Bongi Dlamini and Monica Ubisi kept a close watch on my supposed lack of mothering skills, especially after Hazel had left. They noticed how badly ZoŽ slept and thought it may be because of the wild animals out in the bush.

They made a little bundle of leaves and dung and burnt it in the corner of the house, as a way of fending off dangerous spirits. I am not sure if it was that that did the trick, but ZoŽ did start sleeping for two hours at a time instead of one.
I was beginning to feel trapped in this motherhood situation and wanted to do something else, even if it was just for just an hour a day. It was around that time that Charmian and Graham Cooke, as well as Joyce Nyathi, came into our lives.
Charmian and Graham were working on the farm Buffelshoek, which was to the north of Gowrie and the most northern property of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. Graham was an experienced guide of many years standing. His job was to keep an eye on land management on Buffelshoek and drive the owners around when they were there on holiday. Not far from their house was a fairly run-down lodge called ďGalagoĒ. Charmian, despite being a lawyer by profession, but knowing Graham and she would never be happy living in a town or city, had settled for a life in the bush. She worked outside the reserve at an adult education project and cooked for the few groups going through Galago camp.
They had met while Graham was guiding at Londolozi, and they had gone on to manage a camp there. They also compiled manuals for guide training and had helped start up a game reserve in KwaZulu Natal. They had decided to get married while they were living in the remote Zambian wilderness. Each month they had to visit a Catholic priest to prepare for their marriage. The priest was not usually very sober when he tutored them, but nevertheless they received the necessary instruction, and were married by the time we met.
Charmian and Graham had just arrived at their new home in the bush when they popped in at Djuma Bush Lodge to meet us. I remember standing in the driveway chatting with ZoŽ, a couple of weeks old perched on my hip. Both the new arrivals were tall, skinny and blonde. Char had the sweetest voice and warm smile, everything seemed sweet and Catholic about her. Graham was rougher around the edges, a ďcall-a-spade-a-spadeĒ kind of guy. Jurie and I were struck by how different they seemed personality-wise and yet appeared to fit together so well. As we got to know them better Charís wicked sense of humour began to surface and we started recognizing their deep connection on another level.
A while later after this meeting Bongi and Monica decided I needed a little help with ZoŽ. They reckoned a friend of theirs from Utha village, called Joyce Nyathi, would be suitable. Joyce came over to the lodge to meet Jurie and I, and give ZoŽ a good looking-over. She spoke very little English then, so we used a lot of sign language. The first thing she pointed out to us was some hard, white, crusty-looking stuff behind ZoŽís ears! We realized it was dried milk that had been gathering there after her feeds: we had not been bathing her properly. Joyce took control, set about cleaning up the little girl and then strapped ZoŽ to her back, traditional Shangaan fashion. Lo and behold - the little thing slept soundly for hours while Joyce walked around singing to her.
With Joyce around to Ďtakeí ZoŽ from me for some time each day, and Pendrae overseeing the lodge I was freed to do other things. First in line was to print new linen for the lodge. Char came over from Buffelshoek as an extra pair of hands and we got to know each other a bit better. Char mentioned she was getting tired of all the driving she had to do to get to her job outside the reserve. Jurie and I offered her a part-time job in the office, sorting out our bookkeeping and organizing reservations.
As Djuma Bush Lodge became busier we were faced with a shortage of accommodation, especially when we needed space for a pilot, or a tour guide. Although we had six chalets Pendrae and Campbell were living in one, which left us with ten beds for guests. This meant, should we run two game-drive vehicles, there would be empty seats on each. However, if we used only one vehicle the squeeze would be too tight. We decided to erect a tent in Ďthe back yardí, an area behind a reed fence, close to the staff village, for the occasions when we needed to sleep a pilot or tour guide.
This tent was an army-style roomy thing, erected over a cement slab that was thrown to provide an even base for it. On one side of the tent we made an outdoor shower, loo and basin, open to the sky, with a shoulder-height cement wall for privacy. The tent could also be used as an extra storage facility and for staff accommodation when not in use by pilots or guides. On one occasion after a very busy weekend we had a couple of guests who wanted to stay an additional night, but because we were fully booked we could not help them. We had started looking around to get them somewhere to stay for the night when the wife said she had noticed a tent behind the screening fence. We explained what the tent was used for and that we did not think it was suitable to put paying guests in, but she insisted on seeing it. Off we went, expecting them to decline such a meagre shelter. They loved it and stayed an extra two nights!
This got us thinking and, as soon as we had some money to spare, we started building a seventh chalet at Djuma Bush Lodge. Seeing that there already was the rectangular cement slab in place where the tent had been, as well as the rudiments of a bathroom, it made economic sense to construct a huge thatch roof above the slab, and then to fill in the spaces between the slab and the roof with bricks and mortar. The pitch of the roof was awesome and, with some clever, unusual, triangular-shaped windows, the new addition to our accommodation started looking quite grand.
We had some copper sheeting from an old chimney. This Patrick Shabangu, our maintenance man, fashioned into some stunning light fittings. We also finished off the floor with a green oxide screed and some spiral patterns, and added a triangular patio off into the dry riverbed in front of the building.
Just as the paint was drying Charmian, in the office, announced that two days later there would be guests filling the new room and suggested some quick finishing touches that needed to be made before then. So Pendrae and I set about pestering Campbell and Jurie for some money to put in a designer instant-garden at the entrance of the new room. No easy feat, I may add, as to those two any spare cash always seemed more important in terms of tools and vehicles. However, we managed to wheedle R1000, 00 from the kitty and came back from Eden Nursery, in Klaserie, laden with fever trees, huge strelitzias, wild irises, agapanthus, etc. In went the rhino and elephant manure and the plants, ornamental logs, etc. Everything was all set for the following day when the guests were to arrive.
As usual out here, nothing works that smoothly! That night an elephant moved into camp and silently munched his way through our carefully laid-out herbaceous border. Some Italian guests in Chalet No.3 watched and filmed the whole event from their bathroom window, never thinking to alert management to Ďa problemí. Around this time the same guests also had another out-of-the-ordinary experience at Djuma Bush Lodge, as one of my letters tells...


Djuma camp has also had its fair share of close encounters. The youngest of our regular leopards has decided that the camp is part of his territory and has visited twice, once at 9 oíclock in the morning, as the guests were returning from their morning drive. He is very relaxed and just walks around smelling and spraying the buildings and furniture etc. One of the guests must have thought he was a tame beast and started walking up to him for that Kodak moment! Luckily the manager saw what was happening and managed to walk the man back to the safety of the main building.

As you can imagine, these guests had had a fantastic experience.
Pendrae and I rushed to replace the erstwhile garden. Our next demand from the budget was an electrified strand to keep the elephants out of the garden. Campbell and Jurie were horrified at the cost, but quickly made the funds available when they realized us girls were not going to let either budget restraints or elephants stop us from buying plants.
It must have also been around this time that some guests staying in the newly opened chalet No.7. On their second night they were startled awake by a loud rasping sound emanating from behind the cupboard. Upon inspection they noticed that the electric wall-plug was jiggling around on the wall. In the morning they reported the strange occurrence to the staff, who took a closer look. From the evidence they found they decided a hyena must have been playing tug-of-war with the electrical cables outside the room. I imagine it gave up only when it bit through the cable and got a shock. We have since learned that no cables or PVC piping is safe from these pesky critters!
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Our African Way