Adriaan, Holy and I went to Natures Valley with the intent to camp for three nights, kayak, hike, and relax. The kayaking was wonderful, as we engaged in a guided tour of the shallow estuary, its tributaries, and hatcheries. We enjoyd a mid afternoon nap on the first day there followed by a fabulous dinner cooked over two camp stoves and an open fire.
But on the second evening, it began to rain.
That night, I woke to the realisation that the floor of my tent was holding back a substantial amount of water. I looked outside the door to find my shoes floating. By the time I sat up, put on my shorts, and threw the few loose items into my backpack, the water had risen over the waterproof portion of the tent and soaked my sleeping bag.
I yelled, “Adriaan! I think it is time to go!” He yelled back, “Yeah, I agree. Already packing!”
I raced from my tent to the back of his bukkie (truck). Holy was already in the camper shell, having escaped the drips on her face in their large, shared tent two hours prior. The water was up to the wheel wells but the started the engine. Adriaan drove off to make certain he could get the vehicle out.
The entire camp ground came to life. Car engines sputtered and choked. Horns and sirens sounded as electrical systems shorted. People drove and walked to the higher ground just outside the entrance. We were lucky, as our campsite was but 50 meters from the gate. I can’t imagine the effort those further into the camping ground and further downhill must have mustered to escape.
I pulled each corner of my tent from the ground, throwing it over my shoulder. I walked, barefoot, to the top of the road and found Adriaan, Holy, and the bukkie. We went back to get more of our things from their tent and the picnic table. By this time, we waded through water nearly to our waist.
We helped the neighbours escape as they had three children, the youngest of which could not have been a year old. Their car was on higher ground, the water to the undercarriage. They did not seem to recognize what they had to drive through to get out. We walked with their car to make certain they made it, their tent and some belongings left behind.
The water went down nearly as quickly as it had risen. We removed Adriaan’s tent and by 2 am were on the road again, soaked, chilled, and overwhelmed by all that had happened.
Adriaan drove all night. I slept in back, wrapped in a damp sleeping bag, Holy in front with the heater on high. The day went well, with a visit to the southern tip of Africa and then a national park just outside of Hermanus. There we dried our gear and enjoyed a four hours hike.
The next week, I was discussing the adventure with one of the astronomers at SAAO. He was there also, but arrived the next morning. When he and his family arrived, it appeared to be a war zone, downed trees piled across the bridge and riddled across the campground. Gear, tables, chairs, and toys scattered everywhere, soaked, snapped, or destroyed.
The sad truth, Petri explained, is that this happens every couple of years, yet there is not a single sign warning patrons of the possibility of flash flood.