Monday, January 30, 2006
Man vs Nature
Yesterday we drove over 400km, and although our goal was to watch an offroad triathlon - we ended up watching something altogether different, and far more awesome.
We headed towards a dark blue grey wall of cloud. It looked like rain, but it looked fairly benign. We passed thousands of cauliflower ships, bumping into each other while the sun blasted their backs.
As we arrived at Xterra we noticed plenty of vehicles evacuating. When we got there, muddy rivers were flowing all over the place, kids were playing in the mud, and competitors were rushing their bikes to shelter, as though carrying victims of an emergency.
We didn't stay long. About a minute. Just enough time to exchange a few words with a friend who was running around the transition area, trying to get his gear somewhere warm and dry.
When we headed back, the storm really flexed its muscles. It is hard to believe rain can come down so hard. At one stage small hail pebbles drummed the car. At other times visibility was reduced to zero. It was like being in a swimming pool. You couldn't see anything and it was impossibleto tell which lane you were in, or where the road was going...so the car slowed down to zero. This lasted a few moments and then a gale would blow ghosts of water in front of us, and I'd look to the right and see a curtain of water lift to reveal the road and a white line under an inch of eyebrow plucked water.
Several times we slowed down to a crawl. We passed a sign that warned of high wind. In a lesser vehicle, we would have pulled over (we saw many other cars doing this)and waited with baited breath. But we were high off the ground in a big, solid Isuzu. My only worry was a sudden torrent of water gushing over the road.
Finally we reached the edge of the violence, and whenever we stopped to take photos, the barrelling clouds seemed to catch us. It had the appearance of a front, because the great churning system appeared like a black tsunami, wiping out the blue, stretching from eastern horison to the hills of the west.
It seems it wasn't a front after all because no storm system moved over Bloemfontein - at least 100km north. Perhaps it was just a very powerful storm system.
Sitting in a silver machine, with aircon and a cd player running, it wasn't hard to imagine that nature was capable of overturning us or drowning us. I was a bit frightened at one point. But it made the trip all the more fun and exciting. On a whim, the ghosts pulled apart and let sun like silk begin to dress the red wounds in the soil. Everywhere the fields appeared greener than I think I have ever seen them.