Namib Wilderness Safaris at some point invested in a lodge in the Caprivi and I was asked if I'd be interested in working there.
Moving to Lianshulu Lodge which is situated in the Caprivi Strip Namibia, I realised this was as true to the real Africa I would get. Lianshulu was within the Muduma National Park, a bush camp on the banks of the Kwando River bordering Botswana. Our neighbours were the local Lozi people, subsistence farmers, farming maize and herds of cattle.
When I got to the lodge it was a comfortable but yet simple bush camp. Settled within a small clump of tree's. Power was generated by a diesel engine and fresh water was pumped daily from the river into a storage tank high up on a pedestal, hot water by means of a donkey. The river front had hand made chalets with thatch roofs and interlinking to the main building using narrow pathways.
My position here was resident guide, our activities (open vehicle game drives/walking safaris and boat trips) from the Lodge were exciting in those days because the game in the area were still wild, and to an extent, free range. Elephant would pass through not only our camp but also the local village, causing mayhem and destruction in their path. On one occasion some lion had been heard in the area while we were having dinner. This was always good news for us because the park we were in was fairly new and any fresh signs of wildlife meant things were working. One morning I was out on a walking safari with my group of European guests when we spotted vulture in a near by tree. On closer investigation, it turned out be a very sad sighting. The lion we had heard a few nights back, were laying death in front of me. Getting back to the lodge we contacted the local conservation ranger and after a thorough search of the area and investigation, came up with the following conclusion. The lion had in dead moved through, left the confines of the park and killed some cattle, in retaliation the farmer then spread poison which killed the lion. Now the interesting thing here is the black magic used. One of my fellow Lozi colleges pointed out something in the tree “Stivi” he said (he could not pronounce my name correctly) “don't touch that, it's jigiman” (black magic) It turns out that who ever placed the poison, also put some mooty in the tree to keep the vultures away long enough for any tracks to disappear. If we had spotted the vulture too soon, we would also have seen human foot prints. Welcome to Africa.
On another occasion I was heading down stream in our aluminium boat with guests looking for elephant that frequently crossed the river from Botswana. I knew the river like the back of my hand, every ripple, root and sandbar I new. On this occasion, I saw a ripple in the distance which did not belong, problem being, it was increasing in size!!... can only mean one thing, charging hippo....so I moved as far left as I could go, and at the same time, this HUGE hippo comes flying out the water with it's mouth open. My guests though this was the best thing since sliced bread, if only they knew that more people get killed by hippo in Africa than any other mammal.
Working in such a remote place was the best thing that could have happened to me, I learnt skills which take some a lifetime to build, not only the building type but bush skills. In those days it was learn by doing, if you made a mistake, you paid dearly.
One morning I was doing a foot safari before breakfast and I was hoping to find some elephant for my group of Germans. I briefed them before we started on what was expected IF....Anyway we were walking along enjoy some good bird watching when I picked up fresh tracks. Normally when out on the open vehicle, I'd do the old finger trick to determine the age of the spoor, you know, one finger into the wet dung, pull out and stick in mouth. Well today there was no need for my trick, the elephant herd was directly in front of us. A small group of about eight at first glance.
We could work our way getting in close because the Mopane trees where in full leaf, giving us the cover we needed. But then the wind changed and it was time for plan B. The trunks came up and the younger animals in the group started getting inquisitive and moved towards us. Using dirt to determine the exact wind direction we moved out of harms way and took refuge behind a big termite mound and waited for the now fifteen strong herd to pass by. All the time keeping my guests quiet and off those cameras with that loud CLICK... Something caught me in the corner of my eye, looking down at the base of the mound I saw a head sticking out, or more like, on it's way out. I nearly died, a python had taken refuge in this abandoned mound and had had enough of us climbing around. So plan C....man I loved my job.
We often got world travellers passing through the Caprivi heading towards South Africa with their fully laden bicycles. This was in their eyes the best way to see a country, by sitting on a bicycle and touring. I had not really given that some thought but it did intrigue me and got saved in my grey matter for later.