2015 starting with a Big Bang!
There is one sound you will never forget once you’ve heard it once… and that is the screaching rotor blades of a fire fighting helicopter thundering past your home. Well, it feels more like going through it… shaking your heart and bones! That’s how our New Year’s Day 2015 started with a difference here in Noordhoek, South Africa: with a massive Big Bang! that instantly, and brutally, terminated the valley’s peaceful slumber in the early morning hours.
It was burning right next to us, above the vineyards. Once again, the violent beast was blasting down the mountains, reminding me of the drama we went through exactly 15 years ago, almost to the day. Again, two helicopters were flying nonstop, collecting water from the dam, and then rising up into the mountain to extinguish the flames; the whole operation coordinated from a third plane.
Strangely, I could not smell the fire, which I usually do long before it reaches us. But – luckily – it was a windstill morning and, after about three hours of relentless flying and extremely focused work by the courageous pilots, the beast went to sleep… and it did not awake again. Finally, my blue agapanthus rejoiced and welcomed the new year.
Piu Piu watching the fire
What was utterly amazing: suddenly, out of nowhere, Piu Piu, the Egyptian goose, appeared and was braving the fire and the helicopters from our chimney, honking like mad! It was a totally surrealistic picture, and even better caught on film. One’s gotta see it to believe it… but absolutely true! I’m working on a little clip that I will load to YouTube at some stage, but what I did not know then – and I did not want to leave the house nor block some access roads to the rescue operations to get a better picture of what was actually happening – I had no idea as to how big the fire really was: the whole mountain top was on fire! It was one of 8 fires that day (according to the newspapers…) ! How lucky we were this time… And the cause? The reason? Newspapers blamed it on fire crackers, which are not allowed in the area anyway as hot weather and the dryness of vegetation are a huge fire risk at this time of the year. Also, as Noordhoek is the oasis for horse and animal lovers, no one right in their mind would ever light a fire cracker in this area. In my view, it could have been anything… even a piece of glass reflecting the burning sun. We had a number of fires in the valley since, and the helicopters were out there again. They are getting some exercise this year…
I remember that today, the 7th, 15 years ago, we had the historic and devastating ‘Cape of Flames’. May we be spared a repetition – but let’s light our inner fires to embrace an astonishing new year filled with opportunity and many chances to love, to grow and to share!