When the rains come down

Capturing Moments, Spaces and Places through the Kaokoland
October 28, 2021
The Wild Waters of the Namibian Wetlands
October 28, 2021

We moved into the area in 2012. This was after some massive rainfall  across Namibia in 2011. It meant that we arrived into a landscape in which dunes were covered with waving, yellow grass that stood waist-high. It took our breath away and both Murray and I had one moment, in the same spot during our drive south, when we both knew in our heart that we were heading exactly where we were meant to be. I like to think it was the universe speaking to us and our souls connecting, but I may be wrong and it may be that this was the most stressful part of the drive, after losing the rear window because the dog pushed it out, the oldest child was tired of being in a car and we were out of snacks but realised that we were halfway there.

Over the years, though, some of my most prominent memories stem from times when it rained. Of course rain is essential for the environment, the wildlife and the habitats. It brings water, grazing and much needed changes to nature. But when living in a desert, there is an added emotional layer connected to rain. 

There is the smell of rain as it reaches the parched earth, ‘petrichor’, that indescribable scent which elates all our feelings. All our senses become engaged in that moment, overloading our body and brain. 

Watching my kids experience this, was a whole extra feeling which I never knew was possible. This year, after seven years of drought, we had some great rain in the Namib and it sent me  reminiscing on the bits of rain we have had before and the absolute magic it always evokes. 

Over the years we have had small pockets of moisture falling from the sky. These often result in running outside like lunatics, arms spread out and tongues stuck out to catch drops. Sometimes, almost always, it has involved a visit to a nearby clay pan, which when wet becomes slippery and an opportunity to clay-surf. The challenge is not to slip and fall and become encased in clay. “Anybody covered in mud will ride in the back’’ – I realised quickly that the ride on the back of the bakkie was not a threat and was in fact an incentive to see who would get the muddiest and wettest, dog included. Jumping in puddles with the biggest splashes not only makes for magic photos but also for soul-soothing fun. 

This year we did some waterfall chasing – and actually found one, as it was starting to form. The roar of water, the smell of the rain and the excitement of what we knew was coming created a humming energy. We jumped in the car and sped away to park further along, nearer the riverbed. Before we had even stopped the car we were out and running across wet sand, jumping over bushes to meet the water as it came off the mountains. Murray and I scooped up a kid each to speed up the process, slowed to a sprint and still made it in time. We listened to the gentle sounds of water moving across sand, carving out a path of least resistance but also taking with it any natural debris it could. There was a brief moment of calm, followed by delighted screeches and joyful hysteria.

We followed the road back towards our home and got halfway to another river, which was racing across the road with a big wave! The sheer power of water and the force with which it came was awe-inspiring, but did not change the fact that we were all wet and cold. We also knew that the other river was still running and we might have limited time to cross it. The risk was getting stuck and being cut off from home. So we turned around, keeping a close eye on the water flooding the river and the road, knowing that water is all powerful and can cause havoc. We reached the first river, thankfully it was crossable. I jumped out, said I’d walk it to make sure the road was intact and to get photos and video. Excitement and adrenaline were still racing so much that to my kids’ delight and Murray’s bemusement I waded through the river with my sneakers on.  We headed home, chatting and teeth chattering, but extremely happy. We fully understood that we had witnessed a natural miracle from the moment it started.

The emotional relief we all felt that day, the lightness we needed to feel knowing that perhaps the fauna and flora (and humans) had a moment to recover from some of the drought, was a deep privilege. The memories, watching my husband, our kids and dog run and play, chasing water and being chased by water, are bliss! TNN

Text & Photographs  Lee Tindall

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