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The lake that no longer existsLAKE ARAL


The lake that no longer exists

The story has never been published, apart from my blog, so this time there will be no link to the magazines. I don't know why but I never proposed it, perhaps because the photos did not convince me, perhaps because I thought, I think it would not have interested the various editorial offices with which I have collaborated for years. One thing is certain: definitely one of the pieces I'm most fond of and probably one of my best writings. 2006, following as a photographer of an organized group traveling to Samarkanda (yes you can find it published in this section!), An unspecified day in August, the group heads east, towards the goal, I go west. This is the story of the day .........

Here was the sea !! Comfortably seated on the rear bags, I carry a child with an unpronounceable name who tells me where to go, even if the other boats are visible and I reach them in about ten minutes. I had read of a captain who, hoping to see the waters return, had stranded his boat perpendicularly, in the hope that when this happened he could safely return to the sea as if nothing had happened. I stop to photograph it, it is there, motionless well kept, but the miracle did not happen and probably never will. It is said that the captain has gone mad and wanders in this desert cursing orders to his sailors who have now fled who knows where. The level of the Aral Sea has decreased by tens of meters, while its banks have retreated for more than one hundred kilometers. The several million hectares left without water have become a swampy desert that has been called Aral-Kum: the Aral desert. The retreating sea left billions of toxic salt, pesticides and herbicides, including DDT, on the bottom. The salt and poisonous substances accumulated around the lake, in the dry part, are carried around by the wind for hundreds of km, causing irreparable damage to things and people. The climate has also changed: hot summers, colder winters, devastating sandstorms, salt, dust with a series of endless and deadly health problems. I go back to the village, it will be more than 40 °, but it is not the temperature that causes discomfort, by now I am used to it after 2 dehydrating weeks. There is something in the air that makes it unbearable. I stop at a kiosk with a very small shelter, buy 2 bottles of water and sit in a corner so as not to disturb 2 girls who eat their ice cream. One is beautiful: pink t-shirt and long skirt, very black eyes and hair. I drink, greet and continue my tour: the government building where a fishing boat was placed on a pedestal, I climb the hill that houses a monument of the great war, from which once there was a splendid view of the lake that does not exist. 'it's more. Geologists already call it the Aral Desert! A process that is now irreversible. I'm at the end of the visit. But I am missing something. I decide to stop for some shots stolen from passers-by. I park the motorbike near an apartment building. Someone will pass sooner or later.

Time to put the side stand down and I hear a series of festive screams: twenty, maybe more children are coming towards me at supersonic speed and enthusiasm. I am surrounded. Everyone wants me to take pictures of them: some get on the bike, others touch it, still others want to see the reflex. I start the reportage and when they realize that digital technology allows them to immediately review the images, all hell breaks out. It is collective euphoria. One couple of these little beasts try to snatch the car from my hands, another for inexplicable reasons decides to kick me. I turn around and give him a slap. He likes the game and I get the second kick, I pull his ear. I will come out defeated under an endless sequence of polite kicks, while I try to please everyone and to show the results of so much photographic effort. At a certain point, looking up, I notice that one of my models, getting out of the vehicle, tilted the bike on the opposite side of the stand. 3 of them are trying to overturn it on the right side. I interrupt my operations to give him a hand, before being brought back up. The most shy are the girls, but they are also the ones who enjoy the photos of others the most. One of the beasts took possession of the helmet, snatched it from his hand, other 2 with incredible speed manage to memorize and save on the GPS unspecified points of the desert and what remains of the Aral Sea. A teenager in broken English asks me how he can resist in his jacket and if I don't feel hot. I am completely soaked under my Ergo, wet hands struggle to hold my Fuji firmly. A few more minutes and the time to leave has come.

"Ciao!", I just leave it like this. Everyone shakes my hand, touches me, touches the bike, punches on the cases. I turn around and point to the south, twenty, thirty pairs of eyes observe me, greet me, mimicking me "Ciao, ciao!"

I observe them: a cool breeze has risen from the sea, the fishing boats are returning from the sea after a fruitful night of fishing. Nightmares come true, but why not believe in dreams?

At the beginning of the village the two policemen are still there and are photographing me with a mobile phone.

"Niet photography?"

"Niet. Dasvidania. "

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