It’s September 2001 and …


It’s Monday 3rd and the wobbling quicksand

I ventured out beyond the Chindeni Hills yesterday with Simon, Shanie, Marcus and a blast-from-the-past, the legendary Dave Bowden. It was a sensational day out! The excuse was to seek out suitable locations, with sweeping Luangwa vistas, for guest picnics and bush dinners…something a little different during a stay at Nkwali. The view from the hills are quite amazing. We were also searching for the hot springs and salt springs in the area – the salt springs had all but dried up but we managed to find some bubbling hot springs. We had a picnic lunch under the shade of giant winterthorn tree at Tundwe Lagoon. It was so beautiful to see such a vast amount of water in an otherwise bone-dry landscape. So many varieties of birds feeding. We also came across an area of quicksand – in parts the soil on top was dry but the ground wobbled when touched! Dave pushed a branch down into it and it was at least eight feet deep!!

Mr Bowden, who many might recall spent several years guiding for RPS, is now receiving strict discipline in the UK army and it appears that he will be joining the Royal Gurkha Rifle in Brunei next year! On a short army break, he is out visiting friends and family in Zambia and it was great for us all to enjoy a few days of his unique humour!

Sara and Matthew have just returned from three wonderful nights in the Nsefu sector and spend some time with our hard working staff at Tena Tena and Nsefu. On a morning drive from Nsefu Camp they encountered 7 lion on a buffalo kill. There was one young cub amoungst the pride which quickly disappeared inside the belly of the buffalo carcass and re-appeared out of the other side…oh the joys of youth!!

Bush brunch

Yesterday morning Sara joined guests on a morning walk with Jason Gifford. It was rather hot by about 10.30am when Jason announced that they still had another 40 minutes to get back to camp and would they all manage ok? With brave faces they agreed that it would be no problem. Minutes later, they walked around a corner and suddenly came across a game viewing vehicle – how lovely, they could now drive back to camp! Not before some refreshment however – the walkers came through a clearing to find tables, chairs and Noodles with an exceptionally refreshing looking jug of Pims waiting for them. They then settled down to enjoy a wonderful bush brunch – how civilised!

Wendy had a surprise of her own the other day. Out in the bush, she took a “loo break” above what looked like an aardvark hole. Suddenly a warthog came running out of this hole, almost hitting Wendy from behind! I think it was a shock to both Wendy and the warthog!!

Elephants at Nkwali

Elephant action at Nkwali this week – 18 of them in the lagoon, including 3 babies of which 2 were under three months old – so young they didn’t yet know how to use their trunks! The three regular visitors to the office are still visiting daily, almost like clockwork, flashing their eyelids at me from the other side of the window!

Robin and Jo have just departed for the UK on a whirlwind visit. Jo’s sister, Martha, is to be married in Wales this weekend and I cannot WAIT to hear all about it! Big cheers and well wishes to Martha and her hubby-to-be, Frank! Before heading for the airport Jo added a few words which appear below.

KUTANDALA

Guz produces superb cuisine

“Last weekend I popped up to North Luangwa to visit Rod and Guz at Kutandala. What a wonderful bushcamp – the best I have ever been to. Built with such simplicity, accuracy and imagination. There is nothing more than you need but there is everything you need. Each room overlooks the Mwaleshi River – with a huge open window. The ensuite bathroom (loos are flush) is open from the shower, allowing you to see across the river. The main area is around a fallen but alive mahogany tree – no “building” but with different “rooms” between the huge branches on the ground. Guz produces superb cuisine and Rob takes you on extremely productive walks. “

The libraryThe room divider
Bedroom viewBedroom
SunriserSunsetThese photos of the camp have just arrived “WalkingWe saw 19 species of mammal in 48 hours and a python up a tree (but Rod did say this was exceptional viewing). Yes – I had my first bush walk in 3 years as the swimming has improved my knees so much. Very rewarding – only 3 km but that is a massive achievement for me. During the first night we had a safari of sounds – lions killed just across from camp. We heard the prey struggling, the lions growling and snarling as they fed and then the hyenas whooping with excitement. In the middle of the night a breeding herd of elephant and the lions had a 10 minute “war” with the ellys trumpeting and screaming while the lions roared and roared. A sleepless but exciting night. So for those who have done our mobiles a couple of times (of course!)……The North Luangwa Walking Trails is a must. Nkwali 3 nights, Kutandala 4 nights and Nsefu 3 nights. I highly recommend Nkwali at the beginning of the safaris so that you can recover from the journey, unwind from your hectic life, get your bush eye in, do night drives and see relaxed game. Then you are ready to go deep into the bush and really make the most of it. ”

 

SWIMMING AT NKWALI

We have had guests arriving at Nkwali without swimming togs! Please remember that we now have a totally wonderful pool at Nkwali and it is now hot so they all want to swim. Bring those togs!!

Cheerio!
Jeffrey

It’s Monday 10th and ice skating elephants

We are having quite a quiet weekend here at RPS. Sara, Kevin and myself to man the fort as Jeffers has gone to Nsefu for the weekend and Jo and Robin are in the UK for Jo’s sister’s wedding.

The weather has warmed considerably, the last few days being incredibly hazy- partly due to a huge amount of fires around at the moment.

Baby ellies last October

Speaking of which, within thirty minutes of sending last week’s ‘It’s Monday’, we were all out on the main Nkwali road in order to control a large bush fire that was getting quite close to camp. It was a changeover day and with no guests in camp at the time, we were all having a rather enjoyable lunch at the Nkwali bar. A lull in the conversation and we hear the distinctive crackling of a large fire burning at speed through the long dry grass in the vicinity of the camp. Without a word, everyone dropped their plates (not literally) to get everyone together to tackle the blaze. It was a great success!! Many bush fires rage through the entire South Luangwa area at present (adding to the extreme haze!) and is all part of the annual cycle and a cleansing of the bush as conditions become drier by the day in readiness for the enormous regrowth that occurs during the rains.

It seems the fire started upstream and inland of Nkwali and in the very high winds, ended up moving rapidly towards the workshops and stores and up to the fence of the vegetable garden. The front of the fire covered a large area and by backburning and beating the fire mercilessly by whatever means possible; (our hastily fabricated fire beaters of broomsticks and rubber mudflaps nailed on were a big success) we were able to bring it under control nearly 2 hours later. In that time however, over 1.2 kms of the bush on one side of the road had been scorched.

We were fortunate enough to keep the blaze from crossing the road and moving into the ebony groves and floodplains behind so there is still of cover for the multitudes of bushbucks and warthogs in that area.

Jeffrey wrote last week of the return visit of former Nsefu Guide Dave Bowden whilst on leave from Sandhurst. Well, it is fair to say the British armed forces seems to be moulding in Dave, a fine upstanding Officer worthy of the Sandhurst tradition!

At the height of the inferno with some 35 of us, beating, thrashing, sweating, cursing and spluttering at the fire front – his vehicle emerges phoenix like through the smoke and flames along the road. Hurrah! we all think, Dave is bringing water to quench our thirst and bring up the reserves but sadly this was not the case. With a “Well done. Good Show, Carry On”, he salutes and passes us at speed, ice cold coke in hand on his way up to Nsefu.
Definately Officer Material!

“Happy days” at Nsefu with an Aardvark sighting by Wendy. This was Wendy’s first sighting of the elusive creature and although the only part of it visible was it’s rear end, was enough to warrant “a confirmed sighting”and the opening of a bottle of champagne! Jason was the first to spot it on his return to camp with his guests after a night drive so he called the rest from camp to come out and have a look. Wendy also went back after dinner with one of the guests to do a sit in to see if it would emerge but unfortunately by the time they got back to the site, it had fled.

Baby ellies last October

With the Ebonys still fruiting, the elephants have been putting in regular appearances around Nkwali. We were all were treated to a lovely sight one lunch time as 18 elephants cooled in the lagoon in front of the dining area. With the mudbanks soon soaked and slippery from all their activity, it was an absolute delight to watch the determined baby ellies endeavouring to climb out, then sliding back in, their legs splaying and feet going 19 to the dozen to try and get some purchase! A reassuring nudge from Mum soon helped them on their way.

Enjoy your week

It’s Monday 17th and Supermouse at large

In this timeless, magical place where we live in the South Luangwa Valley, it is easy to assume that the rest of the world is far far away and all of its problems bear no relevance to our lives. One does feel a bit sheltered from the modern world – we can relax here and concentrate on the important things, such as the first sighting of a new-born leopard cub or the joy at seeing the green, fresh regrowth at the start of the rains. International events of the past week have hit home just how much the world is one big village and that those of us here are very much a part of it. We all remember where we were when the USA was attacked by terrorists and are keenly aware of the suffering of thousands of people all over the world as a result of these actions. The horror of last week has affected us all and the possibility of things to come will impact our lives too – let’s all hope for the future that we never again experience anything like this.

As Jo is fond of saying – remember to go out and pick some daisies!! Yesterday was a day where I would have gladly picked some daisies if there were some to be picked! After weeks of increasingly hot, dry and hazy weather the southern African region was hit by a storm and the result in the Valley was a lot of strong wind followed by a day of crystal clear skies (you could actually see the eastern escarpment!!), lots of fluffy white clouds (it felt like autumn) and cool temperatures – absolute bliss! It felt like we had gone back to June or July and it was such a joy to have relief from the heat! The sunset was bright red and clear – without the haze. Today it is similar and we are all bouncing with extra energy!

It has just been revealed that Tena Tena had a bizarre series of ‘thefts’ from tent 5 over the past week. Further investigations led to attempts to apprehend a culprit but ‘it’ is still on the loose, so to speak! Yes, a medium sized grey mouse with a white belly is at large and still alive which is strange considering what it has been getting away with. It all started last week when guests occupying tent 5 had their laxative t-bags stolen. The following clients to occupy the tent had their Imodium tablets stolen! Staff quite rightly decided to call it Supermouse!! Next, two hearing aids owned by the latest guests went missing. After 30 minutes on their knees searching under the bed, behind chairs etc. the hearing aids were found on the other bed albeit slightly chewed! The owner of the hearing aids decided that they worked much better than before they were chewed – a technical mouse as well!! A trap was set to catch this Super-Techno Mouse, consisting of peanut butter on a spoon with an upside down bowl held up by toothpicks. Super-Techno Mouse got the peanut butter and also got out of the trap! We wait with baited breath for the conclusion to this case – hopefully Super-Techno Mouse will be successfully relocated to a less harmful environment!

Tena Tena guests have also been entertained by larger animals – during an afternoon walk Jason Alfonsi and guests noticed some lion up a tree. From a distance of 60 yards they watched as the male and female stood up on a thick branch and then ran up and down the tree, which was bent at a 45 degree angle. Jason has also noticed lots of mating lion on the south loop and he thinks that there are indications that a pride might be forming. There are two different males who are mating with 2 of the 3 females in the group – this is quite unusual. A few weeks ago we reported on the removal of a snare from a lion’s neck. Well I reported this as being a female lion – my apologies…it was a male lion and it is in fact one of these mating males who are hopefully forming a new pride – great news!

Shanie joined Simon on the latest Walking Mobile Safari, where they also encountered lion on foot – 3 females, a cub and a BIG male – very exciting. Shanie thoroughly enjoyed the experience of catering on the mobile safari (Sally swapped by taking on Shanie’s role at Nkwali for the duration)…with lots of swimming in the river at Camp 3. Shanie informs me that the therapeutic effects of the river sand has left her with the skin of a baby’s bottom and as a result she would quite like to reside up there!! On their return to Nkwali, Simon and Shanie were fortunate to witness the first cute little wartlets for the season (baby warthogs) and a honeybadger! I saw several honeybadgers near Nsefu last weekend – very bizarre looking creatures!

The season is not over yet but we have seen the first departure of one of our staff. Nathan Pilcher has hung up his safari hat to go and be an impoverished university student in the UK! His first lectures commence next week. We wish him every success and hope that, after many months of eating like a king at Tena Tena, he learns how to be creative with a packet of spaghetti and a tin of tomatoes – good luck Nathan!!!!

Until next week, take care.
Regards
Jeffrey

It’s Monday 23rd and the black-eyed camp manager

Jo returned to the Valley this weekend after spending some time in the UK with family. We were all very excited to hear that her sister, Martha, had a sensational wedding and Jo thoroughly enjoyed herself – a big reception was held in a field in Wales with great atmosphere and bride & groom wandering up a hill to their accommodation, in gumboots, at the end of the night!!

Far from the Welsh countryside here in Zambia, the cold snap of last weekend, as I would like to remember it, is well and truly over! We are now experiencing the famous October heat that a lot of our guests from colder climates thoroughly enjoy. Staff and guests have taken to wearing a wet kikoi in bed, wandering around in camp, and on game drives; they offer much relief and look quite fashionable, I must say. The Nkwali pool is a very popular addition to the camp this year and is now well patronised. We have lovely huge green umbrellas (blending wonderfully with the bush!) with deck chairs so that you can lie around the pool for a while without succumbing to too much sun!! How sensible!

The heat is providing all with much to look at when out gameviewing. There is very little water left outside of the major lagoons and the Luangwa River so concentrations are much higher. The carmine bee-eaters are busy nesting and should have produced eggs by now. The nesting colonies are huge numbers of individual nests burrowed into the riverbank. Sometimes this loosens the riverbank sand resulting in a sudden catastrophic end to the colony. Utter carnage!! Each time we hear a bit of the riverbank crashing down we hope that a nesting colony has not gone with it!

The great debate about interfering with the course of nature raised its head in a big way at Nsefu last week. On a gamedrive not far upriver from camp, just past the ebony grove, the most bizarre sight greeted everybody. In the middle of a very wide stretch of the river, with fast flowing water on either side, was a long-fallen tree of considerable size. Stuck in the tree was a beautiful big male leopard! The tree was surrounded by a large number of hungry crocodiles waiting for the leopard to try and escape. Noodles told me that it was so sad to see this beautiful creature pacing up and down the length of the tree, snarling at the crocodiles, looking for a way to get out of the situation he had found himself in. How he got there is a good question – the tree was at least 20 metres from the Nsefu side and almost the same distance from the other. He must have been trying to cross the river and found himself near the tree and deep water. That night in camp everyone feared the worst. Returning to the scene the following morning there was no leopard in the tree but there were fresh leopard prints coming out of the water on the Nsefu side. If he did get escape in one piece then we would all love to know how he did it!!

a crocodile's view

Another amazing sight by gameviewers from the Luangwa Wafwa Lagoon. Between 600 to 800 buffalo came down to drink and many of them were shoulder deep in water. Whilst watching this enormous herd a huge crocodile suddenly decided to try to take a large bull!! It was a very ambitious move from the crocodile but it didn’t stand a chance. It did however provide the lucky viewers with a sight they will never forget!

Sad news about Tena Tena’s Super-Techno Mouse. Well, it was inevitable I guess!! After consuming laxatives and Imodium in two days it wouldn’t have known whether it was coming or going! Robin said that it had ‘Super-Techo’d itself out’ and alas, is no more. At least guests in Tent Five need not worry anymore! Sara spent two nights this week as caterer whilst Corinna took a short break with her boyfriend Johnny, on a visit from the UK. I think Sara would now rather be a caterer than work with me in the office – she talked with great pleasure about the bush dinner she prepared by the lagoon complete with a lovely moon, stars and a very happy camaraderie around the fire.

Is this a spotted bush snake?

Spotted bush snakes have provided much entertainment at Nkwali this week. Matthew noticed one wrapped around the air vents of a ventilation brick in his office. It was trying to reach up to the wooden beams along the ceiling to catch some ghekkos with little success. Simon helped this harmless creature to the ground with a stick when suddenly both snake and a ghekko fell to the floor with a thud. They looked at each other and the ghekko fled whilst the snake slithered in a direction towards Matthew. I officially declare that the General Manager then indicated his sudden desire to be standing on top of his chair!! Johnny’s shirt grew three sizes when Corinna leapt onto his back. The snake was removed to the bushes. After lunch Simon came back to the office with a black eye and a beautiful scratch down his face. So the story goes he decided to offer the camp kitty-cat a close up view of the spotted bush snake. Kitty showed vague interest but suddenly took fright and tried to leap out of Simon’s arms, kicking him in the eye with her back leg in the process. Shanie stood silently behind him and didn’t utter a single word…. hmmmm.

Have a lovely week!
Cheers
Jeffrey

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