A Deluge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Heavy rain made it difficult to get home

Submitted: March 14, 2020

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Submitted: March 14, 2020

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A Deluge

Our government have just announced that two thirds of the country is officially in drought, and we all know that droughts cause all sorts of problems. The cause, as with most of New Zealand’s droughts, can be attributed to the El Nino weather pattern that regularly arrives on our doorstep, and we know we have to wait it out. There was water on the planet 3.8 billion years ago… And at some time later, the forces of nature caused the amount to stabilise and it hasn’t changed for eons. There’s some locked in the Earth’s core and in the crust but essentially the amount doesn’t change. What changes is its distribution, it can be locked in the soil, in ice, in clouds or in the seas and waterways.

An awful lot of water fell during one evening we were spending with Mo and Jo at their Ilboru house. We were aware that the rain was very heavy, but Mo and I were too engrossed (and perhaps a little cocky) in beating our wives at five hundred to really notice it, but at cup of tea-time, we peered out into the dark to see water rising fast around the house! Mo and Jo hadn’t seen flooding like it in the five years they had lived there, so I made the decision to head off back to Sanawari before the flooding became worse.

The water was well above our ankles as we waded out to the wee Maruti. We waved goodbye and headed down the Ilboru road towards the main Moshi-Nairobi road, with the windscreen wipers unable to cope with the deluge. Water was rushing down the road like a river and I could hear it lapping the bottom of the vehicle. The gradient wasn’t at all steep, but the water seemed to be rushing faster than I was travelling, pushing me a bit. I wanted to go slowly because if water found its way into the electrics of the petrol engine, we’d be in trouble. It’s funny what goes through your head when it shouldn’t… I recalled a time when I crossed the swollen Waianakarua River in the wee Suzuki LJ50, an even lighter vehicle. The flood-waters picked the vehicle up and floated us some distance downstream! It all ended safely enough, but I’d have been in trouble if I’d been washed into a hole in the riverbed! Sometimes lessons aren’t learned.

Visibility was poor because the headlights lost their strength trying to punch through the rain and I might as well have switched off the wipers for all the use they were. So I was happy to reach the main road, which I expected to be a bit safer.  It wasn’t long since the road was upgraded and I realised then why there were deep water channels built as part of the upgrade. But they couldn’t take the volume of water causing it to surge across the road. I was driving by dead reckoning because I couldn’t see the edges and I surely didn’t want to fall into one of those water channels! Mags was hanging on to the bar above the glove box and water was seeping through her door and was pushing the vehicle sideways. Thank goodness for the tarseal which afforded enough grip for me to correct!

In the dark, it was difficult to find the start of the Sanawari road because it was essentially a wide bridge over the stormwater channel, but the markers weren’t visible above the water! The Sanawari road is a wide track going up a hillside, which had been worn down by the formation of dust during dry times and washed clean during the wet, so once on it I hoped I’d be ok, but now, it formed a water channel. I knew it was only about two kilometres to the crest in the ridge, where I’d be turning off, and guessed that the further up I went, the less water there’d be for me to contend with.

I’d been in four wheel drive and low ratio all the time, and thankfully the grip on the surface was better than I’d expected, but it felt like I was driving up a waterfall! The road was much steeper than the Ilboru one. In the headlights the water looked brownish orange and sometimes it splashed up and over the bonnet, making me worry about water getting into the distributor! But the little Maruti didn’t even cough! She was comfortable in third gear and we sailed up there with no issue other than me being concerned about staying on track and water in the engine. The further we climbed, the less surface water there was and by the time I located the turnoff, there was hardly any surface water to contend with.

It was only a further five hundred metres to the house and while everything was sodden, there was no deep water. So we reached home safely. Perhaps we were fortunate to do so, because I have to admit, I would’ve advised anyone else not to travel in those conditions! And the rain didn’t let up, if anything the force on our corrugated iron roof increased, but thankfully and amazingly, there were no roof-leaks. Of course there was no electricity, so by candlelight we dried off, brewed some tea using our gas cooker and the beating on the roof lulled us to sleep.

The next day I was supposed to take Joshia and his choir to Likamba so I was concerned about the flooding. When I drove to his house to work out our strategy, I noticed there was no sign of the old house that had stood at the bottom of the road to the district offices! I always noticed that house because its roof was made out of flattened-out, square four- gallon kerosene tins – rusty ones. I found out later that a woman and her five children died when a wall of water hit their house! Makes you think…

 


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