BY Lisa Lindblad

February 18, 2011

One of the defining features of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park are the kopjes, granitic rocky outcrops, which dot the sea of grass.  An Afrikaans word meaning little head, these boulders and clusters of rocks are the eroded mountain tops peeking through layers of volcanic ash and soil that have been laid down over eons in this tectonically active area.  These rock islands are not only evocative and beautiful; they are also micro environments for adapted plants and animal species – think of the pancake tortoise who slots in to rocky crevices – and preferred locations for animals who use them for feeding, nesting, hiding and as a lookout over the plains below.

I have camped in the kopjes, sunned myself against a comfortable incline, practiced yoga on a table top surface, stargazed in their isolation.  They have featured grandly in my life.

And now I have encountered them again, across the world, in another hemisphere.  Near my house in the Uruguayan countryside are vistas that twin with the landscapes of the Serengeti.  In a marvelous fusion, the pleasure of the here and now mixes smoothly with the pleasure of the there and then, one lying like a transparent skin atop the other so that, at times, the cows morph into buffalo  and, at any moment, I expect to see the mane of a lion camouflaged in the tufting grass.

Between Punta del Este and Garzon, where I live, the Fasano group have opened their new hotel, Fasano de las Piedras.  On a sweeping piece of country dotted with outcrops, they have built 10 cube houses, a perched restaurant and a natural pool.  The Brazilian architect deserves mention and kudos but, in the end, it is the land – and the rocks – that take the breath away and sweep the accolades.  It is uncanny to stand on the rise and gaze out across a landscape that mirrors another one half a world away.

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John Derian Goes West