A tropical storm blew in two days ago from mozambique. It rained so much that our world became a moat around the house. The rain guage overflowed so we don't have accurate figures, but we have had more than 200mls rain in 24 hours. At first it was calming, cozy to watch the rain from a dry house - and above all else it was cool after the melting heat.
We slept to rain hammering on our tin roof. In the morning we were surrounded with babbling brooks, waterfalls, and torrents of clear water gushing out of the koppies behind the house. When you live in a seasonal rainfall area, you can never be sure when or if it will rain. Even if you are not a farmer, you keep a wary eye on the landscape and see when it is suffering, parched and dry. There is always rejoicing when rain falls. And when it is heavy enough to make dry rivers fill with flash floods it is exciting to go and see what is happening.
So there we were, driving into Kruger Park with the rain slashing down - into the eye of the storm. Every tiny creek and crease in the landscape was pumping milky brown water under and over the road; sheets of water lay on open plains forming a miniscus at the roadside waiting to tip. In places it had tipped but was shallow enough to drive through. In other places the water had lifted platlets of tar off the road surface as if they were scales. They lay in tumbled jigsaw pieces on the verge.
Waterholes we know that are traditionally serene pools of reflections and hippo heads, were transformed into swollen angry forces, storming over their dam walls, and racing in furious frothy torrents over rocks and between the dark wood trees.
We made it through to Letaba camp. In the restaurant, groups of sodden looking tourists gazed glumly at the torrential scene. We snapped pics and revelled in the excitement of watching the river rise. In 2000, the river flooded right into the restaurant area - for now it was still well under control.
We decided to head home. In that short time, the river had crossed the small bridge on our exit road and was rolling and tumbling through the gorge with great gusto. A tortoise washed up on the edge of the fray. It was being caught by the waves that swirled in from the rocks. I broke the rules and lifted him to higher ground. It was the cleanest tortoise i have ever seen.But we could no longer cross the bridge so we turned back to Letaba camp to wait for the water levels to subside. Sometimes Africa just makes you wait, and it always reminds you who is in ultimate control of the situation. These days its not just Africa that does this.
Back in Letaba the water had flooded into the parking area to the extent that normal sedan cars could not drive through certain areas. Things were changing fast, and still the rain came slashing down. The best thing to do is stop and wait so we did. Strangers started chatting, sharing road reports. We heard that the road south was closed, and the road north was blocked by floodwaters.
After lunch we tried again. Luckily for us the floodwaters had dropped below the bridge and, although the crash barriers were torn and twisted over the road, we were able to drive through.
We made it home through the rain slashed park. But this wasnt enough. We decided to drive to the Olifants River to see the floods there. Rayson came with us this time. I love how, in this area, all the locals turn out to look at a flooded river. Even the police were there taking pictures with their cell phones. The brown swirling waters raced under the road bridge carrying huge tree trunks and debris that now and again thunked into the bridge supports. Rayson is our man about the place. He thought we were mad to stop on the bridge and headed straight for the other side to watch from there. He had a point. Watching the racing flood waters certainly made you feel dizzy and sick. We saw a hippo out of the water on the other side and wondered if the marooned trees were full of snakes.
Back home we decided to quickly check if the lions were still on the open lands. We drove along the fence line and slipped into a mushy hole of mud. We were instantly stuck! Having assessed the situation we decided not to dig due to the waterlogged soil, but rather to walk home and fetch the other vehicle and pull this one out. It was about a two kilometer walk and I tried hard not to think about the two rangy male lions we had seen just that morning. Rayson found a terapin turtle on the road, and there was a giant African land snail moving slowly along. The road was a delta of flowing streams and pools.
We picked up the other vehicle and returned to the fence line. A tow rope was hooked up but the road was way too slippery and the other vehicle was just too stuck . Traction was not happenning.
We reversed to try and approach from the other side and lo, this vehicle also sank into the mud. After numerous attempts to dig and push, and put logs under tyres we decided to walk home again before it got too dark to leave. Now we must wait for the road to dry out even a little, and try again.