It’s Monday 12th Feb 2007 and Operation Clean Up

It’s Monday 12th Feb 2007 and Operation Clean Up

”Week Two of the Flood” and we are almost back to where we were the day I took the reservations team out to Lusaka. Well in river height. However the landscape of the camp has changed! Yes – I am in the Valley as I decided the most restful place for me was home and I was tired. So I chartered a plane on Friday and flew up. I was alone in the plane, oh and the pilot of course! I knew the pilot well and so we had fun flying low over the river. It seems the widest point of the flood is the Mfuwe area, where most of the camps are.

I was delighted to see the water in the village areas had dropped considerably. There had been the usual annual flooding in the villages along the Lupande River – low lying ground – perhaps a little higher this year. Every year, a number of villagers (around 20 families) have to camp out on the road. I was chatting to John, our current watchman at the Luangwa Safari House. He is one of the families. John is 37, has nine children from 18 months to 12 years and they all slept for a night in the open on the road. Not a great thought! The next day they built a temporary shelter and are currently living in it until the Lupande drops. He does this every year. Amazingly he was laughing about it as we talked. Robin is watching the forecast daily on the internet (yes we have connection) and told John that it was looking good.

In RoJo's houseWeather forecast

On arrival at our house, RoJo, I was delighted to see it dry. Of course the “Band of Brothers” were still all living upstairs, not wanting to move until they were sure the river was going to drop. There had been new flooding in the north of the river, leading to a rise of a few inches again, and so everyone was waiting with baited breath. As the outsider, I was confident that we should move the cooker downstairs! And this was emphasized by cooking the meal that evening in the sitting room. I take my hat off to Don who did it for ten days. Cramped and hot. On the move? Robin’s immediate reaction was “but we are all cozy upstairs”. I think it was hard for everyone to move into the next phase.

Luangwa House in floodSimon starts the clear up

I saw Luangwa House on Saturday, still underwater, although a lot lower than the high tide mark. I decided that I did not want to walk around the camp until the Sunday. I had come up for a break, at home, with Robin. And everyone was very tired. We should all take time out and chill. Simon Cousins joined us for the weekend – with lots of biltong and laughter. So off we boated to the nearby stork colony, heronry, or whatever it is – a lot of birds nesting in the trees! The birds are on the nests with extremely young chicks.

Stork ColonyGreat white egret

Being in breeding plumage the usually “dull” open billed stork has a very colourful glossy sheen, as if they have been dipped in a light oil. The great white egrets are flouting their new lace like feathers. There are also cattle egrets, lesser masked weavers and the black headed heron.

open billed stork egrets

black headed herona

The grey heron is displaying a long plume. Interestingly the bills of the great white egrets change colour for breeding (from yellow to black, with a green gape – well a bit more than the gape). It was extremely exciting and just what we all needed. As we left, raincoats were discussed. But no, not needed. It was a sunny and glorious afternoon. So naturally a huge storm came in and we had to divert to Kapani to avoid a drenching.

Docking at KapaniStormy sunset

Kapani, away from the river and on high ground, has been the “relief centre” for all the safari residents of the valley. There are no villagers along the banks of the Luangwa but this is where the safari operators build their camps and live. Everyone had been flooded and no one else had second floors to retreat to. Kapani welcomed everyone with open arms and soon there was a flotilla of boats and a strong bonded group living there. Everyone helping each other, those without boats had easy access to boats, and meanwhile the Kapani staff preparing meals of up to 36 people!

On the way home, as the storm abated, the sunset was wonderful.

Nkwali deck

So Sunday morning and time to visit the camp. It was a huge relief as in fact was not as bad as I had imagined. Damp of course, muddy of course but that is a clean up job. Easy. Interesting, here is the new landscape of Nkwali:

Nkwali landscape

There has been a huge deposit of sand and silt. The deck is now clear. But above is Adrian fighting the current a week ago (not sure I should be showing this – mums don’t look!). Have to say that when we got to the swimming pool Cuz said “now this really does look like a war zone”. Again, a picture of high tide shows the pool last week. Now……hmmmm….. for those coming on 01 March – don’t bother to bring your swimming kit!

Swimming pool in floodChanginf room in flood

What happened to the animals? Interestingly, looking back, the game-viewing dropped enormously a couple of days before the water came over. Is this my imagination? I asked both Phil Berry and Robin. They both agreed this was more than likely. The majority of the game populations will be on the higher ground. Most animals that were left on diminishing islands are strong swimmers. However, of course there will have been losses but not as you would think.

So “Operation Clean Up” is in full swing today, the river is down another foot and we will be open for March.

All the best for another week


PS I have to apologise for this being so long and with so many pictures but it is very hard to condense such dramatic times into a short piece. Soon I will do a Mosi Moments of the various stages of this flood. It is really quite a phenomena.

PPS a couple more shots – firstly of Rob, whose main job was to measure the water and where it would reach next on the way up and on the way down. He would radio saying – the generator has 1 hour to go, Jo’s car only has 30 mins, time to move it. Lot’s of measuring.

Secondly, boating to the honeymoon suite at Tena Tena. Trust me, it will be wonderful in a few months.

Rob with the rulerboating to the honeymoon suite

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