Friday, December 28, 2007

Firewood at Karkur Tall

I had promised to talk about the tree, so this is an 'aside'.

All over Karkur Tall are fallen acacia trees. They have died and dropped - and are great as firewood. I had noticed that our firewood supplies were almost gone but the guides seemed unworried. Now I realised why. On the day I was on my own and walking my 'gazelle' wadi, I was collected by Hani. On our way back he stopped by a fallen tree, got out of the car, and looped a nylon rope around it. It was not just big - It was HUGE! Easily twice as long as the car it lay there and refused to move while he carefully and gently tried to pull it from its position.

The situation was made more complicated by the fact that all the sand is this area was deep and soft and too much resistance from the tree - or too much pulling from the car - would mean that we would simply dig ourselves deeply into the sand. This tree proved recalcitrant (and I just had a moment of doubt about that word and looked it up in the Miriam-Webster online dictionary and it means 'stubbornly disobedient!) so we gave up and moved to another.

The next was a bit smaller and a long slim twisted trunk with several branches. The branches were broken off and tossed on the roof, and we tried again. It slid more easily and we were slowly and carefully underway - the trunk kept rotating as we pulled it and every so often the broken off branch would be on the bottom and dig in hard like an anchor. At this point the car stopped with a judder and the back wheels dug deeply into the sand. I learnt several words in Arabic that I suspect cannot be used in private company. Hani gave up again after digging the car out twice.

The third tree came easily.

Back at the camp Hani and Mohamed started to cut it up. The bark and all small branches were stripped off and burned - as they were covered in long sharp spines and Hani explained - with entertaining sign language - that we did not want spikes where people are barefooted. The tree seemed much bigger at camp and I was surprised to see that they did not have an axe - just a long wedge and a mallet. The wedge was propped into place and belted with the mallet and the tree obligingly split. This was repeated several times until they had several large but not impossible pieces of wood. The main trunk was left mostly in one piece, and that night the fire was lit and the tree pulled in place over it so that it was the centre that was burned through - and this was allowed to burn in a carefully dug pit through the night. This left us with a lot of charcoal which was carefully bagged, two large pieces of remaining trunk and a pile of split-off smaller wood.

It was interesting to watch the process from the beginning.


Anonymous Jasmine said...

Thank you for that wonderful trip, Jenny. Just went to the Mallee yesterday and it is so drought stricken adn the channels have all been replaced with pipes so there are no dams and therefore now no birds, it is barren and dry and sad and awful. We saw 20 cars on 400 kms of driving (and I bet majority of them were locals coming out to see who the strangers were!!!). It has changed so much since I grew up , not just in my mind.
Your desert trip was inspiring, thanks so much for sharing.

11:22 pm  

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