Everything takes its time here in the desert. Nothing is rushed, not even the sun set. It takes hours to fully set behind the mountains. The pace of life is so much slower. You wake up around 9 with the bright morning sun breaking through the windows. Eat some breakfast, have a coffee and then work on music for a few hours. We eat the main meal at around 1 or 2, when the sun is at its hottest. After the meal comes ´La Sagrada Siesta´. The sacred siesta is a vital part of the day, all shops close and hardly anyone is out in the streets or walking. Things pick up again at 6 when the beautiful evening sun starts its course. The only thing that seems rushed and fast paced here, is the insect life. They scurry about so fast all over the place. Instead of hearing the noise of constant traffic, you hear the buzz of many wild and beautiful flying creatures. Dragon flies that glow green, bees are this deep shiny blue, wasps have very long legs, parrots squawking like old women in a charity shop, and of course flies. Everything eats eachother here. You see dead insects being carried off by a pack of ants; nothing that dies is ever left. It returns to the eternal cycle of the desert.
At night time, the insects change shifts. It is the Moths, the spiders, the grasshoppers, the frogs and other strange designs that take over. You stand outside and things just throw themselves at you. The grasshoppers are really funny creatures. You look into their eyes and they look like happy comic like aliens, with long bodies and powerful wings. The moths come in all shapes and sizes; there are some giant beautiful pure white fluffy ones that stick to you. I am told it´s good luck when they do. They really are so beautiful, but, persistent and numerous. I enjoy watching the ant life the most. Then every now and then you see these giant beetles that run so fast on their back 2 legs, with their other legs out in front like they are boxing. I always imagine this cockney accent saying ´Come on, who wantsa foight then? ´. The frogs are massive here, they just come up to the patio as big as your hand with friendly eyes and deep ´ribbits´.
My first night here was so beautiful; Niz and I smoked a Peruvian joint then went outside. I saw the stars like I have NEVER seen them before. It was like you could see the galaxies, the constellations and the map of the heavens so perfectly. They shone so bright and clear. My gaze was transfixed on them; I stood bare foot, with my head in the heavens smiling in wonder at this strange, beautiful new world I found myself in. I had always dreamed of seeing the stars like this, in England they are just dim blurs through the light pollution and smog of plane trails, but here they are so perfectly bright and heavenly. You can understand why the Meso American cultures understood the star cycles so correctly; It´s because they had the best seat in the house to view them.
During the next couple of days I wrote 5 songs, 2 in gypsy jazz rhythm, and 3 in open Dm tuning. I just felt this wave of creativity hit me. Being in this little desert hut with a perfect view of these giant red mountains, Nizha helped me write some lyrics in Spanish, and I found a voice of an old Spanish man come out of me, so I stuck with it and really felt myself progress as a musician and songwriter, and of course, when Niz plays with me it becomes even more special. Niz was playing with a few friends for a music project, so I would have some afternoons and evenings on my own. I would walk through the landscape smiling at the huge Mountain View and desert life. I would call in to see her Mother, have slow conversations between Spanish and English and drink a mate with her. Her mother is great. I think Nizha looks so young because of her parents. Her mother is 67, but looks no more than 45! Nizha tells me they have Inca Princess ‘blood in their ancestry, and I truly believe it. We were drinking a mate one afternoon and talking, and her Mother tells me about the French philosopher Voltaire (Nizha´s mother, Norma is a philosophy master) She says that when war between the English and French was at its most troublesome, Voltaire was caught by the English. They were about to beat him and kill him and then he said ´But what worse punishment is there, than not being born British?´. As she was saying it, she turned so elegantly and said it in almost perfect Queens English, but with that beautiful Spanish tint. I felt proud to be English. Maybe you have to be away from the Isles to feel that pride.
The only time I have ever felt scared here is a couple of days in. Nizha was practising with her friends, and I had been in the desert house all day smoking and playing. Juan asks me if I want to come with him to pick Nizha, I said sure! So we drove into San Carlos through all these rocky desert roads, the car getting bumped and lifted by the hard terrain. It goes through so much that car! We drove through San Carlos by night, through these piles of rubble, dusty roads, and people standing on the streets, looking strangely at the foreigner. Fires were burning, and there was this noise of a town at night, so different to what I seen by day. It might have been the Peruvian, but I just felt a chill of fear pass through me. Juan is such a fast driver also. I trust him fully, as you can see the car is like a part of him. We drive through all these strange back roads and come to the house where Nizha is practising. About 5 dogs immediately ran up to us, and to be honest I didn´t want to get out. Nizha came out and said to come in and listen, as they just have to go through the song one more time. I found my way inside through dark pathway and immediately as I got in I felt at ease. Ahhhh, the company of musicians is always good. I feel at home with my own kind, regardless of the language. I greeted them and took a seat and listened to what Nizha had been upto while we had been apart. It was a very dark and haunting piece, with lots of changes that not all the band could keep up with, so it drifted into these uneasy moments. It was still very beautiful to come and listen to it. But I did feel a little jealous watching her play with other musicians when we had hardly played ourselves.
I told Niz that I felt a little chill of fear that night, and she said ´But did you see any angry faces? ´ and I didn´t. It was definitely just the Peruvian smoke. We got out of the car, and she had a little kitten with her. I said where did this come from? She tells me it was left in the trash and it´s only a few weeks old. We need to help it and make it strong. It was this little shaking furball , meowing so desperately and full of parasites. We couldn’t let it sleep in the desert house with us, so we had to leave her outside and all through the night just came the desperate meows; each one a little more desperate than the last. It was hard to sleep through it. The next day Niz was rehearsing again, and the cat and I had a day together. I would walk to the main house from the desert house and she would follow me all the way. She would try and be as proud as she could, hitting the long blade of grass with her paws. I would feed her a little bit of food, and there was this moment when I went into the desert house and left her outside. I looked into her eyes, and my heart broke. I picked her up, and said ´awwwww, come here. I don’t care about your parsasites! ´ I took her in with me, made her a little bed up on the floor while I wrote some songs and from that moment, life in the desert wouldn´t be the same.
Niz came back that night and said ´Where is the cat?´ Till she saw the little thing curled up on the bed on the floor purring. She smiled and said we shouldn´t let her in here, then I told her the story of our day together and she let her stay in the house for a bit. She was so weak and her fur was just little bits, a lot of it had been burned by the desert sun and she was just craving some love, affection and food. She ate very slowly at first; we had to put her by the bowl to help her eat. We said it is our mission to help make her strong and get her prepared for life in the desert. Each day we saw an improvement. We got her some parasite medicine and she was eating more and more each day. She would sleep in the bed with us some nights, but I would nearly crush her with my legs, and wake up with her putting her nails in my feet trying to get free. She started to get used to sleeping outside, but we would always worry a bit about her.
Nizha´s mother and father were leaving for Tucaman the next day and we would have the place to ourselves for the next few weeks. A few days after they left, everything bad that could have happened, did happen. From lightening striking, being without water, losing my beard, an unbearable dog joining us, terrible illness for us both, Niz and I falling apart and our future together hanging by a thread……..
Follow us on Soundcloud
Like us on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/deadseacaravan
And visit our digital HQ at www.deadseacaravan.com