by M.J. Hearle
Today, I saw a girl from the village riding a donkey and talking on a cellphone. She had a faded red scarf covering her hair and dusty bare feet. I smiled and waved at her as she passed, and she smiled back. Behind her was a stone ruin from 500 bc – an ancient cistern. A little further on was a crumbling structure which looked as old as the ruin but had a rusty satellite dish jutting from the roof. Someone’s house. This jarring contrast of past and present is typical of the area. Hoyran is a village caught between several different historical periods, belonging to none.
The air smells like wild rosemary and garlic calling to mind images of mashed potato and pasta. No such dishes will be served at our guest house. Fresh salads, olives, bread, and fish are the meals on offer. Such a healthy way to eat. After dining like this for only one week, I feel lighter; thinner. The mirror reveals these thoughts to be delusional. It must be the beer. Creamy and cheap.
Before visiting this village, I thought Australia was unique in its abundant entomological life. I was wrong. Hoyran is teeming with bugs. Black locusts and yellow crickets hop underfoot. Spiders scurry between cracks in the hot rocks. I’ve lost count of the different varieties of flying beetles which thrum the air. Frightening wasps buzz over our dinner plates and I don’t know whether to swat at them or run away. My ankles are pink and swollen with mosquito bites
Reptiles too, slither and crawl in formidable numbers. Everywhere I look a lizard suns itself, jet black snakes run through the undergrowth like rivulets of spilled ink. Turtles ambush us on rocky mountain paths. At night, frogs swim lazy laps in the guesthouse pool.
Afternoons are the time for exploring, when the sun has lost some of its fierceness. Greta and I walk in the hills. There are broken tombs everywhere. No bones remain in the hollow cavities, just cesspools where bugs breed. A goatherd ambles by, leading his goats through the scattered sarcophagi. The goats regard us with bright suspicious eyes. The sun is setting and the granite slabs are now cool. A fine spot to rest. Heat lightning crackles over the mountains in the distance. Come evening though, no rain will fall. We watch the red light play across the graves. Hoyran has sprouted from a Byzantine necropolis. Life from death. It is an enchanted place and I’ll be sorry to leave.