The heavens opened above Kaingo. Big drops from the sky broke into a million little pieces on the parched earth. Lightning struck the communication tower; once, twice, three times. The expressions on the faces of our guests under their water-resistant ponchos told the tale of an ancient fear and respect for one of nature’s ultimate powers.
Water is life in Africa. On Kaingo, we did not exactly have much of it for quite some time. In the grips of one of the worst droughts since the turn of the century, we were worried about the effect that the lack of rain would have on our game. The predators would not experience any negative aspects of the drought. Most of their moisture requirements could be met by the prey they eat.
The herbivores are another question all together. Without grass, the wildebeest will lose condition so fast that they would not be able to sustain the imminent birth of their young. Warthogs, being specialist feeders of rhizomes and short grass, have the proverbial short end of the stick. In a drought, they would be the first of Kaingo’s citizens to show stress in their overall condition.
Elephant, with their monstrous appetite tend to destroy an abnormal portion of the bush in a drought. They switch their diet to include a lot of the cambium layer in the trees. For those that do not know, this is the bloodline of nutrients and sugars between the dead outer bark and the inner wood of the tree. It is highly nourishing, but cannot be utilised without extensive damage to the tree. The damage to the bush is therefore extensive.
Enough of the drought. I mentioned rain!
At first, the big drops falling on my head were soothing; a weight lifted off the shoulders of us that make this place our home. As it rained harder, and we raced back home, rivulets of water struck the tyres of the Land Rover. By now, everyone but me was tucked into a cocoon of poncho and blanket. I could only see a fraction of the road up ahead.
And then it happened. A dip in the road materialised in front of the vehicle. The nose dipped slightly. The accumulated water on the canvas roof lost its viscosity to gravity.
It could not have been more than ten litres of water. It felt like a hundred. A curtain of ice cold water from the front. No way of hiding. Too late. I was drenched to the bone. Even my socks would need wringing out!
The drought is not over yet. A lot more rain is needed to refill the natural underground water base for the next season. We are optimistic though. As I am looking out of the window writing this, a dark cloud has come in front of the sun, the wind has picked up and I hear the far-off rumbling of thunder...