddling partner, was more interested in adding to her portrait portfolio than paddling. Hannah, according to our river guide, did not paddle at all and was fortunate to be saved, according to the guide, by his innate grace.

So far as we can tell, however, it was that guide who fortunate to survive the trip such was his level of sexist bravado. Beyond that the main complaint was from the local narcissists (Hannah, Ceci and Nico) who having posed for photos then complained that they weren’t shown at their best.

Day 3 and we were headed for the Fish River Canyon which is claimed to to be the world’s second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon, although like all these things it depends how you measure it. For example the The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, is regarded by some as the deepest canyon in the world at 5,500 m (18,000 ft). It is slightly longer than the Grand Canyon in the United States.

First though, we have to cross the border into Namibia which, like all border crossings, is an exercise of mixed bureaucracy and futility in which we are all required to disembark for the bus to be searched and to pass through a border post in which a few border inspectors seem to inspect our passports with an overwhelming sense of disinterest.

The roads through the Western Cape and Eastern Namibia are long and dusty but the scenery is spectacular, a cross between the Dakota Badlands and the central Australian deserts around Tennant Creek.

En route we pass Aussenkehr the main Namibian table grape growing area – which thrives for three reasons, the water of the Orange River, the climate which allows grapes to reach the European market more than six weeks earlier than those from anywhere else, and the cheap labour.

The day is hot, dusty, windy and long and the tedium encourages various tour members (mainly Rie) to spend half the day leaning out of the window in an attempt to entertain passing elephants or anything else she thinks she might encounter. Being Rie, it is entirely unclear what is on her mind. Perhaps the company has driven her to suicidal thoughts or, possibly, she is merely trying to have random protein intake by catching a local fly?

Rie contemplates the end, of what we do not know

The 16000 migrant labourers who care for the vines earn a pittance and live under deplorable conditions. They live in a settlement of rudimentary reed and zinc structures two kilometres from the grape farms, and have endured decades without potable water and other basic services like electricity and sanitation facilities. Yet another example of Western nations benefiting from the virtual slavery of others.

As we approach the Fish River Canyon we encounter the aftermath of the rains that preceded us and have turned the Victoria Falls, as we later discovered, from a trickle into a seething torrent. As a result the camp at which we were supposed to be staying was closed and the staff appear to have moved almost the entire contents of the accommodation out into the sun to dry.

All is not lost however, as the owners have assembled a classic collection of vintage cars which allows those of us that are 65 going on 16 to spend a few minutes reliving our driving experiences as 14 year olds. Nico is especially at home as he gears up for his starring role in Blues Brothers II.

64 Going on 16…?

The alternative accomodation turns out to be a more upmarket resort where, to our great pleasure, we are allocated very comfortable resort style rooms instead of the campground and have pretty much sole use of a good swimming pool. We don’t even have to carry our own luggage which is delivered to our rooms, all of 100 metres away, by donkey cart. Everyone is happy.

Room Service in Namibia

Before dinner we take a drive to see the Fish River Canyon which is, indeed, very impressive and much more so illuminated by the setting sun. The shadows of the evening sun provides 3D relief to the Canyon which at the height of the day is “flattened” when the sun is overhead.

We are warned by an adjacent sign not to hike down into the Canyon, something that precisely no one seems inclined to want to do, even if the time permitted.

No day strolls into the Canyon (photo Jeff Davis)

Apart from the statutory requirement to take 20 photos of the canyon each, a further 20 selfies, and group photos, we are mainly entertained by the resident and extremely photogenic local lizard.

Here, we are treated to the first exhibition of drone flying by Rie, which involves repeatedly obeying Rie’s instructions to look at and wave at her drone, as we collectively pose for drone photos, and fervently hoping that the drone doesn’t crash into and kill any of us since it is, apparently, not functioning as it should.

We are travelling in the famed Rainbow bus, which is actually a truck with a bus body on a flatbed. It rattles its way across the landscape and we rattle with it. Whoever built and maintained it clearly has a sense of humour, since they fixed some seats far enough apart that you could be a giraffe and still have plenty of legroom whereas a couple of the seats are clearly designed for midgets or for Hannah/Rie who are the closest thing to midgets that we have.

To compound it someone thought it would be funny to have one seat which was screwed to the floor at an angle of about 75° so that one person has twice the legroom than the person next to them.

Please, please don’t leave me. I know I was mean but….

We’re fortunate in that a bus designed for 22 (11 bench seats), has only 12 people on board, including Gift, meaning eight of us have a seat each, the two couples each share one and there is a seat spare for extra luggage.

The extra space makes it much more tolerable, with the main issue being that, for reasons known only to the safari company, they have decided to have a bus equipped with curtain hangers but no curtains. So if you are on the sunny side of the bus you can use the wires to hang your favourite sarong and give you shade but, if you leave the windows open, you risk having it sucked out never to be seen again.

While we may have “A” class guides we are definitely in the “B” class transport, as we note whenever we are passed by the air conditioned G Spot buses. On the other hand the cost on G-Spot – an 18 day trip is AUD3739 compared to our 21 day trip for AUD2000 however –  is twice the cost. Beggars can, indeed, not be choosers.

We arrive in Sesriem in the early afternoon. Here we are surrounded by endless skies, endless mountains and mountainous dune systems. The light is translucent, much like Australian and South African light. There is something about the light of the southern hemisphere at around 35° south that has a different quality to almost anywhere else on earth, in my experience.

Aside from the views the principal points of interest are the swimming pool and its attendant wildebeest mother and calf. Given what we will see later in the trip, the presence of a mere two wild wildebeest generates an amazing degree of excitement, somewhat akin to someone from the desert seeing the ocean for the first time.

Consequently we have a “who can pose best with the wildebeest” competition, like a sort of wildebeest beauty competition, one won by Hannah and Rie who, if it were possible to be orgasmic over a couple of wildebeest, certainly approached that state of excitement. The ageing cynics and grinches on the other hand were largely unmoved.

Now it is almost impossible for most normal people to injure themselves severely on an entirely flat piece of sandy ground, absent any rocks or obstructions but I am pleased to report that yours truly, aka “The Idiot Traveller” succeeded in doing exactly that.

Proceeding in a leisurely fashion towards the washing line, in the near dark, I succeeded in tripping over the wires, cunningly placed by the campground management, and designed to trap the clumsy and unobservant, namely your humble servant.

It later turned out that numerous people, including Munya, had succeeded, historically, in tripping over those wires (revenge on the white man??) but none had succeeded in ripping off half their shin, and then nearly amputating their following foot. Yes, another first for the Idiot Traveller.

The image you all wanted to see: “Still Scarred After All These Years” (apologies to Paul Simon – Still Crazy after all these years (esp. for Rie)

This relatively minor accident had consequences, for most people on the trip, extending over most of the next week or more. Initially it was the litre or so of blood that I lost through tearing off about 15 cms of skin on my left leg that concerned me but by the morning my right foot was so swollen that it was painful to walk. Worse to come.

Dawn sees us assembled and ready to roll in the dark. We take the Rainbow Bus through the mountainous dunes. For Australians they are reminiscent of the Simpson Desert, though with less vegetation and more irregular in shape and size. As the sun rises the dunes turn from deep red to orange, in parts, and to pinks and whites and a sort of shimmery silver in others and, in shape, like giant sails of sand.

We and then transfer onto smaller four wheel drive transport for another 20 minutes deeper into the sand country to get to the Sossusvlei, which is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, within the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia.

Changing light, changing colours

The name “Sossusvlei” is often used in an extended meaning to refer to the surrounding area, which is one of the major visitor attractions of Namibia. Specifically though,  “Sossusvlei” roughly means “dead-end marsh”. Vlei is the Afrikaans word for “marsh”, while “sossus” is Nama for “no return” or “dead end”. Sossusvlei owes this name to the fact that it is an endorheic drainage basin (i.e., a drainage basin without outflows) for the ephemeral Tsauchab River

Sossusvlei – Photo (Jeff Davis)

The Sossusvlei area belongs to a wider region of southern Namib extending over about 32.000 km²) between the rivers Koichab and Kuiseb. It’s characterized by high sand dunes of vivid pink-to-orange color, an indication of a high concentration of iron in the sand and consequent oxidation processes. The oldest dunes are those of a more intense reddish color. The dunes, in the Sossusvlei area, are among the highest in the world; many of them are above 200 metres, the highest being the one nicknamed Big Daddy, about 325 metres high. The highest dune, elsewhere in the Namib Desert, Dune 7, is about 388 metres high (source: Wikipedia).

The walk into the Sossusvlei is the first tests of my injured leg (foot in particular) and it’s not pleasant so, rather than walking around the salt pan I sit and watch which, in some ways is better since you get a birds eye view of the scale of the area in contrast with all the little figures walking around below.

Image Jeff Davis

The bigger challenge, however, is on the return where we stop to climb Dune 45 where even the idea of the view from the top is not sufficient to overcome the idea of a dragging painful foot up 145 metres of sand dune. I am joined in my idleness by Hannah.

Rie, initially, decides to stay also but suddenly changes her mind and then proceeds to run up a dune, that most can scarcely walk up, in order to catch up with the rest of our party. This simply reinforces her image as some sort of Viking. Fortunately, it seems there is no one she wishes to drag away by the hair, as was the mythological technique allegedly used by Viking raiding parties.

We return to camp where, we find, our camp ground has been invaded by a group of G-Spotters. Talk turns to what degrees of sabotage we should inflict on their tents, bus in response to them spurning Yvonne, etc but we refrain from taking revenge.

Gift watches the punters and reflects on”The black man’s burden”

The following day is the “longest” day. A hot bone jarring drive across the deserts to Swakopmund via Walvis Bay. The passengers are pummelled into a stupor by heat, a burning wind, the sound of the engine and the jolting of the bus. The discomfort is not assisted by the fact that I can no longer sit for long periods with my foot at ground level without intense pain and so everyone has to put up with my right foot poking over the top of their seat or resting on the arm of their chair.

We stop several times en route to take in the Mad Max type scenery and, in true tourist style, to take a picture of the sign announcing that we are crossing the Tropic of Capricorn. Hence I am able to capture the archetypal cliched shot of a group of 20 and 30 year olds, of the Instagram generation, staring longingly at a rusty battered sign in the middle of nowhere (with apologies to Ceci who is not really of the Instagram generation and who, I know, was just supervising the children).

The Insta generation proving they were in Namibia

En route to Swakopmund we also pass through Walvis Bay which had been planned as a 30 minute stop to take in the pink flamingos in the Walvis Bay lagoon and to pick up lunch. But I have been to Walvis Bay before en route to Cape Town by ship and I know that the Slowtown Coffee Roasters is the only decent cup of coffee within 1000 kilometres, leaving aside the fact that it sells a mean cheesecake.

Flamingo central

As anyone knows one should never stand between the Idiot Traveller and a good coffee/cheesecake, so I suggest a diversion to stop for good coffee and cake. Gift is reluctant. Apparently on previous trips he has made changes to the itinerary, to meet the requests of punters, only for some other whining bastard to complain about those changes. Hence he requires an unanimous agreement to divert.

There is no hesitation from the crew and especially not from Rie who sees her opportunity to consume sufficient calories to maintain her normal muscle mass.

Walvis Bay is a slightly bipolar town that doesn’t really know if it wants to be an industrial/port centre or a tourist town. It’s stuck in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the South Atlantic on one side and by deserts on all other sides with the nearest town of any size being the Namibian capital Windhoek, 400 kilometres away across the Namib desert.

The curse of the cruise ship industry

It’s the major port for a large part of southern Africa including Botswana, Congo and Zambia but is also a tourist destination with the port having a cruise ship terminal. So it’s a mixture of very ugly practical buildings but with an entire marina, and surrounds, with seafood restaurants dedicated to the tourist trade, most of which is focused on visiting the surrounding deserts.

After our brief tourist stop to see pink flamingos, coffee and cake, we press on to Swakopmund, Namibia’s principal resort town. Like most of Namibia it has a strong German influence, so Marlou and Sonja feel right at home. Except of course we are not really sure if Marlou is German since her home town never existed.

We have our second non-camping stop and are housed in the cabins of the “Adventure Village ” and adjacent adventure travel centre through which we will book our activities of which there are many options including balloon rides, skydiving, quad biking, marine cruises, skydiving and sandboarding or, if you are Hannah, you can commune with parrots.

Five of us, Rie, Ceci, Nico, Jeff and I choose to go sandboarding. This is a great choice for me since I haven’t done anything remotely similar, apart from a bit of surfing, since 1980 when I ripped my ACL in two skiing, and, as well, I have a swollen foot to squeeze into a boarding boot.

In addition one has to climb some of the world’s highest dunes in the heat of the day and no one over the age of 40-odd seems to think it’s a good idea – it’s just me and mostly 20 year olds. But I am never one to be deterred by common sense.

By the time we have climbed the dunes about 4 times I am pretty much rooted and labouring with an increasingly sore foot. I hand over my board to the Danish Amazon to carry for me.

Rie is undeterred by carrying two boards and, it seems, doesn’t realise that it involves physical effort to climb up the dunes. I whine and moan about being too old and unfit but Rie, nicely, points out that half of the big group of Swedes, who are all about 40 years younger than me, gave up long before me. Which makes me feel better even if it doesn’t improve my sand boarding skills.

The Sandboarding video

We return to base. By the time we are due to go out for dinner I am hobbling like a 90 year old. Swakopmund marks, pretty much, the end of the desert section of our trip. Tomorrow we will have one more stop in the desert, at Brandburg, where we will visit the cave paintings and then it’s on to the game parks.

Part 1 of this trip blog can be found here:  Fear and Loathing (and a whole lot of love) on the Rainbow Bus – the Crew

Or visit the home page to see other posts

Fear and Loathing (and a whole lot of love) on the Rainbow Bus (Part 1)

PART 1 – THE CREW – this is the first part of a three posts about a 21 day trip across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

NOTE: this post is about the people on our trip…if that doesn’t interest you and you want to read about the places…wait for parts 2 and 3.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride! (Hunter S Thompson – author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)

We were 11 strangers if you don’t count the two couples and the Lesotho Ladyboy group ¹, (namely: Hannah, Marlou, Jeff and Rie). 

On the Rainbow Bus 2

Then there were our guide, cook and driver (the three wise men). The three of them Gift, Bheki and Munya, were tasked with the mission of getting us safely across 5000 kilometres of Africa. One should be clear who was in charge, at all times, and it definitely wasn’t the punters²


Our first introduction is the 5 pm briefing on the day before we leave. I am 30 minutes late as my phone, for some reason known only to itself, has decided to revert to Antwerp time and is thus telling me that it is 3.30 when it is 5.30 pm. This explains why all the shops that should be open until five are closed at 3.30pm but apparently this fact didn’t alert me to the phone malfunction.

Consequently, I arrive half an hour late for the briefing, apologetic and hot. No one seems to care which is a good sign. We introduce ourselves and our status. For the purpose of the trip we are all single except for Cecelia (Ceci) and Nicolas (Nico) and Mike and Kerry. Gift does, however, try and persuade Marlou and Jeff, who are sitting next to each other, that they might be a couple. They both hastily decline the offer.

The group is diverse. The Lesotho Ladyboy Group are, themselves, diverse and are a self-selected group from our hostel, who got together to travel to Lesotho in a hire car. Under normal circumstances they wouldn’t necessarily have anything in common. 

First Hannah, also known by me as the Evil Princess. You may understand my relationship with Hannah by reading this book

Hannah is a twenty something year old from Bury St Edmunds in England. Being from Bury St Edmunds says a lot, of course. The website “I Live Here” describes Bury as “your idyllic, middle class, low crime rate, small minded, boring Suffolk town. Otherwise known as the ‘Bury Bubble.’ It is known as this because it is a town so protected in its middle class bubble wrap, the people that live here grow to become clones of each other, having the same aspirations, hobbies and careers. 

The inhabitants are described as “pretentious indie kids who all collectively wear the same clothes from Topman and listen to the same Mumford and Sons songs and go to Latitude or Reading Festival without fail each year. We would not, of course, describe Hannah that way for fear of an early death. On the other hand, Bury has recently been voted as ‘Happiest Place to live in the East of England’ by Rightmove, whatever Rightmove happens to be.

Bury St Edmunds – an exciting place to live

Then there are Jeff and Marlou. Jeff and Marlou are sort of clones except that, relatively speaking, Jeff is at nearly pensionable age whereas Marlou is just a baby, chronologically speaking. Both Jeff and Marlou are super cool, the differences being that Jeff is from the US and Marlou is from Bielefeld in Germany and, by definition, anyone from Europe is cooler than anyone from the US. 

Marlou’s disadvantage is that Bielefeld is sort of the German equivalent of Bury St Edmunds. So much so that she was forced to move to Switzerland. There is an added disadvantage that Bielefeld doesn’t apparently exist

City of Bielefeld offers €1m for proof it doesn't exist - BBC News
Bielefeld would also be as exciting as Bury except it doesn’t exist.

Marlou also has the advantage that she doesn’t realise she is super cool or, if she does, she manages to carry it off with such ‘sang froid’ that no one really notices the effort. 

Jeff, on the other hand, is cool but manages to be cool in a way that says to everyone “see I am cool”. He’s not pretentious about it but you can see certain signs, such as the fact that he is psychologically incapable of showing any interest in social media. He will generally only engage with anything that involves the internet (such as uploading photos) about two years after the event occurred. By which time everyone has lost interest. Which is cool.

Jeff, as the cool style-meister of the trip, invariably looks like he just stepped out of his dressing room. He is the only person I know who carries an iron with him on a camping trip in order to iron his silk pyjamas before bed. But he swears me to silence on this issue by threatening to record a Banhee wail and claim it was my snoring. 

Jeff, epitome of cool

Finally there is Rie, the fourth member of the Lesotho Ladyboys. Rie is Danish. No one really knows anything about Denmark, apart from knowing that Copenhagen exists, the fact that several thousands Danes get murdered every year on the “the Bridge” and that the Vikings came from there. This latter fact explains a lot about Rie.

Rie is principally responsible for consuming most of Africa’s food resources. She is a sort of Danish Amazon, covered in tattoos on one leg, who thinks nothing of eating the amount of food consumed during “La Grande Bouffe“, by herself, in one sitting. 

Rie, life imitates art

From the Lesotho Ladyboy Group we can ascend up to the higher echelons of the trip participants. We have Mike and Kerry and Nico and Ceci. This is of course always potentially dangerous since Mike and Kerry are British and Ceci and Nico are Argentinian. Combining long historical memories about the “Hand of God” (aka Maradona’s) victory in the 1986 world cup  and the Malvinas war can always be potentially dangerous. 


Fortunately Nico and Ceci live, these days, in Canada, known for its relatively peaceful approach to world affairs and Ceci and Nico don’t really know, any longer, if they are Canadian or Argentinian. Mike and Kerry, on the other hand couldn’t be more archetypally British and so there is always a risk that they believe things that are typically British and absurd. Like thinking that to leaving the EU is a good idea or thinking they can win the World Cup again (1966 having been the last and only time for those who don’t know their soccer history).  Or that the best way to beat Coronavirus is by all going to Spain for the summer holidays and having group sex.

Then there are the three solo travellers, if we count the Ladyboys as a sort of group. That’s me, Yvonne and Sonja. 

Chris with the real (non-Jeff)epitomy of cool in the background

Yvonne is Canadian but lives with her husband in the Ukraine. Yvonne introduces herself as working in the oil industry and asks that she not be hated for that. Which is possibly not the way her PR Manager would suggest doing it. While it is true that she is going to be, almost single handedly, responsible for the end of the world we try not to hold that against her. And she is the ultimate team player – always pitching in to help out – mainly to replace me as I am forced to sit idly by (see – unable to wash up with injured foot. It’s a known medical condition). 

Yvonne is not supposed to be on our trip since she booked on G Adventures (forever to be known as G Spot Adventures by our trip). She is somewhat pissed off that she attempted to join another tour but was refused on the basis of being too old. It’s not too clear whether she failed to read the literature saying that around 30 was the upper age limit or whether, like myself, she imagines herself to still be around 25. Yvonne’s disappointment was probably tempered somewhat when we found ourselves sharing a camp with the G Spot bus which was entirely populated with a group of 20 year olds. We, on the other hand, are not too old but are perfectly aged like good wine. From Marlou, the baby, aged 22, to me aged 64. 

The much reviled G-Spot group tour bus

Sonja: Now Sonja has taken her life in her hands and leapt into the unknown having, allegedly, never done anything like this before and because her English is not as good as she would like it to be. Sonja is German and lives in Germany even though her Facebook profile says she lives in Alaska, Michigan. Sonja would be what we would call the “dark horse” of the trip, who comes across as a little naive and innocent but is far from it.

Of the punters, there are two ‘Johnny Come Lateleys’, who joined the tour in Windhoek. This is announced to us in Swakopmund. We receive the news with protests fearful it will disrupt the balance of the trip which has been largely sweetness and light. And that we will need to share our seats more often. As it turns out Mark and Kirsty, despite suffering the burden of being from the fallen Empire fit in well and are quickly accepted as part of our group.


Then there are the three Zimbabweans. At least I think they are all from Zimbabwe – at least they live there even if they are from somewhere else originally. Bheki is from EMakhandeni a suburb of Bulaweyo, while Gift is from Victoria Falls but lives in Cape Town. Then there is Munya who runs the kitchen and about whom I have little information other than he lives out bush somewhere in Zimbabwe even though originally he’s from Victoria Falls.

These are three wise men of the trip and they coming bringing all the necessary gifts, good food, good driving and good information, as well as good humour and company.

Gift runs the trip with an iron fist and everyone obeys, except possibly Bheki and Munya both of whom are their own masters. But the whitefellas obey orders, as they should, arising on time, doing their chores and, generally, being obedient. Bheki’s two roles are driving and flirting, where Munya, largely, just smiles benignly and keeps his counsel.

We leave Cape Town on a fine sunny day. Essentially the first day of a trip like this is a form of polyamorous  platonic flirting where everyone is trying to work out which if they can stand all the other people or if one or more of the punters will end up in a shallow grave somewhere in the Namibian desert.

Fortunately we find that there are no whining pains in the arse on our trip. However, the Evil Princess, Hannah, will, later, only just avoid an early death, since she chooses, to torment me for my incapacities, of which more in later parts of this trip blog



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