the three sisters in evening dress
A grass fire came in from the west, devouring tinder dry yellow grasses. Giant orange flames raced across open plains and along dry riverbeds. They tiptoed through the open woodland where the elephants had trampled the grasses, then raced out into the sunlight again. The wind was their friend, urging them onwards. But the wind is capricious and finally it turned. The flames stumbled and stuttered trying to find a new way forward, but they were stumped and the fire died right there.It has left a desolate landscape where burnt leaves shiver and shift on the ground, crumbling to soot and rising in dusky columns to dance with the dust devils of their old friend the wind.
We drive along the sand track which in places marks the end of the fire. Black as pitch the soot covers the charred view. Elephants have left big round impressions of footprints, where they have crossed out of the fire zone and into the bright blonde grasses again. Here and there a fallen tree continues to burn. At night the coals still glow red but during the day they hide in snow white ash. Trees that burnt where they fell, have left a ghostly impression in ash on the ground. We are driving past funeral pyres for trees - there is an armageddon feel as if we have stumbled onto the battlefield after a ghastly war. The stump of an ancient leadwood tree shines dazzling white against the black. Cascading pure white ash it is a tower of smouldering coals around the baked ceramic core of the termitaria which once shared its niche. Soon all trace of its existence will be blown away in the wind.
leadwood fire stump caldera of snow white ash
We are waiting for rain again. The October heat is reckless, relentless, and ever increasing - building for rain. Yesterday was a full moon. It was a red moon as it rose through the smoke haze mimicking, for a while, the setting sun. The full moon promises to bring a change in the weather. Across the country people are watching the skies. Bets are on for the first big rain. Inland pans are drying up and the elephants, our most water dependent species, are forced to travel long distances through the dry interior to reach the lagoons and spillways of Selinda.
steenbok on fresh neon green grass shoots
Yet here and there already, neon green shoots of grass begin to appear. Tiny green shoots of leaves are poking out of dessicated branches - signalling that hope springs eternal. It has been more than a decade since the last grass fire came through here, and some think it was time.
This morning the horizon is dark grey in the north - whether from fire or rain we cannot yet tell. There is a touch of moisture on the wind although I cannot smell that magical rain smell. But then I am not an elephant. We pass one heading directly towards the dark sky, the rhythm of his steady pace belying his traveling speed. A flock of open bill storks pass overhead in classic V formation heading the same way. Their wings flicker white against the dark clouds.
This heat has to break soon. We are on the cusp I feel certain. Any day now welcome rain must fall.