It has been raining heavily all night, but I’m up at first light and ready to go. After yesterday’s frustrating lethargy, I’m itching to get walking. But Griet tells me that I can take off my pack and relax, as I am going nowhere. Why not? I’m told there are 34 good reasons why I’m staying right here, as that is the number of times the river crosses the road from here onwards. We are also cut off on all sides by flooding rivers. Griet says we could be stuck here for a week; that’s what happened ten years ago when it rained like this. There is a chance, however, that a helicopter will come to deliver food and pick up people stranded by the waters, so I could get airlifted out.
We jump into one of the bakkies to go and see the flooding main river. However, as we try to cross the first stream that is thundering down from the hills, we unexpectedly fall into a deep sloot and stick vas, with the water rising. I’m stuck in the back of the cab with no door to let me out, and I start feeling incredibly trapped. If we get washed downstream, I’m in trouble. I make up an excuse to take a photo and climb out the passenger window and up onto the back of the bakkie. Piet then does some brilliant clutch work and manages to reverse us out of the water. Phew, I’m not getting into the cab again, even if I was overreacting a bit.
We try another way around, this time through the veld. As we drive along we are ‘attacked’ by a male ostrich trying to protect his two wives (they mate for life), and we on the back carefully avoid his attentions. Once again we get bogged down in a deep stream, but then again some wonderfully vicious reverse gear driving from Piet gets us out. We decide to get out and walk to the river, and break off thorn branches to protect ourselves from the ostrich. The river is in flood, but there is more to come as the streams up the valley feed in. I’m certainly not keen to try and get across this monster!
The main Baviaanskloof road has been washed away and there is a raging river to prevent anyone getting through. If I am to get out, this is where it’ll have to be. All around us there are sparkling waterfalls spouting over rocks and crashing into the folds of the mountains. It is both sobering and exhilarating to be in the middle of this powerful abundance of water.
Back at the farmhouse I’m able to get a quick email off to family and friends to say that I am safe. There is no reception for cell phones. We watch the news on TV and see flooded scenes in the Eastern and Southern Cape, with more rain predicted. I am struggling with feelings of helplessness; the first week of walking was hard in many ways, but it was still in my hands to make things happen. These last two days have not really been up to me, and I’m battling to accept being at the mercy of circumstances beyond my control. I am not a control freak, but I don’t like being tethered in the face of challenges. I also worry about our home and garden cottages at home in Grahamstown, as I know they leak terribly in big rains, and I’m not there to sort things out.
Griet loves books and has an interesting library in her study. She shows me a book on pilgrimage and I tuck myself away with it in a nice comfortable chair. It is a fascinating account of a young woman’s explorations of various pilgrimages in different religions around the world, and I am soon happily transported out of my restlessness. I am, however, disturbed by some strange bright lights that occasionally appear in the bottom right of my left eye’s field of vision. I wish I could phone Trev my optometry mate, but this isn’t possible. I reassure myself that it can’t be a detached retina as I have already had that fixed in this eye and the specialist promised me that it couldn’t happen again here. Ah well, I’ll have to check it out when I’m back home.
Piet and Griet are very hospitable hosts and I feel very at home here. I chat with them and the students around the fire, play the piano, and read my book. It is all very mellow. I’m tickled by the Hol of Fame in the loo, which is a collage of family photos spanning many happy years. Photographs have a lovely way of preserving memories and past pleasures, and these bear witness to that.
By the middle of the afternoon the rain has stopped. The raging torrent between the house and the outbuildings has subsided and Johan is keen to drive across in his bakkie so that we can get to see the big river from the other side of the farm. There is no urgency to necessitate the risk, however, so we conclude it is not worth attempting.
A few minutes later I am called from the house to come and see what has happened. The temptation had been too much for Johan and he had tried to drive through the stream. The water in turn was too much for the bakkie and it had been unceremoniously washed away. It now lies downstream with water up to its windows. Oh hell. Piet is amazingly calm and accepting of the situation and wades across to help Johan pull out the bakkie with a tractor. It is, of course, totally waterlogged and is towed into the garage for later dismantling.
Back to the house and lovely boointjie sop en brood for supper in front of the fire. Latest news is that I’ll be airlifted out tomorrow morning. I take my washing that has been drying near the fire and head off to bed. Snuggled deep under the duvet with my book, I feel that life is actually okay. I’m learning to let go.