“Deserts arise when people arrive
with fire and agriculture.”
First night in Africa, the weather is good for camping. Tane is out looking for wood and dry moss to make a fire. They don't need a fire but Tane wants to practise.
He hears a rustling nearby and finds a young dog and a crow eating a hippo. There's no way that dog hunted the hippo so it must have died of old age. It does look old, thought Tane. The crow and dog see him and ignore him as being of no interest to them. Tane thinks about how keeping dogs as work animals and as pets used to be common place and thinks it would be cool to have a dog as a companion.
There are no dogs or cats in New Zealand anymore. They're not compatible with the native animals and keeping animals in captivity, especially social animals has so many negative consequences, it's just a no go. New Zealand is a land of birds and the birds that live near people are tame. People love to have them around, but a dog would be cool, thinks Tane. In other parts of the world where cats and dogs are native, people do have relationships with them, but they are free to come and go.
Some people said that we humans are not native to New Zealand, so if there shouldn't be cats and dogs then there shouldn't be people too. The difference is people have the ability to learn to live in harmony with the native animals and unfortunately cats and dogs don't, not yet anyway, maybe in a million years.
The dog is no concern but the hippo is. Tane goes back to camp to tell the others, and to see how far away the river is just in case they need to move their camp. They scout around and find where the hippos graze, quite a way away, so it's OK.
Tahara is impressed by Tane's fire starting and by the way he was with Jaidee. She does want the best for him but she's glad Jaidee isn't taking up all his time and that things are now like it was when they first headed off just three months ago. Spending so much time together, compared to normal life is like a year in each other's company.
First morning in Africa and there are more goodbyes. Chane and Ashon are going south home to Lamu. Felix is going north to see the pyramids and Tahara and Tane are heading west to The Sahara Lakes.
After five days cycling five hours every day and staying at Traveller’s Rests to ensure a good night's sleep they finally arrive at their destination. The Sahara Lakes.
All across what used to be sand dunes are now sand barriers made from microbes that solidify the sand. This technology has been crucial to the reforestation of sand deserts.
To start with, every time it rains, microbes are added to the sand in low areas to create water catchments, one every kilometre for sometimes hundreds of k's along the edge of the sandy deserts. Then when they're full, solid sand barriers are created, linking the water catchments. The same is done one kilometre in, leaving a one kilometre wide, sometimes hundreds of k's long space protected from the moving sands, ready for planting. Then other barriers are built and so on and so on.
The process of microbial sand stabilisation creates a structure that like Swiss cheese has holes ideal for making homes out of, saving the need to bring in timber.
When the forest is grown and the area inhabited, the structures are planted over for nature. Then the people build their houses out of wood because eventually the sand structures collapse so only make for temporary structures suitable for human habitation.
“To green the deserts, start at the forests.”
The restoration of the planet would never have happened with competition and capitalism. There simply wouldn't have been enough money. Even if all the wealthiest people in the world had given their wealth to the cause, which of course they wouldn't have, there still wouldn't have been enough. Only working together have we been able to save the future. Only with equality can we work towards creating harmony for all living things.
Harmony is living in sync with each other. Always evolving to be more complex and more diverse. The animals and plants that managed to survive living in deserts changed their behaviour to do so. They originally lived just in rocky places or sand dunes on the coast. As the deserts grew they were the only plants and animals to survive. First with behavioural changes that led to genetic ones.
For some plants and animals that have specialised in living in deserts, the last one hundred years has been one of rapid change. Most were able to adapt to living in a wetter greener environment and the ones that couldn't in time have had rocky places set aside for them. The sand mole for example had to be moved to the sand dunes on the coast. They have a much smaller environment to live in but their life is much easier with all the life around they don't need such large territories. For most of the desert plants and animals, one hundred years has been enough time to change their behaviour.
Eventually with the world covered in forests our atmosphere will grow and thicken and be the next great frontier for life to occupy, and in millions of years in the future the earth will ignite and be one single shining being, a star, spreading life throughout the universe.
'Hi, my name is Tahara and this is Tane,' said Tahara.
'Hello, my name is Fatima. I'm happy you're here, things are going to be busy soon and we need as many people as possible. Have you found a place to stay yet?' said Fatima.
'Yes,' said Tahara. 'We met Phil when we got here yesterday and he showed us to our rooms, we're all sorted and ready to begin work.'
Tane's decided to stay on for a bit as builders are also needed. He likes the sand structures that completely surround the lake and wants to learn more about them. Their rooms are right on the shore and the whole place is fascinating. He's thinking of staying for more than a bit.
'As you can see, the lake is now just a large water catchment. We are all ready to start planting but we need another few days of rain to fill the catchment. Then we will open the barrier and drain the lake by half a metre, creating a river that will flow north to the Mediterranean Sea.'
'This will also create a wet shore ready for planting reeds and rushes. We will have to work long days to get it done before it dries out. We will all be working in the planting and then you can get into your usual work. The weather forecast is for sunshine all week and then a front laden with rain coming from the south, so there's nothing for you to do until next week. If I were you I'd explore the region to get an idea of the place. Just make sure you're back here when the rain comes.'
They spend the rest of the day exploring the camp, checking out the greenhouses where the reeds and rushes are growing and a building with tanks full of fish and aquatic plants where Tahara will be working. Tane finds out he's needed to build the town from wood given by surrounding towns. He's excited by this opportunity as back home all the towns are already built and building is mostly houses and refurbishments.
“The life of time is on and on.
Forever is the river's song.”
They ride their bikes along what will be the river bed to the coast camping along the way. Just the two of them. It's only three hundred k's to the coast so they don't need the cycleway, with the entire river bed solidified, it's perfect for cycling anyway.
Near where the river mouth will be is a cemetery for people from Australia and New Zealand who died here during WW2. It's hard to believe it's possible that people kill other people, thinks Tahara, and to go so far to die. It's true what they say about how soldiers were sacrificed.
After visiting the cemetery and having a swim in the sea they set up camp at a popular camping spot where the river mouth will be and eat dinner with some wine they got from The Traveller’s Rest.
The last hundred k's to the coast is inhabited by people and grapes grow well now there's more rain from the forests.
'Hey Tane,' said Tahara a bit tipsy. 'We've been so busy you haven't told me what you got up to when I was in Adonara.'
'Singapore was out of it,' said Tane. 'The population it can support is too small to do all the work necessary to dismantle the city, so the built up areas were just abandoned to nature. Some of the tall buildings are still standing and are all covered in vines. Trees grow out of the windows like on the side of a cliff. It's amazing how people used to live, all packed on top of each other. It's no wonder there were so many problems back then.'
Tane and Tahara share stories of when they were travelling by themselves and reminiscing about the times they shared. Even though it was not long ago. Maybe it's the wine.
The sun is setting and Tahara and Tane sit in silence watching the sun slowly sinking until the last of the sun disappears below the horizon.
'Tane,' said Tahara breaking the silence. 'Do you think you will stay here for long? I'd like it if you do.'
'I'm thinking about it, after all the travelling I'd like to stay a while and contribute to repairing the earth.'
'Then what?' said Tahara. 'You said before you'd love to live in the tropics.'
'I would, I love the heat and the tropical waters. Being with Jaidee certainly helped.'
'I'm sorry Tane,' said Tahara 'I didn't mean.'
'That's OK,' said Tane interrupting her. 'I try to think there's a reason when things don't work out how I want. I think we were meant to be together, but just for a short time, that's all.'
'So you think you'll end up back home,' said Tahara.
'Of course I will. I have my tree houses to grow and even though I don't like winter, home is after all, home. The tropics are like a dream but deep down I knew I would be going home.'
Tahara leans forward at the same time as Tane to pick up the bottle of wine to refill their cups. Their faces coming together, and they kiss for the first time. Neither planned it, it just happened and when they parted they both had a surprised look with smiles on their faces.
'Remember back at Uluru when we were camping outside the cave of the rainbow serpent,' said Tane. 'I did have a dream that night and you were in it.'
'Go on,' said Tahara.
'You were pregnant and I was pushing you on a swing,' said Tane, regretting telling her before he's even finished.
But Tahara is smiling and whispers in his ear, 'Tane, I love you.'