In the North East of Brazil, in as far as the time of year is concerned, winter corresponds to winter in Europe. It differs enormously in temperature; so much so that it took me some time to understand why this season of suffocating heat, was called winter at all. Neu explained to me, it’s winter because it rains, though through the seven winters I have had experience of here, the rainfall has been below average, in fact the interior of Ceará has suffered a drought for (in some estimates) 50 years and desertification is a serious problem.
This year the rainfall has been incredible, the rains became more frequent in January, February was pretty wet with an average rainfall, but March was wetter. Since the beginning of April it has rained virtually every day, often for hours on end. The vast expanse of sky a menacing palette of slate blues and greys, the fantastical cloudscapes torn alive by lightening, with accompanying thunder to burst your ear drums.
Last Friday night saw 15 hours of non stop heavy rain, lightening a little too close for comfort and deafening thunder, making sleep evasive; more rain on Saturday, a hot steamy Sunday followed by more rain that night. It continued in the same vein during the week, but at least we have the odd day of sun; even if only partial, it’s enough to dry out a bit.
Looking down to the road leading into Canto Verde.
The white building (far left) joins these two photos.
A report on television said that Ceará’s reservoirs are all full for the first time in 30 years, so full in fact they have been having to let the water out. Here in the village, there are several houses that have been knee deep in water, The garden of Neu’s parents old house is under water and the road that leads into Canto Verde has flooded, with huge lagoons forming on the usually bare sand on either side of it. Here there are fencing posts the same height as me, now only the very tops of them are showing above the water. The Evangelist’s church is now an island in the middle of a lake. One or two of the plants in my garden have died and a few more are showing signs of being water logged, yet others are making the most of it and growing at a staggering rate. Neu says he can remember years when the rains have been heavier and the flooding worse, but it’s not often.
Lagoons are forming all around, and impressive they are. Many of them are deep enough to swim in and all are teeming with wild life. At night the frogs chorus is deafening, I’m pleased they are there because I assume they eat a fair dent into the insect population, but at night their incessant calling gets on my nerves a bit. The loudest ones sound like someone walking around an a wet floor in squeaky trainers, just the sound that puts my teeth on edge. It makes it hard to get to sleep, especially as they call more or less at walking pace, squiltch, squiltch, squiltch, squiltch; then just as I’m beginning to nod off, one of them loses the rhythm and they go all over the place, SQUILTCHsquiltchsquiltchsquiltch, before re-gaining their rhythm, squiltch, squiltch, squiltch, squiltch, always just sufficient to wake me from my nearly asleep state.
The flooded areas have the added problem of rubbish. I am pleased that we managed to clean a great many of the rubbish sites when we did, most of those areas are now underwater. One that we were not able to clean completely, was black with mosquito larvae, this was very worrying owing to the risk of Dengue fever, but a channel was dug to allow the water to drain down onto the beach and away, the remaining rubbish was then removed and the area disinfected. The beach, having been thoroughly cleaned just a few weeks back, was a disgrace on Sunday, but this time most of the rubbish had been washed up, probably entering the sea with the massive amount of flood water coming down the rivers. The sea removed a vast amount of the rubbish with the next tide; just where does all that rubbish go?
The dogs, well Bella and Baloo, think they are in watery heaven, Bella in particular would spend all day in the lagoons if she could. If the gate is left open she’s off, heading for the nearest (and muddiest) lagoon, coming back sopping wet and stinking. Baloo has taken up diving; if he finds an old coconut, sunk and full of water, he will go completely under in order to get it. When he’s managed to get the coconut out of the water, he runs around with it for a bit, very pleased with himself and then dumps it, he never seems that interested in them when they’re dry. Our third dog Benjy, is not a water dog at all, he tries unsuccessfully to cross the lagoons without getting his feet wet, looks terribly distressed if the water reaches his belly. If he ends up in deep water, he swims in a hysterical manner, trying to get as much of his body out of the water as possible, while Bella and Baloo cruise teasingly about him, totally relaxed.
There are a number of permanent lagoons around here, so there are always water birds to be seen. Now the birds are spoilt for choice and their populations have exploded. The other day, while out on the dunes Neu spotted a chick on the ground, I’ve no idea how he managed to see it, smaller than my little finger and fantastically camouflaged to blend in with the sand, its parents peep peeping for it as they charged up and down the area, trying to draw us away from their offspring. I wondered why it was out there on the sand, Neu said they don’t have nests, the chick hatches and has to start running almost immediately, something its parents do virtually non stop. There are many other birds from Egrets to Eagles and although I don’t know the names of many of them, in English or Portuguese, I am lucky enough to be able to watch and listen to them.
©Claire Pattison Valente 2009