We came to view this piece of paradise in the Summer (February) of 1992, and the land was covered with green grass.
When we arrived to move in, at the end of May, there had been a veld fire, and the land was covered with black charred grass, and the stumps of various aloes and other survivors.
Little did we know then, that the local cow owners burned the dry grass every year to make room for new growth for their herds.
In the Cape, in the West, the fynbos seeds require the heat of burning to regerminate, and tourists will see regular smoke pillars on Table Mountain and its surrounds.
However, in our region, KwaZulu Natal on the East coast, that is not necessary for the flora to thrive. Sometimes there is spontaneous combustion as the sun hits a broken bottle – many get thrown in the veld as the folks walk through.
The first few years of these fires took us by surprise, then we learned to either cut or burn our own firebreaks to protect the wooden cabins in the garden.
Fires are always a little scary. Depending on the time of day, and the wind, they can just fizzle through the grass, or, in some cases become raging infernos as they burn their hellish way through the dry bushveld, flames reaching many metres high. That is when we feel the full force of Nature, and have to watch in horror as the flames approach dwellings. We sometimes call the fire brigade, but our land is virtually inaccessible. One year the fire raged all the way up to the main road and then the fire brigade were able to douse the thatched roofs of the local tourist village in time.
This year, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, the 1st of August, we spotted orange shapes dancing in the veld at the bottom of our property.
Thank goodness, there was no wind, so we watched in fascination as the fingers of flame moved their stealthy way up the hill, burning the already tinder dry grasses as it advanced. Nearer the house, we have bushes and trees, and as soon as the fire got these in its clutches, the sky became alight with the dancing flames, and, as the sun was setting, the red glow in the sky was matched by the red, smoky glow of the air around the conflagrations.
As the night descended, the colours got richer.
I was dashing across the land trying to capture the wonder of it all. We have firebreaks, as I said, so there was never any real danger this year as there was no wind, and we have special flame beaters if things go wrong. The few neighbours were around by now to lend a hand !!
All we could do was watch in wonder, even the cats came to witness the spectacle….see Photo 2 !
Fortunately, no wildlife was injured – the birds would have flown, the lizards scuttled underground as well as the spiders and other insects. When the fire is slow, they stand a chance, bless them.
The next morning, the ashes of the fire could be seen, up to the edges of the fire breaks.
Photo 7 Edge of fire break
Soon, when the rains come in a couple of months, the green shoots will come through.
I’ll try to remember to show you.