Finally the Rains are here….


By Oria Douglas-Hamilton

Date Published

My dear dear friends and family

Your letters and words, prayers and burning candles have been such a comfort for us dealing with a real drought throughout these last 10 months – and now finally I can tell you The Rains Have Come, and together we can rejoice, blessed by the precious water from ‘Ngai’. And it is amazing what happened in just 24hours, then 48. Here is our story.

It was the 9th of October – we had just closed down the camp – everything had been folded, packed away and piled to the ceiling into the container. A huge yellow sheet of plastic covered our big thatched mess-tent, standing empty and forlorn, the furniture was stacked high – we had been told to expect floods – it is so hot, the wind has dropped, hundreds of birds flock into my water hole, impalas, baboons, monkeys, we are digging every day, now 7ft into the sand – we are well prepared. The staff with pockets full of money wave goodbye, going home, I too will fly away home, and leave my trusted ‘fundi’ Peterson and 4 staff to watch over the camp – “with any luck it might rain in a week or more, send me a message every day” I tell them, as I board the plane. Flying south, I can count the dead cows, the goats, buffaloes and elephants below flattened on the dried earth like ghosts trying to run away. Atleast my impalas are well, we are feeding them seed pods and they will survive. For 10 months we have not seen green grass and the river barely flowed. At times, it was so hard to smile, to keep everyones spirits high with hope – we sang, we laughed, we gave out water and food to people, we watched the sky, the clouds, the wind, the leaves and waited, our hearts heavy with pain as everything was dieing. Only the predators thrived, fat, silky fur, licking their blood stained paws, every day, a fresh meal – an easy kill by the small water holes.

That night our silent sand river came back to life – somewhere it had rained and the sound of running water fills the air, fills our souls. It is night and the dark sky is scattered with stars; my staff run out to the motionless trees, eyes transfixed staring as the water pounds down with its big rolling brown waves. My first message 10pm: “mama how did you know the river would run today? It is at the kigelia – we are watching.” Oh my God here it comes with such force – we had forgotten what it was like. “Call me when it reaches the mess tent”

Every morning the sun rose up into a blue sky, piercing through the dry branches and onto the dried hardened earth – my daily message – “no rain”. I am in Naivasha on my family estate. We have a lion who has suddenly appeared from nowhere, he walks the lake shore and is hiding in our papyrus. He has killed 2 cows and 2 eland. We have not seen a lion here for 40 years and now with the drought he has come to us, to our little paradise filled with hundreds of happy wild animals grazing green grass – what a beautiful sight. My mind is on the lion, how to protect him from being speared or poisoned.

It is October 14th in Samburu the river is still running – it is so hot with a clear blue sky – then without warning the blue turns to grey to steel black clouds, to rumbling thunder, big round rain drops hit the earth with a splatter lifting dust, one, ten, one hundred drops, a million threads of rain pour down on that parched earth – it is 3:45 pm – my first message from Shivani “Oria, it’s raining! We are standing in it”. Another message: “In west gate. Totally pouring. It’s amazing I hope the Park is getting some too” – Oh my God it’s raining, tears stream my eyes, nothing from camp – no network, I try Shiv again, “yes heavy in west gate, not sure whether Park is getting any but it looks like its coming from there” – then my phone rings and it’s Peterson “mama it’s raining, we are standing in it, heavy rain, lots rain” and I say “watch that river, call me every hour” – then I send messages to all the staff “ITS RAINING!!!” My heart is pounding as I think of all the things – the new tanks in the school – I call Zac who has been building there with me – “is the water in the tanks?” YES they are half full – we had just completed the job, the roof was on and I kept on telling Zac “get those gutters up – get the tanks up” – and now we have water – then I thought of all the elephants rejoicing in the rain – Toto Raj, his first bath since he was born on August 16th – same birthday as Iain and it made me so happy.

October 15th – bad telephone reception, am anxious, has the river flooded, have we lost our top soil?? Daniel tells me it rained all night – they tried feeding hay to the Royal Family, but would not take it, now it has rained, the elephants have left the Park and Toto Raj has gone too. “Where have they gone”?? But the elephants know.

October 16th – Shivani: “you wont believe it Oria the first green shoots are sprouting – there are tortoises everywhere, the lions are moving away from the river, crocs are out, big ones – I counted 20 dead cows on the oryx plains”. Nature is so powerful. In the north, on the arid zones, everything responds to rain – it’s now, grow, reproduce. And if you are weak and sick, old or too young, yes they will die – too weak too cold and nothing to eat – they lie down for eternal sleep.

October 17th – Shivani message – “pouring now Oria! THE KIPSING HAS BURST am in tent still in west gate – green grass in camp – I cant believe it”. Everything had died way up river where Shiv had her little tent – warthogs, waterbuck, impalas, so much livestock and they pushed herds of cattle sheep and goats into the park, dieing on the way. Now, green grass.

“Huge rain just over – went to check kipsing – amazing to watch it flow into the Ewaso. Also first time ever, lugga near camp flowing, watched it come down – amazing!” Huge scorpions are out, snakes and gazillion bugs.” Such a sense of joy, of life, of disbelief – of survival – water everywhere, big puddles small puddles – all are rejoicing up there in the northern frontier district.

Everywhere people are crouched under plastic sheets hugging baby lambs – today for the first time, the survivors will taste green grass. “God is great – they say. He has forgiven us – we will not die” For months we had taken food and clean water to the people – to the school – famine relief biscuits donated by Saba and I, maize and beans by EW friends, fat, maize flour, milk, tea, sugar by friends – more beans and maize and always more water and so it went on. No news from camp – but no floods the water is sinking into the earth – what a blessing.

October 18th – fourth day of rain – from my camp 7am: “the little grass left are turning green, but here no enough rain to make the new grow. Kiltaman and west gate they are getting new grass growing. We are still feeding impala”. River is under control. All is well. Shivani: “Watching lioness walking on green lawn. Most beautiful thing ever. And no one here”