Kuumbi Mpati – the month when the clouds have finally formed and it starts seriously raining.
I simply cannot believe that I am writing this at the beginning of December and our season is all but over. It seems like only a few weeks ago that we were doing the big unpacking and getting everything ready back in Feb. Time flies when you are having fun as the saying goes! Fortunately for everyone and everything November reflected what the Tonga descriptive name describes – the rains really did start in earnest. This is so welcome after the last rainy season which was a complete disaster. In fact Zambia has suffered the worst drought for 40 years, so getting some good rains is vital.
Of course the welcome clouds and rains brings real interest to the skies. There is no such thing as a good sunset sky without clouds! This little video clip below gives some idea of the drama of one of the first storms:
The rains have greened everything up incredibly – all in the space of two weeks. It is amazing that anything can survive being frozen and baked and parched in the tiny amount of soil on top of the granite rocks, but as you can see here after the first substantial rains life really does blossom:
On the topic of plants surviving on top of Mpamba here we have one of the euphorbia that survive in this harsh climate under the after-glow of yet another amazing sunset:
Of course it is not only from higher ground that everyone enjoys the drama of November. Out on the river or out on a game drive the skies are just as dramatic.
And now we come (back again!) to elephants…. Vera (former Puku researcher) came back for another visit from Germany and camped out with us while waiting for her research permits to be approved. She has the coolest little short wheel base Land Cruiser:
The one afternoon was in particular quite unforgettable with two huge bulls ambling up to the main area (and chalet 4, and the guest loo) and providing serious entertainment for the guests during afternoon tea….
We keep saying it, but this year the elephant activity around camp has been more intense than ever. With the onset of the rains and the vegetation really bouncing back the activity has reduced, but they are still around. Overall it has been an incredible experience.
Some of the guests that enjoyed the elephants tea party later that afternoon enjoyed another stunning canoe trail. The four ladies (all doctors from Germany and including a mother and daughter) were an absolute pleasure to show the river to.
Unusually for our canoe trails it ended up with Kaley and myself in the same canoe, so we took the opportunity to grab some video:
And then towards the end of the month we move onto developments at the Keela Community School. The Itezhi Tezhi council had several months ago promised to send the drilling rig to try and find water for the school. So long as we could provide the casing pipes, the diesel, the hand pump and transportation of the drilling rods and bits. And finally it happened…!
However things did not go according to plans and expectations. The first day’s drilling was totally dry. Then the second day also. Then the third day and the second hole. We were now totally over budget and had to bring in a LOT more diesel. The despondency was everywhere:
And then finally on day four it happened. Benny and myself had driven down in the late afternoon and the new hole suddenly delivered! In fact the drilling team stated that the recovery rate of the bore was the best out of any that they had drilled in the entire district over the course of this year. Suddenly everything changed!
As the sun was setting the joy was everywhere. The spray of water and the golden light lent further magic to what was a really joyful day.
The following day I went back down to see the installation of the hand pump. Despite it being a Sunday people were all lined up with containers desperate for the first ever pumped clean water in the community. It was amazing.
We tried to capture the momentous event with a short video that we made:
And just to give a bit of context here is a quick snap of where the community were previously drawing water. A few muddy inches of water at the bottom of a hand dug well. We are really pleased to have helped make such an important development happen.
And then to end the month we want to talk about maize meal. As we mentioned at the beginning of the newsletter this year Zambia has suffered the worst drought for four decades. The worst hit has been the South/Central parts of Zambia – i.e. the villages south of us where all our staff live. The 2019 harvest was more than 50% down on the already poor harvest of 2018. A reduction of 400,000 tons. As the lodge closes for Jan, Feb and March (with everyone coming back towards the end of March to get things ready for opening in April) then clearly there is a long period where people are needing food security. Almost all of our staff are small scale maize farmers who normally have a stockpile to go through these months. But of course this year there are no stockpiles. And maize prices have risen and risen as the year has worn on. Prices now are double what they were a few months ago.
So as a means of supporting our staff and their families we went shopping for maize! So on the last day ofNovember it arrived. Over two tons of maize meal. So with that we end the month and basically the season. We will have a few more updates before the year’s end, so until then!