Friday, February 28, 2020

The flood scare that wasn’t a false alarm…

The flood scare that wasn’t a false alarm…

This wasn’t the first flood scare we had, but it would certainly be the one we remember.

The night before, we were woken by Stephen and Lesingo; the water from the Talek River had risen some 30 feet and was now breaking at the kitchen tent. So, in the dead of night, we packed the cars full of our most valuable things and moved everything from the kitchen to the lab tent, which sat on higher ground. We ended up with a stove and a fridge on our dining room table. But as the night went on, the river receded, I was sent back to bed, and we were in the clear…for now. 
Just as the guys had settled everything back into the kitchen so that we were able to cook food, the river rose again the next night. But this time, it didn’t just stop at the kitchen tent.

I had experienced quite a few flood false alarms since coming to Talek Camp about 3 months ago, but when Lesingo woke me that morning of January 30th at 4am, something told me that this was the moment we had been preparing for. I quickly gathered my belongings and followed Lesingo into the night to see how high the river had risen into camp. 
The kitchen tent did not have the waters breaking at its edge this time. It was completely engulfed, already about a foot deep in murky brown water, and rising still. The river made its way to the edges of the lab tent, and eventually, took that too. We had a lake instead of a driveway. The shower and the choo (Swahili for toilet) were completely underwater. We were running out of time.
In a hurry, we went through the lab tent flood protocol and loaded the Land Cruisers with the rest of the valuables that weren’t taken the night before and packed them to the ceilings with LN tanks, test tubes, ID books, GPS collars, and anything else we could fit.

Eventually the sun began to rise as we moved to higher ground and we were able to fully see for the first time how much damage the Talek River had actually caused. We waited with the cars on higher ground for nearly 6 hours, while often heading back into camp to asses the situation as the river continued to rise, and then eventually return to its banks. I made several trips back to my tent as I saw the water rising nearer and nearer each time. By the final trip, my tent no longer looked like a cozy home away from home, but rather a scene out of the Twister movie. I had stacked drawers upon desks, and bedding upon drawers, and then more rugs and clothes on top of those. I stripped my bed completely and flipped it over, stacking it even higher on top of the pile of all of my things. I don’t know whether it was the river mocking me for having turned the inside of my tent completely upside down, or simply sheer luck, but the waters never reached my tent, and for that I am grateful.
By around 9 am, just as all of our stomachs were beginning to rumble, Benson emerges from the bushes carrying a crate of soda and a Tupperware container full of leftover bread. It was breakfast for today, and we ate and drank and laughed over the fact that the guys were most upset that they hadn’t saved the chai tea from the kitchen to go with their well balanced breakfast. If you know the Masai men, you know nothing can stand between them and their chai. 
By 10 am the waters of the Talek River had finally receded. The guys had managed to drag the stove from its safe haven on the dining room table of the lab tent, to a dry and shady spot just outside of camp. Within moments we had eggs on the burners, tables and chairs set up in the grass and hot food in our bellies. From that moment on, beginning with that stove, we rebuilt camp. First a tarp to cover the stove, then batteries and lights to see in the dark, more tables for dish washing, another camping tent to store food…
It all came together before our eyes over the next few days. We made do with what we had, for we had come to realize that what we had was much more than others who had been hit by the flood, and we were feeling incredibly thankful. We had enough dry beds to sleep in, clean water to drink, good food to eat, and a warm fire to sit by. All in all, we made out from the flood pretty well. Our camp may have suffered severe damage, but we managed to save nearly everything, most importantly our high spirits. We will need those as we continue onto our 3rd week of rebuilding Talek Fisi Camp!

1 comment:

redstoneprime said...

Question: If you lose blood samples in a flood, do you dart the hyena(s) that those samples again and get new samples from them (provided the hyena(s) is/are still alive, of course)?

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science