acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Saturday, November 8, 2008

first rain



Midday heat lies like a thick wool blanket over every living thing; flattening energy, making it difficult to move or think. Animals move slowly deliberately across the scene heading for water because they have to. A kori bustard – shelters under a small candle pod acacia bush in stark silhouette. We snooze at midday and wake soaked in sweat.

We are in the Selinda Reserve, northern Botswana. Yellow grasslands scented with wild sage surround islands of tall trees, and bright blue waterways weave their way along ancient channel beds. Big game country – land of elephants, buffalos, lions, and all the migrant antelope and grazers – safari land.

In the office, staff are betting on when the first rains will fall. On the notice board amongst the orders and rotas, a list of dates – some well past already separating the optimists from the pessimists. An electric fan stirs the turgid air but doesn’t cool. Perspiration runs down every face but the buzz of the safari industry does not allow the pace to stop.

We arrived in camp the evening before after a long drive through thick hot sand from Shakawe. If ever I complain about heat again I shall think of the man that works at the Veterinary Gate – guarding against foot and mouth outbreaks – living in a dome tent miles from anywhere in a sea of baking hot sand and burnt sticks of trees. Two hours after we left Saronga on the Okavango River, we had been heading roughly northeast on an ever diminishing track. The last village a few grass huts, and a bushman family with more small children than visible adults. An old grandmother attempted discipline on two young girls; while her son – wearing a woollen balaclava despite the heat – put us back on the right track.

At the Veterinary Gate the officer in charge climbs out of his dome tent into the midday blast of heat. He brings us an A4 exercise book divided into columns. In this we must write drivers name, date, vehicle registration number, where we are coming from, where we are going to, then a signature which he must endorse with is own signature. Beaded sweat droplets are pouring down his face but he has his uniform overalls on and is there to check if we are carrying any meat or livestock over the fence.

The issue of rain is on everyone’s minds and lips. We tell him that we heard there was rain in Shakawe the night before so perhaps it will arrive here soon. We all look at the wide blue sky and pure white heat of the horizon before shielding our eyes again.

On and on for hours and hours through windy sand tracks – rocking and rolling, lashed by bare branches and sticks. We stop to help a broken down truck. “Can you help – our battery is f.cked” They have been stuck in the sticks for five hours. We dole out cups of water to thirsty people and join in the jubilation when the truck is jump started from our battery.

The heat builds and builds through the night and the next day. By mid afternoon a gentle breeze becomes a wind, gaining strength and whipping up leaves. The white horizon begins to take the form of clouds building. We scarcely dare hope and superstition abounds – if we close the car windows we might chase the rain away.
By evening the scent of rain is on the air, distant thunder rolls as the celestial furniture moving company drops a piano down the stairs. Lightening skitters and dances but we are cautious – this rain storm is not yet ours. By nightfall, the curtains are horizontal – drops hit the roof, increasing to a watery thrumming; waterfalls cascade off the tin roof and make myriad tiny water features on the wooden deck. IT’S RAINING.



13 comments:

Angela said...

Oh God, Val, I feel like crying and laughing - finally! RAIN! What a wondrous story again. And with a happy end! I am so fascinated by your writing, can`t wait to hear more and more!

Reya Mellicker said...

Oh thank GOD.

What an incredible post. This time right now, here as 2008 winds down, is a season of relief. The election here is over with the best results imaginable, while where you are, it's RAINING!

May all your thirsts be quenched! Yes!

Lori ann said...

yes! I dreamed it last night! I did. Beautiful, beautiful writing Val, I am SO happy for the rain, I can picture it.
xx lori
gorgeous gorgeous photo.

Katherine said...

Spellbinding post! <---500 size font. Thank you for sharing with us.

Val said...

Thanks all for hanging in - rain has become something of an obsession but now its HERE - just great. world turning gree again. yay. Did you see Miranda's post on Rain? fabulous!!
xx

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Hallelujah! At last! What a wonderful and evocative post, Val. You write so damned well - please, get a book going!

Fire Byrd said...

I have goose bumps now. You write so beautifully. I'm delighted that the rain is with you at last, what joy that must be.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

You brought back memories of foot and mouth here but you made it sound so romantic!!

CJ xx

Janelle said...

phew. x j

Debby said...

I've been a silent reader of your posts for quite some time now. They are amazing. I hang on every descriptive word. I actually got goosebumps at the end of this one when it rained! I held my breath hoping, and then it rained! Yay! Thank you so very, very much for sharing your world with us. You write of a world I so desire to visit, and you do it justice.

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Val, what an exquisite build up to the final joyous relief of rain!

Val said...

hey thanks for your comments all! rains are now here and days are cool and breezy. so wonderful to see the changes of seasons.

Absolute Vanilla - thanks! i am thinking about doing that....
just dont know how to start ;-)

Fire Byrd - yes, what a relief!
Crystal Jigsaw - that vet gate - jeepers!
Janelle - phew indeed - and you guys?
Debbie - greetings - am so glad you left a message this time :-)
thanks for that
Rob - thanks - glad you were with me

xxV

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