Two visits to the Addo Elephant National Park, in December and again this month, tell the tale of drought. In this photograph elephants crowd around the Hapoor waterhole.
The veld around this waterhole is almost completely bare of vegetation and so it is not surprising to see dust devils such as this one nearby.
The long dry period we are experiencing is taking its toll. This is what the heat did to the egg I showed yesterday: within a few hours the soft shell burst open revealing what could have been a carefully coddled egg – even the yolk looked partially cooked, baked by the sun and the heat of the path it was resting on:
I have mentioned that an unprecedented number of birds have been found dead, not only in our garden but elsewhere too. This Laughing Dove has presumably succumbed to the heat:
The leaves of even the indigenous trees are shrivelling in the heat fanned by warm winds now and then:
The ivy that used to hide the brick wall separating our garden from the neighbouring one has died – every leaf of it is now brown and crisp as if it had been put through an industrial oven:
In the words of Maaya Sokomoto, I am waiting for the rain:
I’m waiting for the rain
I’m bracing for the thunder
A twig that wouldn’t sway
In the wind …
The full lyrics can be read at https://genius.com/Maaya-sakamoto-waiting-for-the-rain-lyrics
Donkeys roam all over our town. The other day we came across one that had been waiting patiently at a gate, lost patience and began braying and stamping its feet. We assume it is used to being given a carrot or some other food there. Early one morning in another part of town we saw a donkey walking up and down along a stretch of the pavement when a woman came out, still wearing her dressing gown, with a basin of water and a bunch of carrots. “I feed them every morning”, she told us. In fact, driving around the suburbs, I have become conscious of several plastic basins of water placed on the pavements outside homes and imagine these are mostly for the benefit of donkeys.
Yes, these donkeys do have owners. They are occasionally rounded up to pull carts to collect firewood or to transport other goods from one place to the next. One can tell that not all have been treated well for many bear the marks of having been lashed, while others have open sores. An elderly couple were spotted recently rubbing salve on the leg of a donkey outside their home. Other donkeys have their tails trimmed in different ways, to differentiate one from another: I have seen several with the tail hairs cut short around the edges, leaving a long section in the middle; some tails have been cut straight at the bottom; others at an angle – all to make it easier for their owners to recognise them.
We have seen this particular trio of donkeys grazing in the veld on the hill opposite our house and have named them the ‘forest donkeys’. Okay, there is no forest there; there never was, but all the young trees that have been growing since the area was devastated by fire a few years ago have been eaten by herds of cattle that roam the area.
These donkeys are on the road leading to the army base on the edge of town – the buildings in the background – and are next to the aerodrome. The latter is well fenced and we have not yet seen any animals grazing on it.
While donkeys do not belong in urban areas, we have become used to their presence and who can resist the plight of these creatures that are used and abandoned at will by their owners. Until this area receives the rain it so sorely needs, many kind-hearted residents will continue to provide water and carrots to help them along.
You can probably recall the lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that read:
Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink …
While this is a reference to being surrounded by sea water with no fresh water at hand, it serves as a reminder of how precious water is to all living things. As so many of us are landlubbers, South Africans enjoy seaside holidays. This is utilising the water for recreation. What is of more concern is the availability of water for drinking.
I mention our ongoing drought so often, yet water is the lifeblood we all need. I have several bird baths in the garden which I keep filled daily for the use of birds, the visiting mongoose, bees, wasps and anything else which requires it. Here an Olive Thrush enjoys a drink on a hot day.
Rain is something we long for daily. We watch the ten day weather forecasts and greet each other with the news of rain coming over the next few days … only to see those rainy icons disappear just as the sun draws the moisture from the laundry, until there is nothing left. This picture was taken two years ago. The lemon tree is barely surviving now.
In most parts of the country we have forgotten what flooded rivers look like – this photograph was taken five years ago.
The availability of clean, fresh water is currently being denied to many of our citizens – not only because of the drought but because not enough has been done to care for the water resources that we have. In our town alone a lot of water is wasted through leaks that are ignored for months; water courses being choked by alien vegetation and rubbish – not to mention the pollution of some of the streams.
Water is life and is a commodity that needs to be taken care of to the utmost of our collective ability.