... which will be issued here on the Djuma Weblog every two weeks. You the reader are most welcome to post feedback as the story progresses.
The writings that follow evolved from years of telling stories to guests that passed through Djuma Game Reserve’s lodges. Many years later the stories made their way onto pages so that our children would have a record of what was keeping their parents busy for all those years. The Djuma Story, or “Our African Way” starts many years before Djuma itself was created, but there were several indications early on that Jurie and I were to create an entity that would develop into something far beyond our expectations.
Some of the chapters are lengthy and will be split up over a couple of editions. I will be adding photos as I go along, and welcome responses and perhaps recollections and reflections of your own, by posting comments in the comment section below.
Philippa Moolman


Chapter 1

Boy Meets Girl

In 1985 I was nineteen and in my second year at Pretoria Technikon Art School, where I was studying graphic fine arts, with a major in printmaking. It just so happened that the art school ‘hottie’ had his locker right next to mine. This guy was doing first year photography and I noticed him for his great looks (skinhead, big nose, tall) and unusual dress sense. He made most of his clothes himself. I especially remember some tartan pants, hacked to just below the knee, and a poncho made by cutting a hole in the centre of a checked blanket. He put me entirely at a loss for words - a first for me - whenever I was near him. Unable, therefore, to approach him directly I had to persuade a mutual friend to intercede for me and introduce us. That is how Jurie Moolman arrived in my world. It took a while for me to believe that he really did fancy me more than our mutual friend’s pretty sisters, but then I gave in to dating him.
I found out that Jurie’s family enjoyed holidaying as far away from people and civilization as possible, which pretty much meant traveling to pristine wilderness areas, mostly in Botswana. Jurie’s father, Piet Moolman, held hunting concessions in the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari Desert; he was also involved with sponsoring lion research in the Savuti area of Northern Botswana. The concessions were in effect leases, for specified periods, from the Botswana government.
When Jurie and I had been dating for a few months we and a couple of friends were given a chance, during the October holidays, to fly up to the Okavango swamps - the only inland delta in the world - in the middle of the Botswana desert,. Most of Botswana is very flat terrain and the delta, lying slightly lower than the rest of the country allows the Kavango river from Angola to spread out and seep into the sandy soil. Annual floods from the heavy summer rainfall in the Angolan highlands reach the delta four to six months later and replenishes its water. My experiences during that holiday made a big impact upon me. They sowed a seed which was to germinate many years later when we started planning our own camp in the bush.
When we visited the delta that October it was the ‘off’ hunting season, and we had the use of a camp all to ourselves. The camp in question was run by two business acquaintances of Jurie’s father, Jenny and Ron Mc Farlane, and was called Xunaraxa. In the hunting season wealthy European and American hunters would visit Xunaraxa to shoot game for trophies to hang on walls far away in other parts of the world. Ron was the professional hunter and Jenny took care of the guests’ needs back at base. There was also a local Batswana – inhabitant of Botswana - called Bibi, who assisted Ron and Jenny, both out in the bush and in the camp. The camp was tented and seemed fairly basic, but actually the level of comfort was more than five star quality. The tents were placed at least ten meters apart along a crystal-clear, fresh-water steam that, like many others in the Okavango, meandered between lagoons and swamp areas. Reaching out over the stream there was a small wooden deck, an ideal place to suntan and read without worrying about such crocodiles and hippos as may be passing by. Outside each tent there was a shelf rigged up against a tree trunk. Upon each shelf stood an enamel basin filled with water and a bar of soap. Most conveniently, a small mirror was nailed to the tree trunk. Naturally, in the bush one needs a flush toilet and a shower - behind each tent reed fences under shady trees enclosed these services.
I remember Ron as being tall, and well built so much so that he later survived an attack by a wounded lion while defending his clients on safari. Jenny was gorgeous and petite, tottering around the uneven camp grounds on high heels. Her hair and makeup were always perfect and it amazed me that she could stay so well groomed in that hot wilderness.
However, what really fascinated me about Jenny was the quality of the food she managed to produce out of the seemingly most basic of kitchens. There was a homemade wood-burning stove, part of which was the remnants of a termite heap, hollowed-out. I can’t remember the exact design of this particular bush stove, but there was some metal-sheet cladding and space for a wood-burning fire as well place for baking or roasting. Stretching out above the ‘stove’ was the horizontal branch of a huge tree, which held kitchen tools. Everything, including pots and pans, needed for cooking was hung from nails hammered into this branch. A small enclosure, with reed walls and a canvas roof, housed fuel-run fridges and freezers. Steaming hot bread, pies, cakes, ice cream, meat dishes, and out-of-this-world lemon meringue tarts were amongst the delights that emerged from under the tree. My memories of the high-quality food emanating from Jenny’s humble kitchen in one of the most remote areas of southern Africa are much treasured. There were no ‘deliveries’ of the ingredients Jenny needed. She had to rely on a several-day round-trip to Maun, a one-horse - or rather one-donkey - village in those days, or on the chartered light-aircraft flights that brought the hunters in on safari. Maun was a dusty outpost situated on the Botete River, serving as last stop for supplies for tourists or hunters heading on towards the vast game reserves of northern Botswana. There were many pubs, and a few shops, which usually carried only tinned goods, booze and a few basic amenities. Fresh fruit and vegetables were to be found in limited variety and supply at local markets. Fresh meat was a luxury and one literally had to trace the sound of a gunshot to its source in order to claim a piece of whatever animal had just been slaughtered, usually a cow or goat. Then there was the airport, next to The Duck Inn, a tavern that served as a meeting place for locals as well as visitors to that part of the world.
We have so many other fond memories of that trip: Bibi teaching us how to “pole” a makoro (dugout canoe) as pale blue water lilies parted before us on crystal clear water; hours spent sunbathing on the old pontoon linking two islands, from which we took frequent dips into the crocodile and hippo-infested waters; sunsets capturing every colour of the palette, and better than any I have ever witnessed anywhere else.
The delta islands - some permanent, others not, depending on the annual floods - in that area of the Okavango swamps have spectacular termite hills on them, in all the sculptural forms imaginable. There was one in particular: it, with a stretch of the imagination, resembled a classical marble monument. The afternoon we saw it for the first time was just after a quick downpour of rain had left the sky washed in grey. The sun highlighted this sculpture with a vivid rainbow disappearing behind it.
We later visited Xunaraxa camp several more times, one of which was during a month-long overland safari through Botswana. Jurie’s dad, Piet, hired us a Land Rover for a month, and six of us set off from Johannesburg towards the flat, dry, Kalahari desert and bound for the Okavango Delta, where we were to meet Piet for Christmas, 1986.
On one of our first nights camping in the Kalahari Desert I learned about the rugged desert lions that live there. Before the vast darkness set in we had to collect enough scrubby thorn bushes to encircle our camp and protect us from being plundered by predators. One of us had to stay up all night and keep the fire going while the others got some sleep. That time in the desert we did not see lions, but we heard their roars very clearly through the night.
The trips through Botswana were an essential learning experience for me. Among many other things I learned to prepare food over open fires under less than easy circumstances. This skill stood me in good stead years later when I began catering for our first guests at our first Bush Lodge.

Botswana 80's

To be continued.....