WHEN IT RAINS ON VERNEUK­PAN

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In De­cem­ber 2016, we were on our way to Verneuk­pan, a pan­cake-flat salt pan in the North­ern Cape. Knee-high scrub stretched from hori­zon to hori­zon. As we got closer to our des­ti­na­tion, the veg­e­ta­tion started to peter out into sand. The land­scape was parched. To one side, I saw a whirl­wind rise from the plains. Some­thing changed in the at­mos­phere and the hori­zon be­gan to darken. A thun­der­storm was brew­ing… I took a few pho­tos with my Nikon D7000 and 18 – 140 mm lens 1 . It doesn’t rain in that part of the world very often. I had never seen so many whirl­winds be­fore and af­ter a while I stopped count­ing. It was as if they were run­ning from the storm. Light­ning strikes the tallest object and on these bar­ren plains, a whirl­wind just might be the tar­get! We reached the pan late in the af­ter­noon, ar­riv­ing at the fi­nal farm gate just as the storm rolled in. The whirl­winds were soon swal­lowed up and the land­scape turned a dusty white 2 . We stood on the dry pan and watched the first rain­drops hit the ground. I wanted to feel what the pan felt, so I lay down. Heavy, cool drops fell onto my hot, dry skin. Be­neath me the ground turned to mud. The rain started to bar­rel down and moved over the pan like a stage cur­tain, re­veal­ing a won­der­land of sound, colour and smell. The kids danced in the rain to the rhythm of the storm 3 . Even­tu­ally the storm moved away and we watched it across the open ex­panse. The sun set in a blaze of colour and I got the feel­ing that I was wit­ness­ing this beau­ti­ful place at the most beau­ti­ful mo­ment. On one side, the sky was painted or­ange, pur­ple, pink and red; on the other side it was still bruised and over­cast. In front, in the golden light, rain­bows arched over the land­scape 4 . Be­hind us, night snuck up in a bit of clear sky, where the stars be­gan to sparkle…

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