There’s nothing like a rainstorm in the bush. You can feel its pulse as it starts to build, low and subdued at first. Dark clouds coalesce and lightning fractures the horizon in silence. Then the sky roils and churns – it’s like peering upwards from the bottom of a boiling pot. Soon the energy is audible. Sometimes you can see the curtain of rain steadily work toward you before you’re enveloped.
Just as soon as we had packed the mekoro (the plural of mokoro) away in early December, resigning ourselves to shrinking water levels until the start of the inundation season, the rains came. And came. The ‘wet season’ is usually synonymous with rain but the Delta is different. Here we see two distinct water-rich seasons: a rainy season, in which water levels are actually down but the bush is verdant and lush, and a ‘dry’ season, when the rivers and channels are full from the draining floodwaters in the Angola highlands but the exposed land is brittle and dry. Both have their charm and unique aspects. Needless to say, we hauled out the mekoro again and took to the water like happy fish.
We received 227 mm of rain in December, about two-fifths of our average annual rainfall. Hunkering down for a season of rain may seem like a drag but in our neck of the woods, it’s a welcome shift. It offers relief from the soaring summer temperatures – the cool evenings and comfortable mornings are a blessing. The dust settles and the scents of the bush become more pronounced. Birdlife begins to burgeon. Far from being a slog, stormy conditions can be the best for sightings in the bush – often predators capitalise on the sounds of a thunderstorm to muffle their approach when hunting.
The bush becomes ripe with all the rain. One choice sycamore fig in camp exploded with fruit, attracting steady plunderers for a few weeks. We’d be dining or sharing a drink around the fire as a family of elephants vacuumed up the day’s scattered loot just metres away.
Christmas was as festive as any. We decorated a fallen branch of a mangosteen with paper chains and hand-hewn angels, and even scrounged up some lights for the occasion. There’s nothing like spending the holidays in the bush – none of the customary stressing and dutiful get-togethers. We had our Christmas cake and ate it too – dining on mince pies, turkey and gammon and all the traditional fare from the comfort of our remote post and slept well… while visions of leopard cubs danced in our heads.
Finally, we rang in a stormy New Year with a champagne toast. From our view across the lagoon we could see a storm incoming – there were no fireworks but lightning flashed and thunder cracked.
Newsletter by Hailey Gaunt