The Feisty One is excited about New Year, and I fear she may be disappointed. Previous years celebrations have been characterized by scorpion invasions, rogue elephants, giraffes eating our roof (it was straw, in case you were confused) and me being hunted by a pack of zebras.
The highlight, however, has to be the floods. We were spending New Year in Amboseli, complete with another family and my visiting mother. It was all going swimmingly well; the safari camp was excellent, the elephants were plentiful and largely well behaved, and evenings were spent drinking dawas and laughing with friends. Perfect, all in all.
So when I awoke on New Years Eve morning and heard the gentle flow of a river, I assumed that the previous night’s alcohol consumption had much to do with my never having heard it before. Poking my head out of the canvas, however, I could see that it was running down the path in front of the tent, and there really was quite a lot of it. It didn’t take a genius to realize that the previous month’s rains had finally made it down the slopes of Mt Kilamanjaro, and the camp was built on a formerly dry river bed..
The four children had been bundled into a tent on their own, and on investigation, I discovered them all sitting atop their beds in a highly over excited state, surrounded by undulating groundsheet. The water had washed away the sand and gravel that provided the foundation for the tents, and so all that was left was what amounted to a crude swimming pool covered by waxed canvas. However, nothing was life threatening, so I left them to their newfound aquatrampoline, and trotted (sloshed) off to tell the Other Half (who was still lying in bed oblivious at this point) the good news.
My mother appeared on her veranda at this point, waving cheerily. She was in an adjacent row of tents, and judging by the spring in her step, she appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the morning’s excitement. I couldn’t really hear what she was shouting, so I waved back, and announced that we were all going to assemble on our veranda for morning tea. I possibly should have paid more attention at this point, but I was distracted by Helene and Laurent, and the throngs of fellow travelers who had also appeared. There was beginning to be a level of panic among those unfamiliar with African time and people were instituting full evacuation measures. Trails of people in multi-pocket vests and expensive hiking boots were slooshing by with their belongings held inexplicably high above their heads as they waded through knee deep water, while the safari drivers sipped tea and watched in a bemused fashion. And still my mother waved gaily, and faint “hello”s could now be heard.
Having helped the remainder of people reach their evacuation point, Laurent and I headed off to see if the cars were actually still there. On our return, however, we were startled to see Helene fording the torrent with my rather red faced mother clinging to her back like a rabid primate. She may also have been frothing at the mouth a little, but I prefer to think of it as toothpaste residue. It turns out, our laissez faire attitude was not shared by all members of the family, especially one whose veranda was submerged, whose exit path was under six feet of fast flowing water, and who had a small drowning phobia.. And had been shouting ‘help’ since 5.30am, but only got cheery waves and “hellooos” in return. Ooops.
We resorted to the time honored British tradition in moments of crisis, and headed for the kitchen tent for a tray of tea, leaving my mother on the only dry veranda with four children under the age of ten. Sadly, the local scorpion population had also realized that this was the only dry veranda, and were making for high ground, only to be launched by into the floods with well aimed kicks from welly-booted minors. They thought this was a wonderful game; my mother was less entranced.
She hasn’t joined us for New Year this year.