Friday, July 11, 2008

Wild Things

We had a wonderful 3 days visiting Madikwe Game Reserve with 2 other couples from the Area Office.

Now this was a Bush Camp...meaning no electricity, no conveniences. We lived right in the game reserve with just a small electric wire for keeping the giraffes and elephants out.

The camp consists of an outdoor fire pit with braai grid; a “lapa”, or thatch-covered lounge area with couches, chairs, magazines; a dining hall (walls on two sides only) with attached kitchen; six living cabins; six showers with attached single loos, and that is about it. The shower/loo structure has a seven foot high wire-enclosed path (about 40 feet long – like a dog run) leading to the entrance in the event one happens to need to use the toilet at night and there are four-footed guests wandering about. Fortunately, the entrance to the wire enclosure was about 10 feet from the bottom step of our cabin. The anticipation of never knowing what would be waiting for us when we stepped out of the cabin in the night kept us vigilantly praying! The hostess, daughter of the owner, said that one time her father came out in the middle of the night and there were five lions waiting for him.

We arrived mid-day, and once we were settled in our cabins and had lunch we headed out for our first game drive. The cabins, approximately 15 feet square, with two twin beds pushed together, are built on stilts, presumable to allow the night wanderers a clear path through the camp. Two of the walls extend up to the canvass roof. The other two walls extend up only about three feet and the remainder of the wall is canvas to be opened during the day. At the top of the steps leading into the cabin is a gate to be fastened at night with the hope that any critter that wanted to get in bed or eat us would have to open before coming in. We fervently hoped that the beast would also have the courtesy to knock first.

We rode in big open land rovers with 2 experienced field guides who knew just where to go on the vast 150,000 acre reserve to find some of Africa's notorious wild animals. This reserve has 31 posh 5-star resorts and one bush camp. After 3 days of roughing it, we were still convinced that this was a great way to see the wilds of Africa. Save the resorts for the Carribean!

Once the sun went down the field guides used large spotlights to find animals. It got very cold and we were happy we layered ourselves with winter paraphenalia! We returned to a delicious hot meal cooked in potjie pots (like a cast iron Dutch oven). We talked around the campfire with the various other guests until we could stay awake no longer (about 9 pm).

We started early the next morning when it was VERY cold! After a couple of hours we got to stop for "tea", which in this case was hot chocolate. We were fortunate to find all the the "Big Five" - Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Leopard & Cape Buffalo. Our guides really did make sure we saw as many wild things as possible. Often times we could almost reach out and touch them...but not quite!

It was almost worth the trip alone to discover a way to have hot water in the bush using wood to heat it. It is modeled after an old Rhodesian water boiler, but in this case they call it a donkey boiler, because it looks like a donkey.

The water in the tank is heated with a fire below. When you want hot water you pour cold water into the funnel on the top. It goes to the bottom and displaced the hot water which comes out the spout at the top. To add to the charm we had a camp shower. We filled a special bucket in the shower stall with our warm water and then used a pulley to hoist it up high. Turn on the valve and the water comes through a showerhead at the bottom of the bucket. One bucket gave us a generous 5 minute shower! A treat in the bush! Needless to say, we chose the mid-afternoon when it was sunny and warm to enjoy our showers.

We hope to use both ideas in Zambia at the new Children's Resource Center.

So our African adventure continues with lots of interesting experiences sprinkled into our daily life of overseeing the many affairs of the Church in southern Africa. We wish you all could join us in all that we are doing... but since you are so far away, this blog will have to do!