Monday, April 23, 2007

KangarooValley Rain

The limestone escarpments drop like a blunt forehead from under a sharply cut fringe of tall timber and dense undergrowth to a gently sloping easement that runs out to the coast a couple of miles away and on which more grass grows than the dairy cows know what to do with. In this humid weather, with moist air being lifted off the ocean and driven up and over these heights the likelihood of rain is high. On this coastal fringe 100mm (4inches) or more can fall in an afternoon, but exhausting supply before getting twenty miles inland to the dams which feed this city. Yesterday was a spectacular and dramatic run up that escarpment, though the winding hairpin bends of Kangaroo Valley. As we ran in from the coast two curtains headed us off and draped themselves alongside. One was a dark gray backdrop of flat cloud which gave no sense of depth or movement. Just a dark premonition of heavy rain. In front of it was a roiling, boiling cloud as black as night, slipping up and off the escarpment, lashing the tree ferns, beating the ash, hammering the eucalypts into a rain of accompanying leaves and hinting at an uncommon fall of water. And so it was as we hit the mountain. The noise was deafening, and visibility was reduced to watching the taillights in front of us. A sobering effect, the unspoken thought being, ‘what if we break-down in this?” Such was the dramatic, drumming, hostile effect that all ipods were removed from the ears of my passengers as they gazed outside and wondered at the spectacle. Rivers of mud and stone were sluiced off the hills and driven across the road, hairpins became watercourses of bouncing, boiling, white water. Sticks and leaves boated past at speeds that easily outstripped us. We crept up through the pass into the darkness, the lightning and instantaneous crack of thunder giving the sense we were being slapped along from behind by this storm. Yet, the occasional glimpse out to the left revealed the unusual spectacle of a valley in sunshine and under a clear sky. We ran on, up and over the pass and down the other side. The storm followed and kept clawing at us, the occasional drop of rain keeping us alert to the possibility of another dousing until we finally outran it. I read in the mornings papers that the record low dam levels remain just that, with none of that torrential rain touching them.