Rotten eggs, a smell I can put a name to, though I don’t think I’ve ever come across the real deal. A rotten egg, I mean.
But now I’m standing in the full glare of the tropical sun, wilting, weary – but willingly breathing in a sulphurous stench.
You might think that makes me just a little bit bananas. To which I might reply, possibly.
David, who’s come along to help us find the right place in the minimum amount of time (not our forte) is crouching over a tiny stream, just where it dips under a rock. He’s about to put an egg in the water with a utensil he borrowed from the kitchen before we set off.
Archaeo-man, meanwhile, is crouched at the base of a small mound above the stream poking around among bits of stone. He knows, even before he picks them up, they’re Later Stone Age. Little chips of rock with sharpened edges, tips for poisoned arrows.
Below the mound the parched earth and dehydrated stubble gives way to a lush green fringe of grass around a fountain.
A sort of a fountain. No submersible pump. No iron pipe. Just a hole, in a rock. Spurting out steaming water.
It’s the hot spring we came here to see.
Here, a dry, hot, dusty, bumpy, five-hour, pontoon-bridge of a journey away from the farm where we stayed last night.
Above the pool, in the rainy season, the ground is soft. Last year two unwary elephants came this way. The first slid in, the second – we’ll never know why – followed. Stuck, the two mastodons stewed, not so gently, in the boiling liquid.
I ask the obvious question and the answer’s yes. The nearby villagers had a feast.
Elephant takeaway. Jumbo kebabs all round.
Which makes me wonder…
Did early humans learn to boil before they learned to barbecue? I can just see Wilma sitting there, patiently boiling guinea fowl in the hot spring, like she has done for years, while Fred chars a tiny antelope over a lightning strike fire he’s just discovered. Then it rains.
Just saying. Barbecues. Stone Age technology in action. OK, if you like that kind of thing, but hardly what you might call efficient.
But what about the egg?
I forgot to tell you. The idea was that it would cook in the spring.
Well, it vanished. Rolled under the rock, down into the depths of the earth where the hot-water god resides.
There he sits, eating hard-boiled eggs. And breathing out.