Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bad Weather

Our Tent
3 of the 20+ Tents
The cyclone has given us a day off from safaris and a chance to learn more about our tent camp. As we said before these are tents only in style. The floor is cement. The walls are bricks covered in cement with four floor to ceiling windows and a double-wide front door. The side windows are simply holes covered with screen and coated canvas shades on both inside and outside to provide privacy and protection from the rain.  Velcro holds them in place on the inside. The outside is more secure zippers, necessary since the wind is more powerful than the Velcro. The two windows on the front are glass.  The roof is two layers of coated canvas. The whole setup had an interesting effect in the storm last night. At times the flapping of the canvas roof was so loud we couldn’t hear the rain.

Jim Uncovering Windows After the Storm
The bathroom is separated by a half-wall and quite nice with two sinks, a shower, and a triangular tub. We have been asked not to use the tub because of the drought conditions that may continue even with the heavy rainfall (30 to 50 cm) expected and already being experienced. 

Our tent is on the edge of the compound so we look out on a field inhabited by zebra, impala, and nyala. Swallows are constantly entertaining us with the bug sweeps. We appreciate their efforts and have seen no mosquitoes. Lots of birds live here, too. We have seen probably 50 different species, but so far have names for only about half. South Africa has perhaps more than double the number of species that we have in the United States, so figuring them out is not easy. Fortunately, Rohan, our guide, is pretty good with birds and has been a big help. 

Crocodile Pond Behind the Fence
We walk about ¼ mile to the lobby and eating area. The brick path is torn up a bit as they are building some additional tents, but it has been a good walk for the exercise. We don’t get much as we ride around in our Land Rover where we are not even allowed to stand as that would change the profile of the vehicle and perhaps then interest the animals enough to think we are a threat or food. 
Our Chariot Awaits
Food has been good and more than plentiful. Breakfast is similar to most buffets with cereal, yogurt, eggs, meats, cheese, cold cuts, various breads, fruits, juices and coffee. For lunch we can order just about anything with specials depending on the day. Today it was prawns tempura. Salads become special when tuna or cheese or something else is added to the standard lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. Dinner is usually also a buffet although tonight because of the rain we ate inside and had a choice or steak or dorado (a whitefish).  Last night we ate in the Boma. That is a series of round huts built together with a large open area in the center. This provides some privacy for groups with a large area for entertainment, not that we had any last night.
Old Train Station; Now Our Restaurant
Normally we eat on the veranda thinking about how easy it would be to get used to this lifestyle and understandable that Europeans who came to Africa often decided to stay rather than return home at the end of their tour of duty. The building is an old train station built when this was a cotton-growing area. Today the train is mainly used to transport coal to the port at Durban to be used for electricity generation. The old station now is the restaurant and bar with a few hotel-style rooms on the second floor. 
Other attractions include the bar and a Zulu cultural center that we have not yet visited. Two crocodiles inhabit a double-fenced pond where they are joined by a variety of birds nesting in the reeds and moorhens and crakes of an indeterminate number. 

Entrance to Boma
It appears that most of the people who are staying here came by the same route we did. They purchased the package at an auction. Tonight, Linda talked to Robert, the manager who immigrated from France in the 1980s, about the process. He said that this is how they have built up the clientele. The charity gets 50% of the auction price which on average is enough to make them happy. So far we have met people from Alaska, Massachusetts, and Burns, Oregon, among others. The rest of the guests come on tour buses. This appears to be a regular tour stop. The group comes in for one night and one safari before moving on to their next stop. In the three days we have been here, we have seen eight of the big tour buses with people from England, France, and Germany. A couple of the groups have had an evening’s entertainment by Zulu dancers and singers. I overheard it from the bar one evening. 

Folks who stay here get the choice between the tents or real cabins. Zulu Nyala also has a lodge not far away on a hillside overlooking the reserve. We got to visit is for a short time the first evening as we picked up a couple there for our first safari. We did not see a lot, but it looks like it has a nice view and probably nice rooms. Some of the people have opted to split their time between here and there. Personally, I’d rather not have the inconvenience of moving any more than necessary.
Air-Conditioned Rooms - Our Tents Are Not

Our First View

Finally, the servers include locals and six students from Toronto who will be here four weeks after spending four weeks in Johannesburg. They are all majoring in tourism and this is their internship. Not a bad gig. Interns come twice a year. 

Because the heavy rain made the clay roads in the refuge too slick even for the 4-wheel drive Land Rovers, we are just hanging out today. Hopefully, the rain is over and we will be able to get out tomorrow, our last day. Other than the dampening effect (pun intended) effect of the storm, we would easily recommend this as a good place to experience Africa.

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