Closed season and camp opening at Kaingu

So you might have noticed that we have been a bit quiet!

The last guests left Kaingu just after New Year. A private party had booked the lodge and really enjoyed their time here over the festive season. For the two months we are closed the lodge was looked after by guides John D and then Israel. This means a lot of slashing grass, fishing, checking tented chalets and houses and generally keeping an eye on things. They did a great job following on from Kaley’s stint in 2014. Last year Julia and myself stayed on through the shutdown period (Julia went to Germany to see family very briefly). The two month shut down period is important. We get asked a lot why we do indeed close down. Well, to be honest after New Year it is a very, very quiet time in terms of bookings. It seems very few people move at this time! The weather conditions are also less than ideal and drying clothes, charging solar batteries, getting hot water from solar heaters is all very hard.

I am often banging on about the green season, and it is something that every safari-goer should experience once, but maybe not in the peak rains in the Kafue! A lot of game viewing loops (well, basically them all actually) become quite impassable and not everyone finds being wrapped up in ponchos in driving rain repeatedly fun! Everyone should see the green season at least once, but lets not be trying to fool people, it can get wet, slippery, muddy, damp etc. There is a good reason that bookings in January and February are low.

For our staff it is also an important time to get home for a longer stay and do some farming chores. It is a long tiring season for everyone and the recovery period is appreciated by everyone. Of course it also means that everyone comes back re-energised and ready for the new season! Rick and Lynda get the chance to see their grown boys in America and Australia and travel around a bit but with no home as such – home is Kaingu. The same applies to Julia and Gil whose home is Kaingu, and then enjoy catching up with nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters and parents.

Bookings are looking strong, and what is very exciting is that Kaingu is part of a new air charter service that we are hoping will dramatically change access and visiting the Kafue. The consortium consists of Kantanta, Konkamoya, Mukambi and ourselves. The concept was spearheaded by Kantunta and we have bought an Islander 8 passenger twin engined plane. It is by no means new, but it is in tip top mechanical condition and should be ready to commence operations in April. The four part-owner lodges have agreed on very competitive discounted seat rates to make the Kafue even more attractive. It will also hopefully allow us to tap into Livingstone and other destinations. The plane is going to be in a unique paint scheme that reflects the name of our company – Wild Dog Air Charters! Very exciting news indeed.

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Our first guests this year into Kaingu arrived on the 29th of February, so we had quite a mad week getting everything up and running and ready. The rains over December and January and the early part of February have been pretty poor. Southern Africa as a whole is crying for rain. But the second part of February and the first few days of March have been spectacularly wet. This of course makes for some difficult camp re-opening tasks. A new kitchen waste-water scheme started to turn into a scene like that of the WW1 trenches. And then the grass slashing… A huge task. Everything from footpaths to the hide, the rock, the rapids. The campsites, the roads etc.

So let’s talk about this sort of thing. As we have commented in the past – people are genuinely interested in what goes on behind the scenes. So what is entailed in re-opening the camp? Here is a brief rundown of this year…

  • Land in Lusaka. Head to Pioneer Camp, catch up with friends and sleep for 14hrs.

  • Head into town, go to the bank. Yay! We got some deposits so can buy deck oil, nails and string. And food…

  • Drive out to the lodge. Being astonished that the grass by the side of the road is now over two metres tall. Buy fresh groundnuts on the way. While driving along the other one gets on the phone to the staff. Before leaving we have set reporting dates, but we have since accepted an earlier than usual booking. So we need to get on the phone and call housekeepers, waiters, everyone in fact. Everyone that is who lives in phone coverage! Fortunately our rural communities here are small and the ‘bush telegraph’ works well. So, for example, if we can reach Victor by phone and he is coming up from Itezhi Tezhi by bicycle, then he will spread the word as he passes through the villages.

  • Arrive at the lodge and start unpacking after a quick walk around to see everything, see Israel and Bo and Handson who are looking after the lodge. Greet the cat and discover she is fat as anything!

  • And then the fun starts. Slashing the grass in the campsites, the paths, the paths to the hides, the rock, the car park, the road into the car park etc. This job alone takes 4 people about 10 days.

  • Rubbing down and oiling every wooden deck – the main area plus all 8 accommodation decks.

  • Washing and drying all linen to get rid of the musty “stored” smell.

  • Washing down and sweeping and cleaning all the tents

  • Weeding all the pathways

  • Re-wiring and setting out all the pathway lighting

  • Digging two massive holes – each 2x2x2m, digging 60m of trenches for the soak-away. All for the grey-water kitchen waste system.

  • About 5 tons of sand and rock to fill the trenches.

  • Lifting 90% of the deck and replacing 150 metres of 2”x4” underneath. Yes, the original deck builder used untreated pine…..

  • Get first delivery from Markus (Valley Lodgeistics). Everything from Gin to maize meal to plastic tanks and pipes to petrol and diesel. Everything has to be off loaded on the spinal road, shuttles into our car park, loaded onto the boats and then boated 1km down to camp and offloaded and carried up.

  • Entire kitchen is emptied – every pot, pan, jar, box, utensil is taken out, the whole kitchen is scrubbed down and everything is washed and put back.

  • Try and remember what bird call is what bird!

  • Start going through boats and vehicles. Nothing likes to stand. So inevitably we face a few dirty carbs and rough running engines and blocked filters. Clean all the boats and vehicles properly, sand down and re-finish the woodwork on the game viewer vehicles.

  • Find out what the mice have eaten in our house. Start thinking about trying to track down a young cat for the house. Has to be hybrid wild cat or it will last about a week before being eaten. Hmmmm.

  • Get out in a boat for an hour or two on an evening before the guests. Be shocked to find that we can go just about anywhere as most of the rocks are underwater.

  • Re-stock the bar, lay out all the glasses and mugs and tea station and wash all the table linen.

  • Repair thatching grass on a few places on the roofs.

  • Repaint walls where water has marked them.

  • Get out in the bush and gather firewood!

  • Test all the hot water boilers

  • Replace fences that have sagged or collapsed in the rains.

  • Unpack and re-stock all the curio shop items

  • Start treating all the wood borers that really like to eat all the construction ‘bush poles’.

  • Start transferring all the bookings into the big register so we know who is coming when.

  • Start planning, trying and refining various new recipes into a cohesive flow that works together.

  • Check the credit card machine is still working else it might get a bit embarrasing when the first guests want to pay.

  • Realise that our service provider has accidentally down-graded our VSAT internet and that is why our connection is suddenly like 1995…

  • Drive up to the airfield, meet the guests and then drive and boat them into camp. Season 2016 is offically open!

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