Still getting used to the routine, the new mattresses, exertion, food, multiple clocks; body, metabolic and alarm, I am woken up a persistent static noise. This feels new, jamais-vu. Like a child pulling at mother’s dress to get her attention. For the child it is the most crucial and center of the whole universe moment. I wake up, giving in to the hum, this riveting buzz. The crescendo gains momentum and volume, gradually, as I approach source of the sound.
The elusive African rain, finally. Close to two weeks in Africa and I would mostly wake up to ubiquitous signs of nature’s last night’s frolic dance everywhere, the dew on the picket fence, damp tree barks or moist earth. It will be the scenery after the show. The green trees, blue sky and red earth would be sparkling clean, like a pair of spectacles just wiped with muslin. I am eager to catch the Charleston African rains that I hear so much about. Telepathically so, the rains know I want to be an audience. Right in the middle of nowhere they need a witness to their magnificence. I noiselessly shuffle out, so as not to disturb their meditative performance. As I open the door, the gust of wind makes me breathless. The intense fragrance of petrichor floods my pores. I embrace it like it is life itself.
The clouds are engulfing everything in my sight and theirs. The equatorial, tropical forest, the tiny islands on the river Sangha, yellow breasted birds with nests like light-bulbs, scurrying chameleons, river, houses, people, streets, are all ambushed and soaked. I see more than fifty shades of grey clouds tumbling towards me. Not in much velocity. In a confident dauntlessness and firm resoluteness. The rains have spoken, there is no escaping from it now. You don’t feel cold and get wet, you are cold and wet. This rain has simultaneously multiple levels of intensity. There is this massive jet, like buckets full of water splashed on a screen. Then, the gentle rain, the one that makes those little dotted lines in sketch books. Then this powerful spray from the sky, filling everything in between, not wasting the atmosphere while falling down. The gush surges half a feet from the ground, like watery dust.
The green is luminescent. The red earth has transformed into countless rivulets hurrying towards the tributary, Sangha. Congo is the second largest river in Africa, after Nile. The rivulets are like school children getting late to the morning prayer-assembly as the bell strikes. The punk orchestra right from above is master stroke. ‘That’s where the thunder will be heard from now’, I snap-turn to the source of lightning. Even though there is some margin to prepare for the spine-crackling growl that follows the lightning, it is still startling. The thunder sends a shock-wave under my skin, as if I am earth-ing myself. It is bigger than me, than all of us standing here under the season’s first African showers that drench us. Try as much to look it in the eye, it still rattles everyone with surprise. The sun sets in an hour and a half from now, but it is already dark. Clouds are in the porch, in tree branches, floating over the river and cruising away in the sky. Like unexpected swarm of moths. It is only a few days later that the word spreads and the full might of this evening is comprehended. The 50-feet high trees that are now coal-black are a testimony to what they withstood that night. Lightning has turned them into electrocuted corpses. ‘Hell hath no fury, like nature scorned’.
The incredible surround sound fails even the sharpest technicians. Replicating this will be written-off as surreal. It is a deafening mix of thunder, lightning, and wind; rains hitting, smashing and swaying everything in sight. The village that is usually overtaken by chirps, croaks and screeches is quite in front of this overpowering tango of nature. I wonder where all those creatures will sleep tonight. The silence of nature’s inhabitants amplifies the awe of this spectacle.
The river Sangha that speeds to The Congo river everyday has decided to stop and swell instead. This butter-paper, soft-light luminescence makes everything visible and blurry at the same time. The intermittent photography flashes of lightning are alternated by rumble rising from the ground. The rains continue till November I hear. The wooden houses are made one level up on wooden beams, now I know why. The river sinks all islands and enters the mainland, in width and height. Multiple times in vain I try to compete with nature in attempting to record the audio and visuals of this magnificent display. I get it right only once. The sound is somewhat similar to that of stone shattering a glass wall. The fracturing echoes last much longer, ricocheting in the virgin forest. The trees take a breather from all this swaying. This rumble in the sky makes me sick in the stomach now. It is unusual for me, riveting rains. The flamboyance of nature is humbling. The African rains have a witness.
Continue this African journey with reading about going running in the African wilderness here.