It’s Monday 5th Feb 2007 and the flood

It’s Monday 5th Feb 2007 and the flood

Well what a week. I hardly know where to start so I am going to start at the beginning. I have used a lot of photos this week as it is a story to tell and of course to illustrate.

Nkwali deckLuangwa valley

The river was high as I have been reporting. And it continued to rise. On Tuesday at sundowners Robin and I sat on the bar deck and watched a glorious sunset while the water behind us, between rooms 5 and 6 slowly flowed over the bank in to a hollow. We realized that it was most likely we were going to experience flooding. I actually gave Robin a valium that night as he needed to sleep after an anxious week and while a huge storm moved over I lay there wide eyed. It was really going to happen. We had already lists of what to do, had packed up Luangwa Safari House and Robin’s House and were just waiting now. Always the worst place to be. Waiting. The watchmen were to wake us if the river rose more.

At two in the morning the button was pressed. We got up and in the rain started to pack up the camp. With three vehicles and twenty staff it does not take long and by dawn we had packed the camp itself into the storeroom. We woke up the guests, gave them breakfast and boated them to Kapani – high ground. And the packing continued. The river was rising slowly and I kept thinking is it or is it not going to a major one. But with caution in mind we decided to evacuate all the staff. Reservations and accounts – with their files and computers – were boated out. Leading this team I left my beloved Robin which was very hard to do and we flew to Lusaka. As we boated past the Luangwa House I realized how high the water was (it was an island and with not an inch spare!) and near the airport the water, although not Luangwa water, was over the road. Although a tough one, we had made the right decision.


Safari HouseTeh road out

Walking with gun Robin, Rob, Don, Adrian and Simon stayed at Nkwali, and continue with the planning and packing. They were going to have to live in our upper floor and so plans were made: generators, fridges, water, food were organized. The Tena Tena generator was put on the trailer outside our front door (and here it is a few days later!). At first, due to the concern of crocs, guns were carried but this was soon abandoned as working with a gun in your hand is not practical. It turned out the main problem was snakes as they swam from tree to tree in search of dry land. And as you boat around camp you try not to brush up against the bushes – who knows what is in there!

dry matressesNkwali chalets

the generatorthe genrator  still here

Clearly a number of animals were stranded and need help! A puku swam to the house for rescue.

Administration had to continue and here is Rob counting out the wages. The flood would happen on the first of the month. But there was also time for R&R and Adrian continued his obsessive fishing! (lots of jokes about “gone fishing” bouncing around of course).

Rob and the wagesAdrian fishing

In Lusaka, I had very little news. And the rumours coming out of the valley made me very anxious. The imagination then goes wild. I had to go, see for myself, see Robin and have an O group meeting. So on Sunday I chartered a plane for the day. We need to assess our situation and make plans. We also needed to see what the situation was with the community. Adam, Robin’s brother, and myself flew into the valley in cloud and drizzle. And from the air we could see the width of the flood. The river was now effectively some 2-3 kms wide. We did a fly by past Rojo and there was my home, surrounded in water. Ouch!! Up the river to Tena Tena, which was mostly under and then onto Nsefu. We store all the equipment for both Nsefu and Tena Tena in two containers here. Visions of containers floating down the river (I am told they float which I find staggering) had kept me awake at night. However, Nsefu is dry. What a relief. The water is at the steps of the rondavels.

aerial view of floodsaerial view of floods

flooded barflooded bar

We landed and were met by Keyela. We asked him in detail about the villagers and amazingly their situation is no worse than the high point each year. The Luangwa River does not effect them as it does us. We drove to the habour at Kapani and boated to Nkwali. The river is still flowing through the camp but is dropping now. And the river was not as high as my imagination had it! However we could not boat through camp due to the current and had to boat the back way in via the lagoon system. I found the “Band of Brothers” living in our sitting room, complete with stove, stores etc. They even watch DVDs at night with the gennie on! It was a huge relieve to see them – and of course Robin. They were all in such a Robinson Crusoe mentality – you would have thought they had been there for months, not 4 days. It is also amazing how people respond so incredibly well to crisis management. It was a huge pull to leave after only a few hours but we had to fly back. I stopped off at Kapani to have another “crisis management” meeting with all the other operators. They have been staying at Kapani these last four days. Again – a great camaraderie atmosphere. I do wish that I was there with everyone.

So now what. The river is dropping – another half a meter last night and we are now planning the clear up. Of course there will a ton of silt to wash out of the rooms but it will not take long. But the kit is all dry. They had found every high place for storage – including putting the office files etc into the ceiling of the office! We are watching the weather forecast like it was some amazing soap opera of course.

Robin was in the Valley when the last flood happened. In fact it happened twice in the last century – 1934 and 1978. I asked him about the effects. The lagoon systems will be effected, some news ones perhaps and even places where the river will break through narrow gaps. And of course the lagoons will be very full this coming dry season. The silt that is left behind will replenish the soil. There will be changes in areas that we know so well. It will be interesting to see it when the water has subsided. And when will that be? Robin said it can drop like a brick. Let’s hope so.


PS. Shanie – KP (Kitty Puss, the cat) is fine and living with the lads. Cat food is on the list to send up on the plane!

PPS Nkwali is obviously closed! But we are planning to be open early March, river permitting.

PPPS – Keyela has just called from the airport. The first Mrs Mop team are going in today. And I am sending on the plane – 10 mops, 10 squeezy what-ever-you-call them, 20 buckets, a sludge pump. Clear up time! Our ground floor is already out of water I hear.

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