The rains are well underway here in the Luangwa Valley. Every year just under a metre of rain falls between November and April. It’s a dramatically beautiful time and we all look forward to those first precious storms. There’s a touch of madness in the air by the end of October, temperatures sit in the 40’s day after day, the bush dries up, the only water for miles around is in the rapidly dwindling Luangwa River where ever growing pods of hippo fight for space and have to trudge for many miles every night to find disappearing grazing pastures. Many don’t make it and October is a cruel month for herbivores, particularly elephants who become more and more desperate in their attempts to find enough fodder to maintain their massive bulk.
They start to raid the village mango trees and can wreak havoc around people’s homes. We’ve had a very cheeky young male actually push his head through the mosquito gauzed kitchen window to steal a couple of small bags of flour at night.
Mopane trees are particularly badly hit by elephants at the peak of the dry season – they are stripped of bark, knocked over and generally abused. We make use of the long dead mopane heartwood making these beautiful tea light holders. Elias turns them and then Adrian polishes them with shellac gradually building up the layers to achieve this deep, natural shine which brings out all the character of the mopane.
We particularly enjoy giving new life to mopane – it’s become one of my favourite trees of the Luangwa. By the end of October when just about everything seems dead – the mopane performs its annual miracle of sprouting the freshest, brightest emerald green leaves imaginable. There’s not a hint of moisture around and the midday heat is murderous – but somehow the mopane has stored enough water and energy to herald the imminent rains with her fresh, at first pinkish green leaves.
Now – at the end of January – the river is full, the bush is impossibly green and lush and the searing heat of October is forgotten again until it takes up by surprise next year.
The Luanwga and all her tributaries are now getting to work uprooting hundred year old hardwoods from the ever changing river banks for us to find in a few years and turn in to more beautiful bowls.
The workshop staff are on leave in January so we don’t feel too guilty about taking some time out! The picture above was taken at very high water from our boat – it was breath-taking being able to share moments with these happy elephants who now have enough food around to be able to take time out to play and cavort in the river.