Sotto il cielo della Namibia

Così, tra la fine di luglio e l’inizio di agosto, abbiamo trascorso undici notti in Namibia ad osservare e fotografare il cielo notturno.

Ed eccolo qui, subito, il cielo australe:

Night photos by Marco Gulino ( blog and astrobin)

Marco ha scattato queste foto verso la fine della nostra ultima notte, quando le Nubi di Magellano erano entrambe alte nel cielo, la Via Lattea iniziava ad abbassarsi sull’orizzonte, e ci sentivamo autorizzati, ormai, ad abbagliarci un po’ di luce bianca.

Deep sky by Marco Gulino ( blog and astrobin).

Altro materiale è in lavorazione.

Abbiamo scelto la Tivoli Astro Farm , fattoria e allo stesso tempo campo astronomico per astrofili gestito da una famiglia tedesca (la comunità tedesca è molto estesa in Namibia, eredità del colonialismo).

La nostra esistenza quotidiana alla farm consisteva nel rimanere svegli all’aperto buona parte della notte, raggiungere la sala comune per la colazione alle 11, dormicchiare e rilassarci durante la giornata, recarci di nuovo a tavola verso le 18 per la cena. Sebbene fosse agosto, infatti, ci trovavamo nel mezzo dell’inverno australe, e il crepuscolo iniziava a calare presto.

Dopo innumerevoli ore di viaggio e la scomoda nottata in aereo, io e il mio compagno siamo arrivati all’aeroporto di Windhoek, capitale della Namibia, da cui abbiamo raggiunto la farm dopo altre due ore di viaggio lungo le strade vuote del deserto.

La farm si trova a circa 200 kilometri dalla capitale. Durante il viaggio abbiamo passato solo un piccolissimo villaggio, Dordabis. La Namibia è davvero uno degli stati con la densità di popolazione più bassa del pianeta. Una singola fattoria si estende per chilometri e chilometri quadrati.

Arrivati alla farm ci siamo sistemati nel nostro bungalow e siamo corsi ad abbracciare i nostri due altri amici astrofili arrivati dall’Italia (per loro la seconda volta sotto il cielo namibiano).

Esattamente sul Tropico del Capricorno, l’aria era spaventosamente secca, tanto da far sanguinare le mucose del naso. Reinhold, il proprietario della fattoria, ci ha inoltre spiegato che quest’anno quella parte della Namibia è stata colpita da una siccità spaventosa, che ha creato una moria di animali sia selvatici che domestici e lo ha costretto a vendere gran parte del suo bestiame. Anche i nostri amici hanno notato la differenza: dove la strerpaglia era alta e fitta nel 2011, quest’anno c’era quasi solo sabbia rossa. Hanno anche notato una differenza nella qualità del cielo (pur sempre alta), forse dovuta ad una maggiore quantità di polveri nell’atmosfera. Le loro misure di SQM si trovavano comunque attorno a 22!

Durante i due giri in fuoristrada che abbiamo fatto all’interno e nella zona circostante la Farm si potevano vedere infatti diverse carcasse, di antilopi, cavalli e animali. Dove ci trovavamo noi, non sono presenti grandi predatori, ma solo erbivori come l’oryx e la gazzella, e insettivori come l’aardvark… e una quantità mostruosa di termitai, anche alti più di un metro, o che ricoprivano alberi ed arbusti anche ancora vivi (per fortuna, d’inverno le termiti sono in letargo…) .

Parlando di aadvark e siccità, durante il “safari” nella fattoria ne abbiamo avvistati ben due, nonostrante siano animali notturni: ci è stato detto che questo comportamento anomalo potrebbe anch’esso essere legato alla scarsità di cibo.

Advaark by Marco Gulino

Per me, la parte più emozionante è stata osservare il cielo ad occhio nudo, senza binocolo e telescopio: non mi aspettavo, per qualche ragione, che le Nubi di Magellano fossero realmente così grandi e luminose, e la prima notte è stata uno shock quando le ho viste lì, entrambe, enormi e brillanti. Forse le immaginavo più subdole ed evanescenti.

Anche l’arco della Via Lattea era emozionante: si estendeva in tutta la sua tridimensionalità, con il suo reticolo luminescente di nebulose chiare ed oscure. Ogni dettaglio riluceva nitido, e a colpo d’occhio si potevano localizzare gli oggetti più brillanti e le formazioni più famose. Nella prima parte della serata brillavano le costellazioni della Croce del Sud e del Centauro, mentre in tarda notte sorgeva Canopo, la seconda stella più luminosa del cielo dopo la nostra Sirio.

Un altro aspetto che per me, e per chi altri si diverte a conoscere le costellazioni e il loro moto, è stato piacevolmente destabilizzante era il fatto di veder sorgere le costellazioni conosciute a testa in giù: Orione capovolto che si alza dall’orizzonte… In utimo, continuavo a conforndermi con i punti cardinali, e anche se non era così, nella mia testa il sole ha continuato a tramontare ad est per gran parte del mio soggiorno.

Come sapete, sono appassionata di osservazioni visuali, e a quelle mi sono dedicata con i Dobson che abbiamo affittato. Non conosco molto di fotografia, ma non ho resistito alla bellezza di questo cielo, e qualche notte ho preso in prestito la macchina e il treppiede di Marco. Metto qui in fondo i miei modesti tentativi.

Verso il cielo australe

Post frettoloso e in lingua nativa. Domani (domani!) io e il mio compagno partiamo per l’Africa.

È il viaggio che ho sognato per tantissimo tempo, andare in un luogo remoto ad osservare il cielo dell’emisfero australe: il centro galattico allo zenit, le Nubi di Magallano, Omega Centauri, Sagittarius A, e tutti gli oggetti invisibili dal nostro emisfero.

Ho scoperto l’astronomia nel 2012 quando avevo diciassette anni ed ero una ragazzina stramba (ancor più di adesso) e solitaria all’ultimo anno di liceo. Ho iniziato a frequentare due circoli astrofili della mia zona (Antares, a Legnano, e il GAT di Tradate) e durante quell’estate ho comprato il primo telescopio: il tubo bianco che ho usato, ammaccato, lavato e trasportato costantemente per cinque anni, sul balcone, nei campi, sulle Alpi e sugli Appennini, fino al trasferimento in Inghilterra , quando ho dovuto lasciarlo nella mia vecchia stanza.

Da tanto tempo vorrei osservare anche la seconda metà del cielo, quella esotica. Abbiamo prenotato il volo, la camera e gli strumenti un anno esatto fa.

Isolate nel cuore del deserto, in Namibia esistono queste “astrofarm”, allo stesso tempo fattorie e osservatori astronomici dove è possibile noleggiare telescopi e attrezzatura e dedicarsi tutta la notte all’osservazione visuale e alla fotografia del cielo, lontani da ogni fonte di inquinamento luminoso.

La nostra astrofarm si chiama Tivoli ed è gestita da una famiglia tedesca. Saremo io, il mio compagno, più due amici che partiranno dall’Italia, i quali sono già stati in questa farm in passato.

In questo momenti ci sono 38 soffocanti gradi a Londra, e sembra così surreale mettere in valigia giaccone, guanti e calzettoni da montagna per andare in Africa!

Nel pieno dell’inverno australe, ci aspettano temperature fino ai 26 gradi durante il giorno, e sotto i sette gradi durante la notte

Il nostro volo partirà domani sera da Heathrow, e in circa 11 ore ci porterà a Johannesburg, Sud Africa. Da lì, prenderemo un altro aereo per Windhoek, capitale della Namibia. La farm è situata in un’oasi a 180 Km di distanza dalla capitale, nel deserto del Kalahari. La Namibia è il secondo paese meno popolato al mondo. Ci troveremo a 1362 metri sopra il livello del mare, esattamente sul Tropico del Capricorno.

Le 11 notti, dal 27 luglio al 7 agosto, saranno organizzate in questo modo:

Dal 27 al 31 luglio (5 notti): telescopio Dobson da 15″ (38 cm)

Dall’1 al 3 agosto (3 notti): telescopio Dobson 20″ (51 cm)

Le notti restanti useremo soltanto l’attrezzatura portata da casa: il binocolo (50X70) e le macchine fotografiche.

Questo è lo zaino preparato da Marco:

I nostri amici che hanno già osservato il cielo del sud dal deserto della Namibia hanno ricevuto una impressione fortissima: il cielo nero fino alla linea dell’orizzonte, e la luce zodiacale così luminosa da essere scambiata per una luce artificiale. Mi aspetto qualcosa da togliere il fiato.

I do enjoy going to the theatre alone

I actually do.

The point is simple: You never know what to expect from a theatre performance, but usually is something that hits you badly, for better or worse. I mean, I really live the theatre as a personal, intimate experience.

I used to have a subscription for one theatre in Milan, but the opportunities were endless.

After moving in a English speaking country, I had to wait for a while before approaching the theatre again. London teems as well with theatre plays. I saw, together with my boyfriend, some of the ever running shows of the capital, as The Lion King, The Mousetrap, and The Woman in Black.

Then in December of the last year I took an entire day off and went to see by myself The Cursed Child, composed of two parts, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, and I still have goosebumps if I think about it (and that happens often). London was all light up for Christmas and glistering in the rain.

Then I waited again, worried about starting exploring for real, worried about not understanding the quick talks and the puns, the UK slang and the occasional Scottish accents. But now I have fully resumed my solitary exploration of the theatres venues of the capital and of the forgotten corners of my soul.

“See, this is why I love you so much: you are paradoxically filthy and pure, a sort of buggering Bambi.” Wife at Kiln Theatre.

About writing

I have two main passions that are my strong companions in life: one is writing, the other one is observational astronomy. Apart from this two centres or focal points, I try to draw, I’m an huge fan of Tolkien, and I’m fascinated by “visual” languages like Japanese. There are days I don’t do anything else but tirelessly practising kanji (Japanese ideograms) and learning about their shapes and origins. Not that I’m even near to speak or read real Japanese yet.

I need to fill my spare time with creativity, otherwise a unbearable sense of waste falls over me.

My mind is restless, and the most disparate things fascinated me.

But writing has been my first passion. I remember I started to think and actually write down the first stories on my grandmother vast dark-green glass table during elementary school. I still remember the outlines of some of them, and few years ago I found an exhilarating, hand-written page about two schoolgirls in elementary school, one of them, who I named Erika, was an alien in incognito who accepted to transform back in her real shape to show her sceptic friend. I was in elementary school as well when I wrote it. There is another one from my childhood, a very strange one, I never made into written words. And now that I think about it, there was already something dark about my stories then.

During my high school years I’ve been very proliferous. In that self-exaltation, I was sure I was going to be a writer. That to say, a bestseller one. I created most of my stories then, and I feel so sad thinking I destroyed or deleted several of them. Even the one I was writing tonight, it’s nothing but a retake of an idea I had when I was fourteen years old.

I was such a weird and introvert kid.

The most fascinating things about creative writing was, for me, the way the visions in my mind were flowing directly on the paper (and, later, on a compute screen), sometimes completely effortlessly. A blank page didn’t scare me a bit, I was looking forward for new blank pages. Writing and visions were often entangled together. If I can use the word, I was feeling something magic was going on.


(The era of the effortless creations is finished. Now everything is so damn difficult. Now, since looks like I’m not blessed anymore, I better start organising myself and resume practising!)

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

I’m currently reading One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey in the sixties, Oregon. I’ve got quite a number of US novelist in my reading list at the moment, now that I think of it… But I’ve been curious about this one for some time, since a friend of mine told me the narrator voice was the seemingly deaf Indian Chief (by coincidence this friend is doing an internship in the psychiatric ward of an Italian hospital right now).

I bought the Penguin Modern Classic edition, that includes the writer’s sketches as well.

The reason I opened a post about it is that I’m stunned by the way it is written: there is a visual element in the way the story is told that whoa, it’is just blowing my mind. Of course I like the story – I liked it years ago when I saw the movie, and it had been a lasting impression on me ever since ( to tell the truth, I cannot help but image the broad, red-haired and tattooed McMurphy of the novel as Jack Nicholson – but that’s okay, his interpretation was majestic).

Chief is telling McMurphy’s story from his eyes, and we as spectator are force to take this point of view as well, that is either incredibly into focus and vivid or filtered through hallucinations. In my opinion is this distortion from a plain narration that makes this book so interesting, dreamy and cruel at the same time.

I’m just so absorbed by this book.

So this is the way the villain Miss Ratched is introduced, by her mechanical, neon coloured fingers:

I’m mopping near the ward door when a key hits it from the other side and I know it’s the Big Nurse by the way the lockworks cleave to slide through the door with a gust of cold and locks the door behind her and I see her fingers trail across the polished steel – tip of each fingers the same colour as her lips. Funny orange. Like the tip of a soldering iron. Colour so hot or so cold if she touches you with it you can tell with.

Ken Kesey, One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, p. 4

And a while after he unveils the beast:

She’s swelling up, swells till her back’s splitting out of the white uniform and she’s let her arm section out long enough to wrap around the three of them five, six times. She looks around her with a swivel of her huge head. Nobody up to see, just old Broom Bromden the half-breed Indian back there hiding behind his mop and can’t talk to call for help. So she really let herself go and her painted smile twists, stretched to an open snarl, and she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside the way you smell a motor pulling too big a load. (…) All the patients start coming out of the dorms to check on what’s the hullabaloo, and she as to change back before she’s caught in the shape of her hideous self.

Ken Kesey, One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, p. 5

I don’t want to add other pieces, not to ruin the book for a new reader, but around page 77 there’s something jaw-dropping .

This novel was part of a book “haul” at Foyles from the last February:

Book “haul” from February.


Travelling alone in Ireland – Part 3 of 3 – More of Doolin and back to Dublin

Day 4

Rough sea in the morning

The morning of my fourth day in Ireland was cold, rainy and gloomy. After breakfast I climbed on a slow hill to watch the sea:



This was a revealing moment, and it was then I decided that I would do it again, travelling alone: pouring rain was approaching, wind was hauling inside my ears, there was not much I could do that day, but at the same time I felt completely free of deciding of my own time.

I visited the ruins of the medival church of Killilagh:

I had planned to do some trekking, but the downpour kept me inside.

This is much all of it: I decide to cancel my reservation in Doolin and go back one day earlier to Dublin, to visit some more of the city the next day before taking the plane.

Next time I want to go in Norway… !


How much I spent in 5 days:

Transports:

  • Flight London Stansted – Dublin £ 9.99
  • Flight Dublin – London Stansted £ 16.68
  • Stansted Express £ 18.10 (x2)
  • Dublin – Airport (return) ~ £10
  • Dublin – Galway (return) ~ £25
  • Galway – Dublin (return) ~ £29

Hostels:

  • Dublin £21
  • Galway £19
  • Doolin £51
  • Dublin £34

Travelling alone in Ireland – part 2 of 3 – Cliffs of Moher and Doolin

Day 3

Bus from Galway to the Cliff of Moher

I took another bus to reach the Cliffs of Moher. From Galway to the Visitor Centre in the middle of the cliffs it takes about two hours of ride. I went with Bus Éireann, and the route followed the coast around Galway bay and then down in the strange and rocky landscape of the Burren.

Looking outside the bus windows ad the gloomy sky and at the sea, I was feeling amazed: The cliffs of Ireland are an old dream of mine becoming real.

I arrived at the cliffs at 10 o’clock: in the bust was just me and two girls from Germany, loaded with big backpacks. The sky was cloudy and the air chill, rain was forecast for the late morning.

Here is the famous view of the cliffs from the Visitor Centre viewpoint:

From the Centre I walked along the southern edge of the cliffs until Hag’s Head, and back, that is in total around two hours of walk.

I met just a couple of people more: I had the cliffs all by myself.

Toward Hag’s Head and back

Coastal path from the Visitor Centre to Hag’s Head.

It started raining when I was around an hundred metres from the ruins of Moher Tower. I was well far away from any type of shelter, so I decide to prepare my lunch nevertheless at the foot of the tower and just enjoy the rain against my glasses and raincoat. On my way back mist started to raise as well, and I understood how lucky I’d been: the landscape completely changed, and all the cliffs just disappeared, eaten by the mist. The visibility reduced to just few hundred metres. Sky and sea blended together in greyness.

A long way to Doolin

I walked back to the Visitor Centre and waited there for the mist to fade away. More tourist started to arrive and fill the place. I bought myself a cup of tea and visited the exhibition about the cliffs environment that was currently taking place at the Centre.

I then resumed my walk along the northern part of the cliffs towards the village of Doolin, where I was staying that night.

Here some photographs of the northern section of the Cliffs of Moher:

I was planning to walk the full coastal path to Doolin, but I was wearing sneakers and the ground was very slippery from the recent rain. Further more, more gray clouds where accumulating on the northern horizon, and mist was still looming at my back. I decided to abandon the cliffs edge and find a way to a road in the countryside that was showing on my map. This resulted to be a good idea, and I discovered the village of Lough and the lovely, silent Irish countryside, where not a soul was around.

You see the small round island in front of the coast? There was where I was leading…

Lough

Doolin

Finally, I reached the village of Doolin, revealed first by Doonagore Castle:

This part of countryside must be lively with tourists during the summer, but then I was off season and I met, in two days, just few other travellers, mostly alone: all the shops closed, the ferry service suspended until second week of March, the Aran Islands isolated from the mainland… Everything was soaked in a eerie silence and immobility – a sense of waiting, a tension. For me, was pure magic.

Doolin Pier

I was staying at the Doolin Hostel, which I recommend. After leaving my clothes to dry (I had a room just for me this time!), I decided to walk for another 20 minutes until the pier. Now the air was cold and the wind rising. Just in front of the Pier is the round island I saw from far away.

The Pier had a deep sense of abandon and wilderness, emphasised by the shut ferry offices, and I stayed there for a while breathing in the wind.

That evening I had dinner (Irish beef stew, bread and butter, with Guinness) at McGann’s Pub. There I saw again the two German girls of the bus, a lone young woman from Sweden, and a Texan Man.

I walked back, in pitch darkness, toward the hostel. Misty rain blurred my sight, the air was cold and damp. That night I sleep beautifully.