What with my ever-expanding belly Jurie was not too keen for me to do the town trips on my own to fetch shopping and wages in the VW Jetta.

No one else had quite mastered the art of packing the Jetta to capacity, so we ordered a brand new Toyota bakkie (pick-up truck) complete with bull bars, air conditioner, and a tape deck.
Pendrae and Campbell arrived one afternoon in about April of 1996, towards the end of a very wet summer. I remember the weather clearly because it rained almost continually from the time we had had malaria. The ground was completely saturated and on one occasion, as the guests were getting into the game-drive vehicle one morning, it literally sank up to the axel in the mud in the driveway! Out of all our traversing area we were only able to use about seven kilometers of road, and off-road driving was out of the question. All the vehicles’ brake pads were worn away by the abrasive sand-filled mud: at one point we actually stopped replacing them!
Thank goodness the animals seemed to sympathize with our plight and they too stayed close to the roads and the slightly higher, drier areas. We got stuck many times, often more than once on the same drive. Without hesitation the guests, ranger, and tracker would all jump out and get to work. Usually the vehicle would be hoisted up on a high lift-jack, branches and tree trunks would be packed into the muddy ruts, and the vehicle would be driven off the jack, the process being repeated until the ground firmed up… guests in tow on foot! We often had to call in help from other vehicles and a tractor. On one occasion as night was approaching, four vehicles and a tractor all got stuck trying to pull out a game-drive car, and we had to walk our guests about one kilometre through the dark to the bakkie to get them safely back to Djuma Bush Lodge. The empty sundowner cooler box they were carrying suggested why they were all in good spirits and loved the adventure of the evening.
The roads outside the reserve were impassable to two-wheel-drive vehicles, which in turn made running the lodge a logistic nightmare. Guests were unable to drive themselves into the reserve, and we had to make alternate plans for them to fly in by light aircraft from Skukuza, Nelspruit, Hoedspruit, or Phalaborwa airports. We had a charter company called ‘African Ramble’ take charge of getting guests in and out of the lodge. Supplies needed for feeding the guests and staff, as well as housekeeping requirements, was also flown into our private landing strip a few kilometers away from camp. There was a two-week period when all supplies had to be flown in from Hoedspruit airstrip, as the access roads were almost non-existent. Imagine the green grocer, butcher, and bottle-store owner standing in line at the runway to load up the plane! Some of the landings on our airstrip in African Ramble’s Caravan were spectacular, with a wide wake of water parting on either side of the plane as it touched down. Obviously, the plane would come to a standstill covered in mud, which, on thinking back, could not have been too confidence-inspiring for the incoming or outgoing guests!
As mentioned, Pendrae and Campbell arrived in their 4x4 Toyota Hilux which had taken them up Africa and back. I was due for a town trip the following day and I suggested that Pendrae accompany me to Hoedspruit in the new bakkie. The bakkie was not a four-wheel drive, so, in order not to get stuck, it was essential to navigate the roads properly. Getting out of the reserve took the better part of an hour because we had to traverse on the highest possible roads to avoid crossing two normally dry riverbeds. When we got to town I set Pendrae free to collect the shopping while I received some pampering at the beauty salon. Now, a small-town beauty salon has to be the hottest spot for scandalous gossip, and it was surely eye opening for Pendrae, as she waited for me to be finished, to hear about, and witness, some of the goings-on in the town and surrounding lodges.
Back at the lodge it was down to the serious business of shifting responsibilities and setting up systems to include the new assistant managers and cope with the increasing guest traffic. Campbell took over vehicle maintenance and driving the second vehicle when the lodge was full. Pendrae got involved in stock taking and overseeing and controlling the orders. She had done a bit of office work before so she also helped Jurie with reservations and a bit of paper work. My morning sickness was still in full swing and I was relieved, on one hand, to have some help around the lodge. On the other, I found that I did feel very possessive about what we had created, and that handing over some of the responsibilities was quite difficult at times.
A couple of months after Pendrae and Campbell arrived I remember going down to the lodge early one morning to find that, although it was only half an hour before the guests were to return from their game drive, the main building was not clean and the breakfast preparations were not up to speed. To put it mildly, I hit the roof, annoyed mainly because I felt I had been accommodating to the new arrivals, and what I presumed was Pendrae’s lack of supervision was going to show the lodge up in a negative light. I was very upset, and, knowing that my pregnancy was advancing, I had to consider various options for resolving the issue as soon as possible.
Jurie and I phoned Tilman to ask him once again for his valued opinion and advice. Tilman’s wise words enabled Jurie and I, not only to decide constructively on the current issues, but also to establish the basic philosophy of our business, which we still employ to this day. He pointed out that there were two ways of running a business, actually, well, actually a game lodge, to be specific. The one way was to be authoritarian, with an unhappy staff and a high staff turnover. The other way was to step back and allow staff a lot of responsibility which would permit them to develop their own style of ownership and pride in the product. The first option may have been easier to adopt seeing as we were actually living at the lodge, but would not seem right considering it was not in our personalities to be authoritarian and how awful it would be to live with tension on a daily basis. The second choice was clearly going to suit us best, but it was nevertheless not easy handing over one’s ‘baby’ to new people and waiting to see what they would do with the responsibility.
We had to have several staff meetings at which to reiterate that Pendrae and Campbell were in charge of day-to-day lodge issues and they were the ones to report to. What had been happening was that because Jurie and I had been there from the beginning and had always been the ones to solve problems the new managers were being side-lined and the solutions still sought from Jurie and I. Campbell was livid: he maintained his authority was being undermined, and so Jurie had to enforce the new way in which the chain of command, so to speak, was to operate. Another problem was that Dixon and Campbell did not get on at all. Dixon, being the character he was, and because of his close relationship with Jurie, used every opportunity to make sure Campbell knew where his authority ended as far as he, Dixon, was concerned. Dixon was handed several written warnings and basically ultimately over-stepped the mark once too often for Jurie to be able to go on saving his job. A few months later Dixon left Djuma, but not for long.
Even though there were also some teething problems for Campbell, Jurie and I, we still connected well as far as the daily running of the lodge was concerned. I remember one time when we were at Bush Lodge’s main building awaiting the arrival of some new guests. We saw a vehicle approaching the road leading to the parking area, so the three of us walked up the main pathway to greet the guests after they had parked their vehicle. As we passed between numbers two and three chalets Campbell spotted a huge Common House Snake draped over the top of the open window at No.2, the chalet the guests were moments away from checking into. In keeping with our usual well-oiled machine, we planned our action: Campbell to take care of the snake while Jurie and I delayed the guests in the parking lot! We two met the travellers and chatted as long as we could, but, with the conversation becoming a tad strained, we felt any further delaying tactics would be detrimental to our cause and we moved towards No.2. Campbell was awaiting us there, looking a bit perplexed, but welcomed the guests warmly and showed them into the chalet. Later when he joined us in the bar he explained to us that the snake had outfoxed him and had escaped through the thatch and into the cavity between the walls. There was nothing we could do about it at the time, but we did manage to find and relocate the snake some weeks later.
To read previous chapters of “Our African Way”, please click the following link:

Our African Way