Continuing my nature photography challenge inspired journey of the seven continents of the world, we stay in Africa for another tale from the semester I spent in Kenya as an Earlham College student. Again, please excuse the photo quality as this was before I was into photography and owned a decent camera.
Lesser flamingos milled about Lake Bogoria, their reflections crisp upon the calm Kenyan waters. I sat at the edge of the lake, poised with my journal open and pen in hand but lost in the enjoyment of the sun’s warm rays, the elegant birds before me and a brief break from group living. Who was I kidding? My journal would serve better as a pillow in these circumstances. I closed the pages and laid back, gazing at puffy white clouds against a perfect blue sky.
Low rumbling sounds interrupted my dozing. Reluctantly I opened one eye. The sky was still blue, but my nose detected rain. I opened the other eye and propped myself up on my elbows. Gray snuck over the hills behind the lake and I watched in wonder as it picked up momentum. The creeping dimness solidified into a wall of darkness that wreaked sheets of rain and strong winds on all in its path. As if conducting a symphony, the storm churned lake waters on cue with its passing. The flamingos paced incessantly as their reflections blurred, their buffer of calm quickly deteriorating. Some leader among them decided too late to flee. One after another the flamingos splashed across increasingly turbulent waters, beat their wings furiously and struggled into the air, only to be carried in the opposite direction by the heavy winds. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this Mary Poppins-style scene of flamingos being swept backwards across the sky. But then the storm was upon me and it was no longer funny.
I wrapped my journal in the edge of my t-shirt and curled around it to keep my memories from streaming across its pages. Legs tucked against my chest, head bowed on my knees and arms wrapped about, I huddled against the slicing rain. Drops pierced my skin like tiny daggers, then oozed into a viscous sheen. The slippery liquid infiltrated my barrier of hair, slid down my cheeks and dripped from my lips. It was salty, salty and slick. This was no normal rain. I ran a finger across the soapiness coating my skin and then it struck me — alkaline. The lake and surrounding geothermal features in this volcanic region were alkaline. It was the reason the flamingos were here to begin with.
The rain ceased as the squall passed. Gingerly, I retrieved my damp but intact journal from the only portion of my shirt not dripping wet. I knew not where the flamingos had gone, nor when they would return but I was sure they would. And after a shower, so would I.