(eTN) I was staying at Royal Chundu near Livingstone. The evening was spent around a roaring fire listening to the sound of the water and the crackling of the logs. I listened to all the stories of building the lodge and the plans for its future. The meal was five-star – it always amazes me how their chefs manage to produce such great meals right out in the bush, but they do.
That evening I slept like a log in my room with all the doors open to the river. I was woken to a cacophony of bird noises as the light started to seep through the trees. It was a cloudy morning – dull and cold. I decided against having a bath in the tub on the veranda and ventured into the shower, clad myself in woolies and trainers, and set out for the walk that we had planned the evening before.
The island is about a kilometer long; never has it been used for any form of human habitation. It is completely untouched except for the walkways which have been carved through the undergrowth and some hippo tracks. It was eerie to walk through such primeval tall trees – baobabs, jackalberries, and commiphoras, with date palms fringing the island banks. We found some python creepers climbing around the trees and a fig tree having found a roothold on an ancient pod mahogany, a tree which in years to come will be completely strangled by the roots of the fig.
We walked steadily through the woodland, generating some much-needed warmth on such a cold morning. The birds, though, seemed to have completely given up their morning tunes, and I could imagine them huddled in a cozy spot deep in the undergrowth hoping that the sun would come out and warm them up.
Returning to the lodge I went back to my room and sat on the balcony for a while. Some wire-tailed swallows were darting in and out of the buildings and swooping over the water in search of insects. They came onto my balcony to keep me company for a while.
Breakfast was out on the windy deck. Lots of fruit and yogurt, followed by sausage, bacon, eggs, and waffles, all swilled down with copious cups of tea. The sun still did not want to come out from behind the clouds, so, still wrapped up in winter woolies, I boarded the boat for the mainland and home.
I had a walk around the main lodge, which has eight rooms, all in the same luxurious style as the island. The unpredictable Zambezi River had done a bit of damage to the main lodge deck – it had been swamped, but repairs and clean-up were in process. We marveled at the three years of high water we had had – almost unknown. But this is Africa, and we take what we get and are grateful for it.
The lodge is all set up for conferences and those addicted to watching rugby on the TV. Fortunately there are no TVs in the room, but an upstairs area has been kitted out with all the modern technology, including computers, for those guests who have to be in contact with the outside world.
By about mid-day I was on my way home and back to reality, but later the following week I went back to find out all about parrot fish – a story which will be told another time.