Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lumula the Weather Prognosticator

September 13, 2001 became progressively hotter with each passing hour. Driving with my window down in the 10 percent humidity, I quickly became dehydrated no matter how much water I drank. When the day ended I realized that once again I was suffering from heat prostration.

This being the end of winter in the southern hemisphere, it is also the driest part of the year. Huge loads of sand filled the channels of almost all of the dessicated rivers that I crossed. Several markers had been established by bridges showing the high water level for a fantastic flood that peaked on February 25, 2000. Obviously when it rains during the rainy season it pours. However it wasn't here yet.

Lumula, a massive man of about 30 years, busied himself by overlapping all sides of the chair in which he sat outside the petrol station at Sataba Rest Camp. His major activity seemed to be watching an ancient woman fill my car with gasoline as the sun blazed away with only one small puffy cloud floating above the rest camp. For as far as I could see in any direction, from over Mozambique a few miles to the east to Zimbabwe far to the north and over the enormous sky of the interior of South Africa to the west and south there was one dinky cloud in the sky.

Lumula greeted me as I walked up to him and he asked how I was.

"I'm incredibly dry," I answered.

"Not too long friend," Lumula began. "It start rain soon." (Soon like manana generally means "not today" in most tropical lands).

I asked Lumula how he could tell that it would rain soon and he pointed at the dinky cloud in the blindingly blue sky.

"That cloud tell me it going to begin rain very soon. Maybe a month. Maybe more. Who knows, but it start rain soon."

None of the high paid talent on The Weather Channel will have to worry about being unseated by Lumula the South African prognosticator. One little cloud gave away the earth's secrets. It may also have had something to do with the calendar.

I talked with Lumula at about 2:00 p.m. Almost exactly 12 hours later at 2:30 a.m. a tremendous clap of thunder rolled across the Olifants River valley hearlding the arrival of nature's bass drum band. With the thunder came a violent thunderstorm that poured rain in buckets. I stood on the porch of my rondavel and watched the trees bent over from the ferocious wind and lightning flashed and the parking lot began to fill with water from this torrential downpour.

At 7:00 a.m. there wasn't a cloud in the sky and had I not been woken up by the tempest five hours earlier I would have no idea that it rained at all.

Yesterday Lumula convincingly declared that the rains would come "Maybe a month. Maybe more."

Over breakfast that morning as I watched an Ovambo Sparrowhawk scare the wits out of the Red-winged Starlings perched high above the Olifants River, I wondered if Lumula had rolled himself out of bed yet and if he was snickering because his prognostication to that white guy came true.

Maybe there is a place for Lumula at The Weather Channel after all.