“It’s raining it’s pouring….”
End of January
The weather report mentioned a good chance of rain but we had sat up in hope before and been let down when the winds would suddenly arrive and blow the clouds away. I had done my annual rain dance with Tina and Pete and begged the heavens to release us from the drought but to no avail. Then one night, at the end of January, we heard the tell tale pitter patter on the thatched roof and waited…
By early morning it was starting to pour down. Our spirits soared and we ran out to empty the guage. It was overflowing and time to rejoice. By midday, we knew this was not normal rain and as we drove round the farm we realised we were witnessing flood conditions. It rained and rained and rained and 310mm later in less than 18 hours, we sang with relief. The drought was definitely over.
Discovery and wonder
Our dear friend Jenny Schneider, had come to visit with her friend Anke from Germany. I picked them up from Mwedzi and we drove around bearing witness to the intensity of the storm. Grassy plains became rivers and streams poured down the mountainside wherever the ground formation allowed. Our deep gully, which runs from our house down to the wedding tree, ran for the first time in the history of the farm, dating back as far as the staff who had lived here all their lives could remember. Sweetwater Falls gushed down the mountainside and as the dams overflowed, a new river was formed tearing down the valley in all its ferocity, taking out ancient reed banks and peet moss, ripping trees and gouging a course through the vlei, leaving destruction in its wake. We were in awe.
And then we realised the implications…would there still be a road at the bottom of the mountain?
We had two other guests in the lodge and more due in from the Waterberg. A phone call from the guests coming in saw Pete and I go down the mountain to check the small stream that flows from the west. When we got there, we took one look at the guests parked on the other side and with hand motions indicated that they should head home as no one was crossing the raging river that was between us.
We headed around the field to a back up crossing, only to find that this looked worse than the one above. The water pipes that had been laid beneath the causeway were crashing into the sand river along with boulders and debris and we marvelled at the sound of the rocks tumbling and booming beneath the force of the water. Pete and I looked at each other and realised we had more of a problem than we had thought.
Rescue and repair
Whilst our guests settled in for another unexpected night, Peter called all the staff who had returned home for the weekend and arranged to meet them at the bottom of the mountain. He headed off at first light and with Finn’s help and Jack’s (a new staff member), began packing rocks to try and create a new crossing. The rest of the staff arrived and everyone threw themselves in to the task at hand. Slowly, slowly, the pile of rocks began to emerge from the rushing water and eventually there was enough of a walkway for our guests to walk across.
Meanwhile, back at the lodge…
I had called search and rescue who said that they could get to us eventually but were first busy rescuing over 800 people from the flooded Musina area. So we gave up on that idea. Two of our guests needed to urgently get back to their 4 small children and Anke had a flight booked back to Germany. Jenny was fine to stay on for a few days to see how things panned out and to be able to drive her vehicle back to JHB. So with my wonderful friend, Annette’s help and her internet connection, we managed to get Anke on a flight from Polokwane to JHB. Avis did not have a vehicle for her but our angel, Lungile, at the Louis Trichardt branch, offered to have one of her drivers give Anke a lift at no cost. Our other guests could not find anyone with a 4 x 4 to come and fetch them so it was Bas, (Annette’s husband and our great friend) to the rescue!
Plan in action
Back down the mountain, Bas had arrived and with the help of some gum boots and a helping hand from Pete, all the guests made it safely across and were on their way home. We all added our stones to the pile and the following day, Pete and the staff finished off the rocky crossing and drove across to wide applause. We were no longer an island!
The floods brought huge relief. The grass grew and seeded, the trees sprouted shiny new leaves and began to fruit, animals lifted their heads, birds began to sing and everyone found their gaiety once again. Our dams are all full. Tolkien’s dam is wonderful for swimming in and the children have just got back from an afternoon dip…Africa, in all her wild ways, still knows how to surprise us.
Pictures by Jenny Schneider