It’s December 2000 and …

It’s December 2000 and …

It’s Monday 4th and Heavy Rain

I hope you are all enjoying the wind-up to the festive season – there is little evidence of it here in the South Luangwa! What a joy it is to be without that CRAZY Christmas advertising!! We have our own festivities here – the bush is bursting with new life and greenery and birds of all colours and sizes are singing all at once, far more pleasing to the ear than that old and scratchy Xmas album I endured each year! Perhaps I am slightly biased…

Another busy week in the Valley! We have enjoyed some spectacular lightening shows and very loud thunder. Everyone feels that the high level of rain we have been getting is early for the season. On Wednesday night we had 45mm alone! The river shot up remarkably the next day, covering most of the sandbank opposite Nkwali! Lots of debris from upriver sailed rapidly past for the next day, and the water level reduced by the day’s end almost as quickly as it rose!

The Wednesday storm was quite remarkable. It started at sunset with two storms approaching from different directions – the clash produced sheet lightening, loud claps of thunder, gail-force winds, very heavy rain and hail! It took an hour to pass and then it was time to check the camp – fallen branches and muddy pools everywhere. Suddenly we heard an almighty bang coming from the workshop. Feeling a little concerned, Marcus ran over to see if the roof had fallen off! It was bad – a huge tree fell down and crushed our beloved Jag! You might remember our dark blue Landcruiser stationwagon that has been in service at RPS since 1990 – it was looking rather flat under the tree!! Fortunately the engine is undamaged so stay tuned for details about Jag 2.

The flying termites are having a party every night around our lights!! They are EVERYWHERE! The lizards and tree mice are in hot pursuit, enjoying a high protein meal each night! There are insects of every kind in abundance right at the moment – to my mind some look quite rare. It is certainly a hive of activity and quite fun to watch.

Celeste has returned after three months in the UK receiving eye treatment! She was only half way through the Tena Tena season when she had to leave and could not return until the doctor gave the OK. It was a very excited Celeste on Tuesday when she finally came home, and immediately took back her guiding role at Nkwali. On her first day drive in three months she spotted a leopard in a tree – quite remarkable in the daytime!

Jo finally returned yesterday! She leaves again tomorrow – a flying visit to pick up Robin for a December holiday in the Cape region in South Africa. Within two hours all of Robin and Jo’s Valley friends had turned up for a monumental gossip, a fine lunch and just a few glasses of wine! Mid afternoon, as I sat outside my house along the river I suddenly heard the motor boat approaching. It was a great sight – Jo at the helm, masterfully ferrying her guests from her house, past my house, and on to the sandbank for sundowners – about four trips each way! Before long we all joined them at sunset on the river sand with a spectacular lightening display far off in the distance. Back at the Pope residence at nightfall, we all enjoyed a braai and just a few more glasses of wine! It was fantastic to have a Valley catch-up before many of us head off to various locations for Christmas/New Year. Apparently the guests in camp did not hear a thing!

Until next week – cheers!

It’s Monday 11th and playing in the mud

Well, after so much stormy activity lately the skies have been quite clear this week around Nkwali. Whilst it has been rather warm in the sun, the air is fresh and you can see all the way to the Muchinja Escarpment! I continue to be amazed at how GREEN everything is – it is like a jungle out there!

I bore witness to the extent of the greenery on a ‘boys day out’ in the Park yesterday! Marcus drove Doc Paul (the Valley’s current visiting doctor from the UK) and I through the main Mfuwe gate and toward Chichele Hills for a Sunday afternoon picnic. We encountered one vehicle in the Park all day – marvellous to have it all to ourselves! The main gravel road is holding up well so far to the rains but it is hard to tell what will happen if you divert onto a side road! Within 50 minutes Marcus could not resist leaving the gravel and we soon had ourselves stuck in a brilliant, deep mud-patch! It was my first experience being winched to safety! It is very wise to have a winch during the rains, otherwise you face the embarrassing prospect of sending for help! Marcus and Paul skilfully manoeuvred Skippy out of the mud whilst I managed to cover my Sunday outfit with it!

Safely back on track again we saw ridiculous quantities of wildlife! The animals disperse in the rains because there is water everywhere and they can safely venture further away from the river to feed. I saw more zebra than I have all year feeding amongst large groups of impala with many young. We saw a number of elephant family in the thick of the bushes and out on the plains – the best elephant sighting was that of a two day old baby barely able to walk properly! So cute I could have just taken it home but I doubt it’s mother would see things quite the same way! Opposite Nkwali we saw a large female lion sprawled across the track under a tree – most likely the same female we encountered two weeks ago feeding on the baby warthog. A fabulous sighting at sunset was five adult kudu – from a distance their large ears with dark marking looking like Jacqui O glasses!

Up at Chichele Hill it was brilliant to watch an enormous storm a good distance away move through the valley. There were huge sheets of rain across the horizon with the sun behind the storm – amazing lighting effect! It was a fine day out all in all. We followed on from the girls who had a wonderful morning drive – Celeste in the driver’s seat with Sara and female guest. From all accounts they had just as much fun as we did! It has been a rather wet week for other guests inside the Park – a few drives took place in the rain but that didn’t deter the enthusiasm of those partaking!

Back at Nkwali we have heard lion calling through the night quite regularly. Julie told me she heard a leopard calling and walking right alongside my house the other night – as usual I managed to sleep right through it!

This week saw Basil’s return to the workshop from a holiday in Perth – a bonus for me as he brought gifts from my family which included VEGEMITE!!! Yum! Simon soon returns to run the show at Nkwali after a holiday with his folks and after six weeks away for work and pleasure Jane will grace us all with her presence! We hope to provide you with some holiday stories next week!

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your festive season activities!

It’s Monday 18th and Season’s Greetings to all!!

It is hard to believe that the year is almost at an end, and the millennium for that matter! After a very busy year we are all looking forward to our Christmas and New Year festivities!! Nkwali is bursting with activity as staff prepare for the arrival of our Christmas guests. This year we have Simon’s family in camp and some regulars – it is frightening to think of our poor waistlines with the QUANTITIES of food and beverage that have been ordered for the occasion! That’s what it is all about so I’m not complaining!! It all starts on Christmas Eve with our annual Carols by Candlelight on the Luangwa Bridge. This grand occasion brings all the locals and Valley guests out to sing and be merry! Hopefully the hippos might join in with a few honks.

The past week has seen Basil return from sunny Perth on holiday, Simon from Durban and Jane from her marketing travels. After six weeks promoting in the UK, Scandinavia and South Africa, Jane came back to the Valley full of enthusiasm. She was very pleased to catch up with so many agents and meet new ones – all very productive and many ideas for next year! I am not entirely convinced that it was all work and no play for Jane…her house is FULL of what appears to be the end result of a shopping frenzy!

Wild dogSimon had no sooner returned to camp before he was bouncing round the Park with a family of four, new to Zambia. He was beaming on his return from the drive – incredible sightings which included 10 wild dog!! This has been an amazing year for wild dog sightings and these guests were lucky indeed to see them on their first drive! They spent about 20 minutes watching this pack which included six young of about seven months in age. They were just old enough to follow the pack and it provided hilarious entertainment as they tried to keep up with the grown-ups. The Mushalashi River was now flowing from recent rains and the pack tried to cross the river without success, watching all the while for hungry crocodiles. Simon and his guests lost sight of them when they disappeared into the dense green bush but not before providing some brilliant displays of wild dog pack-hunting techniques.

Rains Equally exciting for these gameviewers was a number of lion cubs and the large quantities of plains game back near the river. The animals appear to have dispersed and returned, making December a brilliant gameviewing month. Only yesterday Matthew, Sara, Jane, Celeste, Simon and I went on a Sunday afternoon drive and saw large amounts of elephant, zebra, impala, wartlets (baby warthogs!) and more Thornicroft giraffe than seen in a long while. We stopped at the Big Baobab for sundowners and watched a HUGE storm pass by to the west. The clouds looked threatening with hail and heavy rain – fortunately it missed us but Nkwali was drenched!!

Poor Matthew was at home reclining with a dose of the flu on Friday. He was not a happy boy but one thing did bring a wry smile to his face. At about midday we heard the sounds of a vehicle on the Nkwali back-road entrance obviously badly stuck in a muddy ditch. Our bank manager, new to the area, decided to pay us a house call with one of the Lusaka ‘big wig’s’ and he didn’t realise that one of the roads was now impassable due to the rains! Celeste came to the rescue with winch in hand and mightily pulled the bank manager and all his men to safety. Perhaps she was able to negotiate a ‘good deal’ with him in order to guarantee their rescue – she has kept quiet on that one!

So it has been an amusing and busy week for all and the next two weeks will see a lot of fun for guests and staff. Nkwali closes for the season on 02 January, ending what has been an incredible year for all at RPS. We would very much like to thank EVERYBODY for your wonderful support and your much needed feedback and comments throughout the year. It is your faith in our operation and it is the unique experiences that each of our guests enjoy through the year that makes it all so worthwhile for everybody here. We wish you and yours the most wonderful Christmas and a prosperous new year. Enjoy your millennium celebrations and be safe!

Season’s Greetings!

rps relaxing

P.S. It’s Monday is taking a break. See you again next year! That does not mean that our office is closed – we are working as per normal albeit with a slight hangover!

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