26 July, 2016
Ivory Camp: Morning is cold, 2 degrees C. No wind. Night fire embers are low but warm. American cients arrived last afternoon. Hopeful for 2 jumbo, 2 buff, 1 croc, 2 hippo. A problem lion killed an ele calf and several domestic cows over the last week, a license for this cat just came available. We’ll see who picks that up in lieu of the ignorant USFW regs… Rifles sighted in, check. Good nights rest, check. Breakfast, ditto. Loaded up 7 AM and now they are hunting.
Staff life at a hunting camp is rarely observed with purpose. Clients are off hunting, ditto their PH and assorted crew. Camp manager and staff go about their daily repetitive routine. Dining room/client refrigerator is replenished with water, beers, soft drinks, wine. It is a process, as unique as the teaching of how it is to be done. Each beverage container is wiped carefully clean before it is loaded into the refer. Every one. No exception. When that is done, all dining tables, bars, cabinets, condiment bottles, spice and salt and pepper containers are treated the same way. Yesterday the wind blew a bit. The dining room was swept, then mopped, no less than two times between meals and client appearances…
The kitchen staff is efficient. Margaret and my wife Rita, do the daily planning and execution of each meal. Margaret is the professional. Her duties and talents learned by more than a decade of repetition. Rita is a chef, She refines the details of the menu, learns special daily recipes from Margaret, and adds to Margaret’s repertoire. Custom sauces, and special touches, like cheese, caramelized onions and bacon added to the daily rolls. Special deserts, salad dressings, varying vegetable medleys, and more are all dressed up from the everyday fare. The basics of camp menus change little, and are always limited by availability. Game in some form is the main course. In the Caprivi it is buffalo, kudu, wildebeest, gemsbok from the south, some elephant and hippo for an exotic flair.
Buffalo tenderloin on the braai. Gemsbok Stroganoff prepared fireside. An ele stew in a large three legged black cast iron pot surrounded by fire. Hearty soups for the midday meal to brace the cold evenings and refortify the hunters from the cold mornings in the car. Hot and cold sandwiches and sometimes kabobs made over the fire will be lunch.
The camp staff of twelve have their seldom appreciated tasks to complete daily. There are the ladies who clean and refresh the chalets, who also do double duty as the laundry staff.
General camp staff water the lawns, garden, trees, mow, trim and assist in daily chores as required. One man is assigned the duty of fire wood to be gathered and brought to the fire side, another mopping of all hard surfaces to control dust, and last but by far not least the crew that handles the trophy prep. Here are the specialists, all of a certain age, with decades of experience in their hands and eyes to assess the condition of the skins, fleshing and salting of the washed hides, the boiling of skulls and the rotting off of the truly big boys, hippo and elephant.
This afternoon at five the temperature is a pleasant 25.5 C (78 F). The hunters are out for hippo, and maybe a buff along the banks of the Kwando. They are aboard one the camps two motor boats. The radio is quiet, nothing down so far. The native herders are moving their damnable cattle northward for the evening, the dust hangs in the still air as a constant reminder of their passage. The sun will be down in an hour and a half. Magic hour is fast approaching.
The workers prepare the evening fire and the semicircle of chairs with log ends as tables. The two cooks are busy doing their prep for the evening meal. Dinner at eight, hunter dependent on time of success, if any, this day. This morning the hunters, guide, and trackers did around five miles on foot following large ele tracks. By noon they gave up, having not gained any distance on the animals, no closer than when they started. These particular jumbos had a destination in mind with purpose. So much for Jumbo and their ways…
27 July 12:35 PM
So much for having an early start. Clients and assorted crew went off today at the ungodly hour of five AM, replete with jackets, blankets, chop box and cool boxes for a bush lunch. I slept in until eight, did some personal grooming, trimmed beard and mustache, visited Miss Kim’s nail salon for pedicure and manicure… OK, truth time, did it myself fresh out the shower. I am once again sort of semi-civilized. Fish eagles had been screaming their displeasure at something for over two hours. Finally took a look see. They were responding to another pair invading their territory. Firmly roosted in a tree near the number two client tent, Rita snuck in close for a forty five minute photo session. She captured some great images of these majestic raptors!
Rita made lunch from left over rolls from last night, grilled with some garlic butter, gouda cheese, ham, sliced tomato. Outstanding! I am now editing over one hundred fifty photos, and attempting to jot down a few words. As the hands on my watch, yes a real wrist watch and a throwback to time keeping pre-iPhone connectivity, show nearly one forty eight in the afternoon. I feel a nap coming on. A rare day of sloth to recoup and enjoy the African bush. Some chores beckon, but I will do them when I awake from the temptation to which I must now surely succumb..
A cell call delays the evening meal, then another one hour later changes the menu. The meal will be brought in from KFC (YesVirginia, they do have Kentucky Fried Chicken in Africa) Katima Mulilo, over an hour away. The braai and all the side dishes are put on hold until a later date. Everyone arrives dog tired around nine twenty five. Remember they left a five in the morning and have out in the bush all day. Everyone is about five light years past tired. A hippo and a zebra were taken, and a spectacular 46″ buff was approached, but no shot presented itself largely due to the crowd of tourists assembled less than one hundred yards away on the Botswana side of the river directly in the line of fire. The monster buff made his way into the river and safety for this day.