It’s March 2003 and …

It’s March 2003 and …

It’s Monday 3rd and Wild Dog rule the Valley!

Wild dogIn fact, It’s Sunday – and I am sitting in the office in Lusaka wishing I was back in the Valley. I spoke to Clare earlier today, who will be managing Nsefu with her partner Ed next season. They have elected to stay for the rains and have had some wonderful sightings in the last week. One of my biggest wishes is to see Wild Dog and low and behold they are being seen on a regular basis at the moment around the Lupunga Spa. Clare reports a group of 12 comprising of 6 adults and 6 young, I just hope that they stay around until I get back at the end of this month!

Bee EaterIn addition to the Wild Dog there has also been a rare sighting of a Side-Striped Jackal just inside the park, Black Sparrow Hawk in the Chendeni Hills as well as lots of European Storks and Bee-eaters, so plenty of action.

Keyala reports that they are having regular visits of Elephant, Giraffe and Hippo at Nkwali. There was also a Leopard on the loose last night, and the baboons kept everyone awake with their alarming. On the negative side, the grass slashers seem to have been a little over enthusiastic and managed to cut through one of the wires taking power from the generator to the bore hole. Unfortunately it took a couple of days to find the fault and so the guys had no water for showering etc – hopefully they will be back on track soon.

The weather in the valley has been dry and the river has dropped by about a metre in the last 2 days, however the lack of rain has meant very high daily temperatures and humidity. Quite the opposite in fact to the weather we are experiencing in Lusaka where I am actually sleeping with a blanket!

Last night was my first night alone in the city. Robin and Jo left for a break in the UK on Thursday and Jeffrey as you all know has taken up a post in the UK after 3 years with RPS. He is stopping off in Joburg for a bit of R&R on the way to London and meeting up with several Valleyites who are also there. South Africa is certainly a popular spot at the moment with most of the Valleys guiding fraternity down there for the Cricket – I’m afraid I am more of a rugby fan myself and so November will see me planted in front of the TV for THE World Cup – I just hope the others in camp are keen or there may be some ugly scenes involving tussles over the remote control!

So back to last night and the weather, we are having some amazing storms here in the city which keeps the temperature and humidity down. Last night the thunder started at about 17.30 and it was raining so hard I could not see the other side of the garden. Then a huge flash of lightening and the electricity was knocked out. I am sharing a house with a lovely lady called Sues, however, she had gone away for the weekend and so I had to try and find candles and matches in a house I had not long moved into. Unfortunately, I could only find one candle and by 20.00 that was almost dead. At this point, I almost cracked when I saw the night watchman walk past with a cigarette, however, I am proud to say that I resisted the temptation, poured myself a huge gin and tonic and retired to catch up on my beauty sleep. However, on looking in the mirror this morning, 10 hours sleep doesn’t seem to have made much difference!

Next week is my birthday, this is very handy as it always falls around Mothering Sunday. Each country I have lived in seems to have Mothers Day at a slightly different time of year and so this is the best way for me to remember when the special day is in the UK. However, where ever you live I have the perfect gift for you to send to your Mother – I am now going to spoil the surprise for mine (sorry Mummy) – Safari Dreaming, JO’s wonderful book on the South Luangwa.

Well that’s it for my first It’s Monday, hope you all have a wonderful week wherever you are.

Cheerio
Kim

It’s Monday 10th and We are Back

Robin and I arrived back yesterday after an all night flight from London. Am I getting too old for cattle class? I have to say that I felt terrible on arrival and went straight to bed until 4 in the afternoon! But I do have a cold and cough so that does not help. We did ask for an upgrade and despite putting on our smartest clothes (a quick change in Heathrow loos – and ok, if you live in the bush your standards are not that high in the first place – but I thought that we looked pretty impressive)….our request was rejected. So then I asked for the price to upgrade. As we had gone to the UK on a Valentine’s special – 2 tickets for the price of 1 – it meant that we would have to buy completely new tickets at USD 4400 each! Are you mad???? So I offered USD 800 each but my very generous offer was not accepted. Don’t the airlines know how to haggle?? So we ended up in the cattle class and a long night.

We left a windy and wet England only to find that it had not stopped raining here in Zambia for 24 hours. And it has continued up to an hour ago. Solid rain for 3 days and nights. Quite amazing. Robin naturally worried that the rain would be in the Eastern Province as well and the Luangwa would be flooding.

Kim is up on the Copperbelt with a team of safari operators promoting the South Luangwa to the expat community. Jeffery has left our fair shores. Leaving me to write to you – after 10 days away. So we phoned the Valley to find out the news. Keyala has gone home for a few days break and BJ had only been in camp for a day with nothing to report. EXCEPT that the river was rising – which was predictable but not what Robin wanted to hear. So I cannot give you the update from the bush.

So a few words on our trip to the UK.

Mzuzu Christmas 2002The trip was a family one – with my adorable nephew Mzuzu being christened on the first weekend. We drove to Wales where my family have had a couple of fields and a small A-frame house since the early 60’s. Sleeping dormitory style, with a 9 month year baby included, was certainly risky! However, Mzu behaved wonderfully. He woke up at 6 each morning and was given to Robin and myself (early risers) to feed and keep quiet as everyone else carried on trying to sleep. Tricky keeping a wide awake crawling baby quiet for a couple of hours! They tend to want to bang everything to make a noise. The godparents and family gathered and the ceremony was wonderful. A small 16th century chapel under some cliffs, beside a river in the well known four-house-village Llan-badarn-y-garreg! With daffodils and candles throughout the chapel we had a very intimate service and as Mzuzu was “dunked” there was an almighty clap of thunder right over the chapel. As the preacher said, clearly a special child.

The second Saturday and another family gathering. We all met on top of a hill over looking the Thames Valley and my father’s ashes were thrown to the (very strong) winds. The petals of a dozen roses were then scattered and the wind picked them up and blew them across the hilltop. Yellow, pink and white petals – like a thousand butterflies. It was wonderful. Pub lunch and then to the airport – hence the change into the smart trying-to-upgrade clothes in the loo!

So back at the ranch we need to start getting ready for the season. Tomorrow we will make the shopping list for the next two weeks which will include loos, handbasins, and showers for the new bathrooms at Robin’s House. Of course leaving things a little late but we love a deadline. It is always both challenging and exciting when we are designing and building new quarters!

So until next week, have a wonderful time. Enjoy the start of spring (for those in the Northern Hemisphere)!

Cheers
Jo

It’s Monday 17th and Crocodile Dundee visits Nkwali

Well, I am back from my trip to the Copperbelt in one piece, although some of my friends are surprised at this. I got quite a telling off for driving too fast in Jo’s nippy Rav4 until one of them drove it himself and realised that you could actually over take with less than half a kilometre of visibility when driving a petrol car as opposed to a diesel truck! The trip was great and we visited the towns of Ndola, Kitwe and Chingola. Meeting the public is always fun and a great boost when a previous guest comes up and raves about the time he spent at one of the camps.

Last Wednesday was a Youth Day in Zambia and so a public holiday. That doesn’t usually make any difference to us when we are in the bush but in Chingola there was nothing much to do and so a few off us set off to visit the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage.

Chumfunshi Chimps No doubt some of you will have heard of Sheila Siddle and her family. They set up this amazing Chimpanzee project many years ago and it has certainly gone from strength to strength. They now have 90 Chimpanzees which have been rescued and sent to them from as far a field as Russia and Chile. The stories of cruelty are quite unspeakable such as the Chimpanzee who was tied to a bar and taught to smoke and drink and was a complete alcoholic when he arrived. 19 years later if he gets out of his cage he apparently still heads straight for the kitchen to find a beer. Others are more physically traumatised but the project is very successful in integrating them into family groups and in fact they have had some 19 births since starting the project. If you would like to know more about the project their web site is www.chimfunshi.org.za

After arriving back in town on Thursday I was ready for another fix of what I was brought up with – farming. My flatmate Susie and I headed off to one of the main farming regions in Zambia, Mazabuka, to help friends celebrate the fact that their dam had filled for the first time in 2 years. This area has been badly hit by drought and so the rain will help everyone in the area. It was great to see cows too, not a sight in the valley as they can not be kept due to the Tsetse Flies.

Talking of the valley, I gave Keyala a call this morning to check-out what is happening and he had a rather funny story concerning a cat fish. Apparently, Kenneth, Nkwali’s head bedroom attendant, went fishing last night. Kenneth though he had caught a cat fish and then realised that it must be a record breaking size and so shouted to Rueben to come and help him haul in this monster fish. After struggling for a few minutes Rueben looked up to discover that they did indeed have a cat fish but that it was now attached to a large crocodile – needless to say, the guys forgot about the fish and cut the line and their losses!

Another great sighting was of a young leopard on Robin’s Bridge; it stayed around long enough for the chaps to see it and then bounded off into the bush. Perhaps it was eyeing up the many Yellow Billed Storks that are around at the moment looking for fish in the low water around the camp.

Robin has left us for a few days to check that everything is going to plan for the opening of the camps. He tells me that Nkwali is looking great with lots of newly planted grass, thatching and a new driveway. The new drive was been put in and will bring guest to the same spot but by a better route which takes them further from the workshop.

The river is always a major discussion point during the rains and it is now only about 2/3 full and there has been no rain since 8th March. However, yesterday saw storms with high winds at both Tena Tena and Nsefu and Robin expects rain at Nkwali soon. I hope so as I am planning to take a boat trip up to see the other camps when I get back. It will be great to see them in these lush conditions as Tena Tena was looking extremely dry when I left at the beginning of November – I probably will not even recognise my old camp.

Jo and I had a meeting this morning and suddenly realised that we have less than 2 week left in Lusaka before returning to the Valley. Whilst we are both keen to get back we certainly have a lot to do before returning. Jo has now started buying stocks and supplies for the season and has lots left to source and so will be flying around town looking for everything from wine glasses to spark plugs in the next days. I, on the other hand, will be concerned with getting my hair cut, having a facial and all of the other vital things that one can not do in the bush!

Well that’s about it for this week. I hope that you all have a good one.

Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 24th and repopulation of the valley begins

Well our time Lusaka is coming to an end, and we are all looking forward to it! It really has been fun seeing different people and enjoying restaurants and bar – my recent Friday night/ Saturday morning dancing extravaganza will not be repeated for a while – I think I am getting too old to be arriving home at 5am anyway…

Jo has been busy buying in earnest and has sent 1400 lettuce seedlings down to Nkwali. This was excellent timing as Marcus has arrived back and brought his brother Alex with him, who by chance is a landscape gardener. Yes, you guessed it he has been put to work – not landscaping but sorting out the vegetable garden and is as week speak elbow deep in plants.

Other early arrival back at camp are Simon and Shanie, who passed through Lusaka on their way to Nkwali. It was great to see them looking happy and relaxed after their break. We are all going to have fun at Nkwali this year and Jo and I can’t wait to get back and join the rest of the team. Robin flew out of Lusaka on Sunday and will be back again at the end of the week to help with the long drive home. This we intend to do over the weekend, arriving back on Sunday. I am just hoping that I will be up to the task of reconnecting all of the computers and this is not my forte, so if you have not received any correspondence from us by the following week you will know that I failed and that we are waiting for someone to turn up who actually knows what they are doing.

Simon and Shanie actually arrived back with Simons parents who had driven them up and then spend a few days at Nkwali. They report some great gameviewing whilst in the park with lots of elephant and a super leopard walking up the road in front of them. Another highlight was a lion kill – apparently they had pulled down a big bull Kudu. All in all they saw 20 different mammals on one game drive and lots of birds.

The river is still dropping and Simon says that he has not seen the camp this dry in years. However, recent days have seen rain in the hills around the camp and the feeling is that there is plenty of rain about and some will hit the camp. The average rainfall for the year is 800 ml and to date we have had 890 ml so that is a good sign especially if we still have more in the air as our weather expert seems to feel in his bones!!

Progress in underway with the renovation of Robin’s House. The second bathroom is being built and the place will be finished and ready for the first guests who will arrive at the beginning of July. This is quite an exciting project and we are so pleased that it looks like it is going to be a great success with lots of interest from both families and couples looking for some privacy – particularly those on honeymoon.

Cheers
Kim

It’s Monday 31st and we are all back in the Valley

Jo and her PC

Jo at her PC last year. Simon took the picture to show the visitor outside the window.

I am pleased to report that the move back to Nkwali went without a hitch, by yesterday afternoon we had the office in place and it looked as though we had never left. The only casualty seems to be Jo’s computer, which is refusing to whirl into action and will have to be sent back to Lusaka for repairs.

We are all very happy to be back and the place looks great. The river is high and flowing very fast. There has been a lot of rain in the north as well as within the park and the river is therefore continuing to rise. We have now had some 940 ml (800 ml yearly average) so far and more to come – in fact the tin roof is dancing with droplets as I write. This is not good for the farmers, as their maize that has been picked and stored will be rotting if not protected from the rain. It is ironic that too little rain caused the problems last year and too much may do the same for this year. Hopefully this late season rain will be localised and so not cause problems all over the country.

Wild DogOur first guests arrived on Friday and have had great game viewing. The very first drive of the season turned out to be quite spectacular. After first seeing 10 wild dog around Big Baobab (they have also been spotted close to the Airstrip Road), the drive continued and spotted a leopard. This chap was busy stalking a monkey, when all of a sudden several lions appeared and proceeded to chase the leopard, who decided to take refuge in a tree! Quite an amazing sight.

Marcus reports that there are lots of elephant around at the moment and indeed Jo and I show a lovely group last night on our way out to a little get together to watch the rugby. Well in fact we had missed the rugby unfortunately, but thought it would be rude not to join in the post match drinks.

Another lovely sighting was of a honey badger that guests saw digging away and totally ignoring them, this is quite unusual as they are normally shy and disappear off into the bush with great speed once spotted. The guests managed to spend quite some time with the badger, which was a real treat.

On the bird front, Simon reports that the cuckoo-shrikes are still around but that the Red backed and Lesser Greys are starting to head north. He has also seen African Crake nesting in the reeds around the lagoons as well as both Purple and Lesser Gallinule being in residence. The Gallinules have had an unfortunate name change and are now referred to as Swamp Hens, much less romantic.

Jo is quite upset about the changes and has decided that it is just a ruse to keep the world’s official twitchers body in employment as well as throwing their weight around by deciding that we need to relearn our birds. It is certainly a nuisance for beginners like me who have only just mastered some of the names and now have to remember new ones.

Well that’s it for this week, I am going to get into the park for some game viewing in the next few days and will then be able to report back with first hand knowledge in next weeks letter.

Cheers
Kim

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