Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rain to you, Rain to me

This post is simply a little chat about the weather. I got up at 3h00 this morning, partly due to chronic insomnia and but mainly due to the wonderful sound of thunder in the distance.

What do people say about rain? There are lots of feelings. An easy way to see is to have a look at Twitter:

@Plunker219 says "rain rain go away, now?"
@allyrok05 says "@charwalt im sick and tired of the rain...im outside all day at work so i need nice weather. "
@the_coffeegirl says "Really tired of the rain. But I haven't floated away yet."

But there are some voices from the opposition:
@chrisevans17 says "Awesome, it's gonna rain. That's different."

and me...
@Namibnat: We had thunder over Windhoek this morning...I really hope it's going to rain. There is a great smell of rain in the air.

Namibia is a dry country.  I grew up in northern Kenya, which is also really dry.  Even in the areas in southern and eastern Africa where there is a little more rain, usually there are long, long dry spells without any rain.

When you go for a long time without any rain, the most enjoyable, exiting rain is the rain that breaks the dry season.  Those first few short but dramatic thunder storms we get...about now.

It's still early days, and October is still considered a dry month, so I shouldn't get my hopes up to much.

When you have so little of something it conjours up memories, and rain is a good one for that.

An early memory of rain for me is from Camaroon.  My parents were there to do Africa orientation for an organization they worked for.  One thing they had to do was a survival night.  Most people had to do it alone, but if they had kids they would take one child along.  I went with my dad.  We went into the jungle as a group and had to hack our way in.  The leaders told each group where to stop and make their camp for the night.  You had a few provisions and had to make a bed.  I can't really remember much of it (I was 8) but I do remember that it rained non stop.  We tried to make a fire...the wood is drenched, the whole place is just constantly wet.

We moved to Kenya and moved to a place called Korr.  It's in the heart of the Kaisuit Desert, a rather small arid region between Marsabet and the bottom of Lake Turkana in Kenya's north.  It didn't rain much at all.  We went through the 1984 drought, which changed our lives forever, people were starving and the Kenyan government was saying that the problem was contained in Ethiopia to stop it from having any negative impact on tourism, Kenya's cash cow.

The people we lived with are the Rendile, and Rendile people love the rain in a way that I couldn't hope to explain.  The memories of the rains that break the long dry season in Kenya are amazing.  Rendile dance in a very similar way to the Masai. With braking rain, the dancing goes on all night. Wonderful. I can remember the rain on the tin roof of our house as I would go to sleep with the distant singing of the Rendiles.

When it would rain there would be lots of dry river beds that can turn into torrents of flowing water. They would come down in flash floods. It was amazing, and could at times be dangerous.

We would also get Velvet Mites coming out after the rain.  I don't know why, but the Rendille kids would run around and draw circles around them.

This Picture shows a Velvet Mite,
similar to the ones we would find as kids
Photo by Paul Garland on Flickr (licence)

Even now, after rain, we find them in the Namib.

Once we had driven to a nearby town.  The roads were basically just two tracks.  While we were there, there had been a downpour and we ended up getting stuck in the mud and sleeping there the night.  When we woke up the next morning there was a pack of wild dogs around the car.  It was such a special family experience.

Last year, on the first of April (ironic) I had a guests at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge and took them to Sossusvlei in the morning.  It rained the whole time.  A massive downpour.  If you go to Sossusvlei today, much of the green on the dunes is from that single day's rain.

In the afternoon, we were watching the weather, and when it looked like it would clear, we jumped in the game drive vehicle and headed out.  As we started, the rain started belting down.  We did about three kilometers before calling it quits.  On our way back it just kept pouring.  The rain meter showed that 19mm had fallen in those few minutes.  The roads had turned to rivers, and I could hardly drive, it was hitting my face so hard.  It was amazing.

Rain in the drier parts of Africa usually comes in thunderstorms and usually comes down hard.  The rain usually breaks the heat of summer, so the short period of being cold is a welcome relief.

At Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, where I worked for many years, when these early rains would come often the staff would simply stop work, get together and sing, just out of happyness.  It always helped prevent any guests from complain that they just left Europe to come to Africa and get away from the rain.  African Desert thunderstorms are amazing wonderful things to experience.


  1. I now live in the UK which is pretty similar to living in a raincloud itself but I still feel a strong sense of nostalgia when I think of the desert storms. The smell of rain used to be so strong and thick in the high humidity.

    I also loved the real darkness brought by a good storm. In a place like the desert, when a good storm moves in the darker daylight is much more dramatic than usual.

  2. Love the cooling rain. You might enjoy some of the rain stories on the orgoniseafrica site (not mine).

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  4. James Tuck, thanks to you I have removed all ads from this blog. To realistically make money from adsence you need some 5000 page views or more a month, and this blog gets something like 200 or 300 page views a month in very good months. I would earn enough from ads that if I lived to be an old man, I could use my adsense to buy everyone at my funeral a cup of coffee. I include ads just for fun, I enjoy trying things, but I do not write this blog at all for making money. I write this blog first and foremost to tell my stories, because I like telling them. Secondly, I hope to show that Africa is, or can be, an adventure, and hope that people will choose to visit a continent where tourism means money for people that need it.

    I understand that you meant well, but I will not return any links requests or ad clicks. My personal feelings about it is that ad click exchanges are fraud, and I don't want to be part of that.

  5. Beautiful blog and photos. Have a nice day Radka.