Tonight is the fourth night.
All is quiet on this side, not sure what hell is still burning on the other side of the mountains.
The South is tired …
The South is burnt …
Yesterday took the rest out of us on this side, and we still only saw a fraction of what others saw.
We had had a meeting in the city and to avoid the heavy commute down the M3 we took the Atlantic Seaboard route, up in between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head and down into the Camps Bay area, the sea a sparkling daze stretching out, sunshine everywhere, not a blade of grass burning.
The road from Hout Bay over Constantia Nek was open – well, we hoped it would be.
Past the sunlit ocean we drove, hugging the contours of the mountain sea interface.
It is beautiful, beautiful as always, and soon we reach the heights above Llandudno, Little Lions Head towering above it.
Down into Hout Bay and we see the ash of Chapman’s Peak, the ash of what is the other side of Constantia Berg, the ash of the last valley between Hout Bay and the fire.
If that comes over these last heights there will be hell here.
Along the winding road up to Constantia Nek, and all is well, as if the other side was not burning either.
But as we drop down into Constantia we see the gray smoke to our right.
And soon we hit the slow moving freeway south, cars stopped on the sides, taking pictures of a brilliant red sun disc, a strange mirror behind the gray smoke.
It is surreal …
When we hit the end of the M3 we go down to Main Road this time instead of up and past Stone Hurst.
Boyes Drive is blocked off, the traffic is thick but not as thick as it is on the Ou Kaapse Weg drive over to Noordhoek.
Finally home, and we are told how more choppers came over and water bombed.
It seems safe finally, smouldering but safe.
So we have supper and gather outside again, among the neighbours, talking about all the instances of fire events.
The communities have risen in support of the firemen, cars arrive at Lakeside Fire Station to deliver cool drinks, food, eye drops, anything that they can think of to show their solidarity.
At about ten in the evening we notice a sudden pall of orange smoke above Boyes Drive, halfway to Peck’s Valley.
It is above Old Boyes Drive, the zig zag, short of a kilometer from us.
That is rising fast, we observe.
Within a mere fifteen minutes this looks bad, very bad.
So we jump into a car and drive up, through the back road, one of my running routes.
There is a cul de sac at the end and we turn and park the car the right way in case we need to have a quick get away.
Come, up the path connecting this cul de sac and the next one, past the Big Rock, I shout at my son.
I know this route well, there is always this massive big dog that barks at me as I run past the first house after the Big Rock, and it tries to tear the fence down.
The fire seems imminent behind the house, like a huge orange wave, and as we get there a white van arrives, and two officials jump out.
Get out of here now!
But we are not residents, we came to see how bad it was, and offer help if needed!
Get out of here now!
The one official rushes to the fence, the big dog barking, wanting to tear the fence down.
Hey, you up there, out the house now!
Figures appear at the door, young adults and a mother.
It was like a movie, watching all the wrong moves playing out in front of you.
The dogs, do you have their leashes, I call out?
And the half dozen shapes are rushing down and back up, down and back up.
Now, come out now!
And still they rush up and down, grabbing things, in and out, despite our yelling.
Others have joined us at the fence exhorting them to drive their cars out.
Eventually the mother is the only one still there, the others have even managed to get the dogs in the car.
Get out now, get out now, and there she comes – finally!
Car doors bang … then open, and one jumps out, where is the key to the gate!
I tell you, if the one back door did not open and emit a girl yelling I have it, I have it, we would have torn that fence down, jumped into the drivers seats and driven those three cars out ourselves!
The hell that we would have given this family might even have compared to the hell that was threatening to burn their house down.
With the gates open, we ran, down the path, past the Big Rock, into the car and drove …
Back down by us we urged the neighbours to pack and get ready … my laptop, hard drive backups, ID books – and my decades long un-played bass guitar and the acoustic one.
Last of the Summer here so I was not going to bother with clothes; my wife had a better grip on those kind of needs, and still had sense enough to plan for the photo albums, the CDs, records, china tea cups and the whisky glasses her late father had left her.
Again, another miracle, the firemen stopped the flames from jumping Boyes Drive.
Perhaps we had over reacted, that is what everyone said, but those officials yelling, the smaller dog crying in fear, the big dog barking as usual and wanting to tear the fence down that we would have torn down ourselves if that key had not been found, and that family scuttling around, in and out, up and down, around the cars, oh man, I tell you, with that wave of fire and the crackling and splintering of wood, we were not going to do anything else but get our neighbours ready …
Today the gray clouds came, and persisted, some rain fell, it helped …
Driving home today:
gray twilight clouds a bright moon shines
Copyright © 2015 G. Rigotti