Monday, October 18, 2010

End of the season

This time of year is always the home stretch for the hard working staff in the safari camps of Southern Africa because the onset of the rains marks the end of the safari season and the beginning of a well earned break. As October wears onward, every day seems hotter than the last and as the sun disappears behind the dust and haze, you sigh in relief and await, with eager anticipation, the promise of the cool evening breeze. You wait for the rain at this time of year and it's all anyone can talk about. It has been over 7 months since the last rain fell and the bush is bone dry and crackling yellow and red in the wildfires at night. The smoke from the fires and the dust give the whole continent a burnt smell at this time of year and yet still the rain will not come. The clouds build up, pregnant with promise, and the wind will trick you at lest once, chasing the leave about and rushing through the trees so it sounds just like the rain and yet it is not the rain.

Last night, for the first time, there was thunder off in the distance and I stood out under the stars, straining my eyes and ears for that first promise of rain. You have to have lived in Africa to understand what it is to wait for the rain, it's a life or death matter, for the creatures of the wilderness and also for the people who depend on the rain to feed their families. Tomorrow I will visit my friend in the village, Mpisi, and we will doubtless discuss the prospect of the rain's and his busy preparations for the coming planting season. He lives like many in Africa, by planting and growing enough food to feed his family and the next 4 month will be vital for them. As you might expect, for someone who's livelihood relies on something as capacious as the rains of Africa, he is a phlegmatic character. Every year, by the sweat of his brow and, with not inconsiderable guile, he will conjure a harvest from thin soils and patchy rain and will do so, with a great sense of pride and accomplishment which is as it should be, for it is no small achievement to manage to do this year in and year out.

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