The odd thing about this job.
From the campsite bar, with a lovely sunset in front of us, I was chatting to a guest over a cold drink the other night and he mentioned how beautiful the Luangwa valley is. He jokingly offered to come and do odd-jobs for a month or two and that he would even pay the camp to come and work here.
His comment, although it was not the first time somebody volunteered to come and help, got me thinking about all the odd-jobs that has to be done around camp. Preparing the roads and vehicles for the rainy season, building Christmas boxes for the 50 or so staff members employed at Wildlife Camp or organizing snacks and a home-made Christmas tree for the annual valley Christmas-carols. And speaking of odd, I had to delay the start of this letter to oversee the ‘reconstruction’ of a bamboo fence that got broken during the night by either a hippopotamus or an elephant.
Herman, having been a resident of the valley since 1992, understands that the rain during the green months can cause havoc for the unprepared. Hence, he busied himself with the road coming into Wildlife Camp putting down culverts and layers and layers of gravel to ensure a dry drive into camp when the river is in flood. On top of that, he also fixed the boat (just in case) and is busy rebuilding Dora’s house, complete with a new leak-free roof. And then off course, like the rest of us, he was busy with his own day-to-day tasks of keeping the vehicles and our man-power in tip-top shape. No matter how hard he works, there is always time for the odd cup of tea with a guest in the restaurant.
Patsy’s odd job consisted of taking the kids, including Kyle fresh out of High School, on holiday to Zanzibar. Parenting is a full-time job. They all came back, just before Christmas, with amazing stories and photos. It is good having the noisy children back after three weeks of silence.
Odd or not.
Dora, never one to shy away from any kind of job, odd or not, had her hands full with the Christmas weekend celebrations.
Traditionally all the camps and lodges in the valley come together on Christmas-eve to celebrate the birth of Christ and share smiles and celebrations. This year was no different and not even large threatening clouds could keep us away from the celebrations. Guests and staff alike, all were there to experience a lovely evening. As always, Dora did a sterling odd-job in organizing food, beverages and decorations for the Wildlife Camp table – all of which disappeared almost before the choir started singing.
The choir was made up of staff members from the various organizations in the valley. From Wildlife Camp a cook, two barmen and a housekeeper put their voices to excellent use in the “Luangwa Safaris Choir.”
Squirrels for Christmas.
As the old saying goes, Christmas is about giving. Retha’s odd-jobs were all about giving this month. First, she raised two orphaned squirrels, Boris & Patricia. At the beginning of the month Boris’ eyes were still closed but by Christmas he was already clever enough to make his way from the couch to the lunch table.
Another giving-job that Retha did was to organize Christmas boxes and game-drives into the South Luangwa National Park for all our workers and their families to enjoy. After a long and busy year the staff at Wildlife Camp was due some gratitude. I asked Joel, head barmen, to write about their experience:
A word from the staff
This year has been a great year, and especially over Christmas, because Wildlife Camp management has done a nice thing for the workers.
Wildlife Camp seems to be growing and has given its staff good Christmas boxes and game-drives that we could enjoy with our family members. The workers and our families were very happy to have this wonderful time and such a nice Christmas-Box with mealie-meel, cooking oil, sugar, salt and some chicken.
When we went out with our families in the park our children saw a lot of animals that they have not seen before like giraffe, zebras, puku and crocodiles. We are sure that this spirit will continue in 2011.
We really want to say thank you to management, especially Bwana (Herman) Miles for this – Joel.
An odd sighting of the month.
As for me, the odd-job that came my way this month was more of an adventure than a job:
During November, around Wildlife Camp, we started seeing a young bull elephant with a bad injury on his left-hind leg. At first it was not clear what type of injury it was and investigating is not as easy as driving up to the animal and taking a good look. After a couple of sightings however we determined that it was indeed a wire-snare stuck around the animals leg, which meant calling in the South Luangwa Conservation Society’s specialised help.
On the morning of the of the 15th the elephant was again spotted, leisurely helping himself to the fruits that dropped down from the wild-mango tree in front of Chalets 1 and 2. He was with his herd of 6 but that could not stop us from making an effort to help – by this time the wound was looking bad and the animal was in obvious pain.
Immediately I contacted Rachel at SLCS, but whilst waiting for her it was my odd job to track the elephants – at a safe distance off course – along with Wildlife Camp guide Sylvester who knows the area around camp like the back of his hand.
SLCS soon pitched up with vehicles, dart-guns, boxes full of animal-medicine and scouts from the Zambian Wildlife Authority and we waited for the elephant to move into an open area that would aid the operation. A short wait later the dart went in, the ellie went down and the rest of the herd dispersed in an orderly fashion. The SLCS team set to work, removing the wire-snare, injecting antibiotics and cleaning and bandaging up the wound. Scouts from the Zambian Wildlife Authority made sure that the other elephants in the area did not get too curious. Dora, who at one stage was monitoring the elephants breathing (how’s that for an odd-job) was overjoyed to touch an elephant for the first time in her life!
After the operation there was only a couple of minutes for photos before the reversal drug kicked in and the junior-giant rose to his feet, clearly a little dazzled by what happened.
The good news is that we have seen “our elephant” three times since then – the last time him and his herd wandered though camp on Christmas day. He seems to be healing at an amazing rate. The bad news is that this was not an isolated incident. However, the valley is fortunate to have people such as the SLCS staff willing to work day and night to control snaring and poaching. Read more about their efforts at www.slcs-zambia.org
Even though we do not take in any odd-job volunteers at this stage the camp does remain open all through the rainy season for those of you that want come for a visit. If you then feel like washing the Land Rover before your night-safari we would definitely not stand in your way! Otherwise, you can just put your feet up and watch the hippos graze.
I wish you all a breathtakingly good 2011! May your odd-jobs be as exciting as mine.
Regards from very green South Luangwa.