The road. I can just as well get it
over with. Well, a bit of spot repairs on the road have been
carried out. The worst hotspots have been fixed at least to a
reasonable level. But….there are still some places where some
grading and/or filling with gravel and stones could make a huge
difference. But I have stopped expecting too many miracles at
one time and at least the road is better than it has been for
long. Without this intervention the road would have become a
nightmare during this rainy season….now it may just become an
unpleasant dream. Apparently during the last few months the bad
state of the road has been a focus of discussion in newspapers,
radio and TV.
There is still talk of putting up a
bridge over the Zambezi somewhere along the river between here
and Kalongola (where the pontoon is). Where the money will come
from I do not know. The latest news I got from my old colleagues
at the Danish Embassy in Lusaka was not encouraging as any
disbursements have been put on hold pending clarification of
some road fund financial management issues. Bottomline; I keep
on hoping; there is nothing else I can do. But we do need that
road and a reliable pontoon (or a bridge) so we can get
connected all the way round – to Senange and Mongu and to
Sesheke and Katima - throughout the year.
I am sitting here in my restaurant writing
and watching the rock pratincoles on the rocky island in the
middle of the river. If a raptor approaches – yellow billed kite
– they all take to the air and try to scare the kite away. Quite
often you can see Nile Monitors looking for eggs or newly
hatched birds. They seem to be quite used to getting harassed.
Let me continue on the recent wildlife
spottings. Some few weeks ago…..as usual I was not around
(in Livingstone)…..two elands were killed 1-2 km from here by a
small pack of lions (probably a small family group). The roars
of the lions were heard by guests in my camp and hyenas as well,
as they eventually joined the chorus. A week later a herd of
more than 50 elands were seen just 5 km from here. It is
positive….at least there are not only cows around. One morning
about two weeks ago I saw two hippos between the rocks towards
the other side of the river. This is the first time in two years
that I have seen two hippos together at the same time in this
area. It appeared to be a male and a female (although I must
admit I am not an expert in distinguishing the two sexes when it
comes to hippos….but they definitely looked different …shape of
heads and body size and composition. Anyway, I hope it was a
male and a female and that they will soon have a baby hippo.
Next day they were gone, but I have been told that they are
staying upstream less than a kilometer from here apparently
having a good time and enjoying each others company. But the
local people are of course not amused and they are already
fearing that the two hippos will soon be ravaging their maize
fields. As a counter measure (hippo diversion tactics) I have
been planting maize all over my plot in an effort to attract the
hippos to my land. Here they will be welcome and they are free
to eat as much maize as they like and I will not chase them
away. I hope it will work. I have been advised that sugarcane
may be a good crop for wildlife as well. Elephants especially
like sugarcane. So, if I can get hold of sugarcane I will plant
them as well.
The same day as I spotted the two hippos a
fish eagle caught a big fish just below the main lodge building,
a crocodile was sun basking on the sandbank just below and a
female boomslang relaxed on a branch on a tree next to the
restaurant. The boomslang stayed almost in the same place for
two days. Talking about snakes….my manager Davison was bitten
(of course while I was in Livingstone) by a snake which we think
must have been a southern stiletto snake. Quite a nasty bite. He
was taken to the mission some 20 km from here and treated with
among others ‘the black stone’ a porous stone that apparently
can suck out the poison (osmotic pressure I assume). It worked
and after a few days Davison was ok again. One evening I was
about to sit down for dinner in my kitchen when I through the
partly “transparent” seat of the chair saw a black spider
underneath. It looked unpleasantly ‘familiar’ and I therefore
got the spider into a box to study it a bit further. I am pretty
sure it was a black widow…..of the notorious black button spider
family. Overall black but with some red/orange coloring on the
dorsal parts. Have a look at my photos ….whenever I am able to
get it uploaded….and see if you agree. I released it next day on
the other side of the road (500 meter from here). Perhaps I
should have killed it, but I do not like to kill animals that do
not harm me…. and how is it with ‘black widows’? are they on the
CITES list of endangered species? A few days later I found a
‘parabuthus raudus’ outside my tent. It is a very common
scorpion in the greater Kalahari area. It probably has a fairly
potent venom and I read that it can even spray venom when
extremely provoked. None of the various scorpions I have caught
so far have appeared aggressive in any way. It is almost
impossible to make them try to sting. Anyway, with this little
creature I did my best not to provoke it and released it (some
hundred meters away from camp).
A few days ago I saw a Fish Eagle catching a
big bream on the other side of the river. The eagle got almost
under water, but managed to get airborne and take its prey to a
safe place on some rocks at the edge of the forest.
The river is coming up. We have not had a lot
of rain around here, but apparently it has been raining quite a
lot up north.
The Peace Park process. Not a lot to
tell…..or perhaps there is, but I do not know the details.
Communication of plans and what is going to happen in the near
future is not exactly overwhelming. A billboard informing locals
on the latest developments would be a good thing and stop some
of the rumors. But, it appears that money will start flowing in
January and then things will get going I guess. First of all the
elephant restraining line will be put up. From the northern end
of the fence around the Ngonye Falls park 3 km inland and then
some 50 km up to the town of Nangwezi. There are rumors that the
Ngonye Falls Park will be extended downstream to where Maziba
Bay is. My camp will not be included, which is ok. I do not like
to be fenced and the elephant restraining line and the fence
around the park will hopefully bring more elephants my way. I
know elephants can be destructive….a small herd came by in
November and turned over a number of trees on my plot…..but that
is ok. How Peace Parks will deal with the local farmers caught
in the middle I do not know. There have been talks about
electric fencing also around private farms. Hopefully a solution
can be found. The female leopard still passes by occasionally. I
have not seen her yet…..but I am content with my little red male
cat (the one that apparently killed a cobra and was bitten, but
survived). He stays around more and more…..
My financial situation…..shall we talk about
something else…….Not good to be honest. October was a bit ok,
but November and December have been pretty bad. I am getting to
the end of my financial reserves. It is unfortunately not
possible to keep on going with a deficit (almost) every month.
But if I can survive the next few months there may be hope.
Because of the lack of a proper through road there will be very
few guests coming up here from January to July. So what do I do?
I had some hope with regard to the fly in group from the South
African Aero Safaris. However the group never arrived. At Kalabo
….while they were on safari in Liuwa Plain ….they were
intercepted so to say by a group of officers from the Zambian
Air Force and instructed to leave Zambia with only one stop
(Livingstone) allowed. Apparently they had filled in some wrong
forms. So the planned visit to Sioma never materialized. From my
perspective thinks look a bit bleak. Tourists by road is a no
go, tourists by air charter is a no go…..what to do? It seems
that I have to put my faith in volunteers. A friend and fellow
investor to this area may bring up a substantial number of
volunteers to get involved with community development
activities. It may be possible to have some of these volunteers
accommodated at my camp. This will provide me with a modest but
stable monthly income which is what I desperately need
especially for the first six months every year. The volunteer
program may take off within a few months; the sooner the better
considering my financial situation.
If this scenario materializes then it should
be possible for me to move ahead and continue construction of
the six planned luxury chalets. My plan is to have this
accommodation option ready by early mid year…in time for the
world soccer tournament in South Africa.
We have started building some staff houses
and a storage house. Unfortunately we got started at the same
time as the planting season started. The cows that normally
bring poles, clay and grass have been busy ploughing the fields
so we just have to wait until they are available; hopefully this
week (early January).
Some friends from Lusaka came to spend New
Year at Sioma Camp. It was a very nice and ‘laid back’ evening.
In fact it got so relaxed - none of us are heavy drinkers and
the above average consumption of sparkling wine, cognac and
single malt whisky (I got the best selection of single malts in
Western if not of all of Zambia) – made us almost miss the
‘shift’ from 2009 to 2010. But luckily we managed to stay awake
and the fireworks that my friends had brought from Lusaka
illuminated the sky above the Zambezi River.
(I hope the fireworks did not scare away the
hippo). We were lucky to have a full moon which and this
combined with the fireworks exploding in the sky made it quite
an impressive scenery.
I hope to be seeing you in 2010.
Happy New Year!