For obvious reasons I have tried not to mention guests by name, but I cannot help naming Sven Trautner. The first time they visited Djuma must have been about 1995, because I took the enquiry when the “office” was still behind the bar at Bush Lodge. I must have said something right, because Sven and his wife Else Beth, from Denmark, arrived after attending to some business in Johannesburg. It turned out that Sven was the head of the trauma unit at a hospital in Copenhagen.

I think it was on about their second night drive with Dixon as their guide that I got an unusual call from them on the radio. On the way back to the lodge for dinner they had come across a Chitwa vehicle that had rolled and trapped someone under its bonnet. My immediate response was to get the guests back to camp and we would sort it out from Djuma or Chitwa. But Sven, being Sven, would not leave the scene, nor would he, without latex gloves, try examining the trapped man! He took command of the scene and organised a makeshift stretcher for the man, out of a pine shelving-plank tied between the game-viewing seats, once he had been freed from the vehicle. Judging from the radio communication the outlook seemed dim: “If he lives, he will certainly be brain damaged”! Naturally I was concerned, but I had dinner waiting and, after all, other guests did not need this impediment to their safari.
We called for an ambulance from Tintswalo Hospital in Acornhoek and agreed to meet it half way along the 70 kilometre route. Sven refused to leave his ‘patient’ until he had been transferred to the ambulance. When the game-drive vehicle carrying Service, which in the mean time we had learned was the name of the patient, arrived at Gowrie Gate, they were met by a situation that, surely could never before have been faced by a Danish trauma doctor: a pride of lions was lounging about the gate entrance, so that the gate guards would not leave the safety of their huts to open the gates!
After much hooting and shoo-ing the lions retreated far enough for the guards to dare to come out and open the gates. After about a further twenty-five kilometres the game-drive vehicle met the ambulance. When the back of the ambulance - sparsely-equipped, nothing more than a drip and a semi-trained nurse - opened Sven and Else Beth announced they would not let their patient go on without them, and drove on to Tintswalo with him. Upon arrival at the casualty ward, which I guess was even more sparsely-equipped than the ambulance, they became even more determined to stay with Service. By now the reports back to camp were “If he is not brain damaged he will certainly be deaf!”
At about 11h30 the Trautners’ arrived back at camp at for a very late dinner! A week later Service was discharged from hospital, hearing intact, with only some nasty scarring under his jaw line as evidence of his ordeal. That first trip of the Trautners’ they made realise that our ‘first-aid box’ was not up to scratch, and they organised state of the art kits and dummies for us to ‘get real’ in the case of emergencies. We took advantage of the opportunity and arranged first aid courses for all staff members.
Before long Dixon’s wife, Bongi Dlamini, also joined our staff. This meant that Bongi and Monica could focus on housekeeping, while Nellys Mkansi could help me in the kitchen. As I have explained elsewhere the Djuma Bush Lodge kitchen was open plan, so all the nitty gritty of food preparation and clearing up had to be completed while the guests were out in the bush, leaving only the final touches to be attended to just before the guests returned to the lodge. Nellys and I became quite deft at this, making meals seem to appear as if out of nowhere.
Bongi and Dixon’s ten-month old daughter, Angel, also came to live at the lodge. This was my first close experiences of having a baby around and may have sparked some broodiness in Jurie and I. My being in my late twenties and still childless was a concern for my Shangaan woman co-workers, and no amount of explaining would satisfy their curiosity as to why Jurie and I had not yet started a family. The majority of women with whom I was in contact started families in their late teens and early twenties. However, there were some women who were taking charge of their family planning, in order to pursue other avenues, such as studying, working, or just the practical problems of supporting large families. The contraceptive of choice was Depo-Provera injections, which could be administered without their husbands’ knowledge. I think men whose women (wives and girlfriends) were not perpetually pregnant were seen as being less than manly! In years to come I was to learn that this was so first hand when a male staff member brutally assaulted his wife because she did not want to have more children.
One of the larger issues – in my opinion – which was always at the back of my mind around this time was the clear lack of equality between the men and the women working at the lodge. This mindset of male chauvinism was also evident to me out in the communities surrounding the reserve. I was very surprised that in the new democracy of South Africa, although, on the one hand, it was much lauded that black and white citizens were equal, there appeared to be a problem, so far, in recognising that men and women were also equal. I did not feel it was my place to go off and lead a feminist uprising, but was determined to empower those women closest to me and educate their men folk into accepting some new ideas about equality between the sexes. It took a long time to encourage the women staff to speak out openly about their problems in this area, or, for that matter, about anything at all! It seemed to me the men would have to swallow their pride every now and then and realise that their having mothers and wives working did not make them any less manly. Naturally the economic empowerment consequent on having dual-income families was attractive, but it also caused cultural changes back in the local villages. In some cases mom and dad being away from home meant that grandmothers and sisters were left to raise the kids and keep the homesteads running. This also produced a need in the villages to have some sort of pre-schooling system to keep the youngsters occupied while the caregivers and parents were filling new roles.
Something else important that happened around this time was that we first met young Campbell Scott. His girlfriend at the time, Pendrae, was the link. Jack Saulez, Pendrae’s dad, a business partner of Jurie’s dad and Jurie’s godfather, had visited Djuma Bush Lodge – then called Renosterhoop - as a child. Jack phoned Tilman Ludin with a request. An American wildlife photographer friend of Campbell’s was interested in coming to the bush to take some photos, and naturally Djuma was the place to be. Campbell Scott arrived with Lawrence Beck, but since they spent most of their time in the bush we did not really get to know them then, although Laurence sent us some stunning photos.
A few months after Dixon’s arrival, and with business continuing to pick up at a steady pace, the time was right for some new blood and extra hands to be introduced into Djuma Bush Lodge. Where better to start than to seek the skills of a professional chef?
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Our African Way