Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas at Murchison River Lodge 2011

Having skidded sideways into 2012 at 140mph one would hope by now to have found the absolute obvious.  The brakes.

With our sweaty heads snapped back, hair framed like a bubble of dirty candyfloss, sunglasses smeared from greasy fingers and a chunky baby strapped tightly into his car seat (his peg teeth gnashing like a turtle) we look like a feral family straight out of Mad Max.  We remain foot heavy on the pedal whilst pulling a couple of wide-boy doughnuts in the murram driveway before tearing off in a cloud of dust.  As we bend into January every which way there appear to be no brakes with Mel Gibson at the wheel.


Our Christmas trip to Murchison was magical, priceless, special, hectic, crazy and exhausting!  The car was rammed with gear - if Leo had been any bigger odds-on he'd have been in the passenger seat and I'd have been left behind.  The journey north reminded me of why I love Africa.  Vast skies, hot and dusty roads, windows down, cows with big horns picking at strands of bleached grass, children running alongside the car hoping for sweets or a simple wave, bicycles laden with locally grown produce, women balancing litres and litres of precious water carefully on their heads, battered cars carrying families from nowhere to somewhere and the long dirt, red, road taking you deeper and deeper into Murchison Falls National Park.

My breath evaporated out of my mouth as Chris walked me around the lodge and camp - in 18 months everything had changed beyond belief.  Leo sat squarely on my hip mesmerized by the Rock Agama lizards, their orange and black scaly skin worn like a suit of armour.  We wandered the campsite with the ridiculously brilliant shower and toilet block, and dipped beneath groups of spindly trees framing the grass with dappled shade.  The family cottage is beautiful, with 3 more nearing completion.  The furniture is created out of old railway sleepers enticing you to lie down with the intention of never, ever getting up again and the view from the veranda is of wild bush housing a plethora of birdlife.  The simple yet dramatic bar and restaurant blew me right back to the car park.  The vast thatched roof, made up of individual grasses slashed into small steps, hangs like a big fringe providing cooling shade and respite from the glaring ball of sun high above.

I kissed Chris for a long time and didn't cry.  Instead I stood full of pride and drunk in the incredible view out across the river Nile and over the wild green lands of Murchison Falls National Park.  Africa at her finest. 

Those precious hours now float like a dream around my head, because the following 7 days saw us race about like unfit athletes, huffing and puffing in the heat, as we prepared the lodge for guests and visitors from near and far.  We rearranged furniture, chopped thorny branches from eye level, hung electric blue parking signs, fitted a solar heater, placed old animal skulls in strategic places, strung mosquito nets the size of circus tents on sanded poles, text home to find out the cooking time for a 4.8kg turkey (!) screwed decorative gourds to walls, put candles in old wine bottles, hunted down missing lanterns and sat with local staff to discuss the arrival times of guests, bed linen, rubbish collection, laundry, stocking the bar, roasting potatoes and to make sure there was always enough beer.

David, the proud young barman/waiter told me in one heart stopping sentence, 'I am trying my level best and I wont let you down'. 

Most nights we fell into bed in the manager's house by midnight, with a sleeping Leo spaced out in his cot beside us.  And most nights he woke at 3am.  In this instance I would haul him from under mosquito nets into our bed so his crying wouldn't, 'wake the guests or have them think there's a wild animal in the camp Georgie!'  This was easy enough until the night a bat flew in through the opened door and clung to the net right next to my HEAD.  There was no mistaking the wild noise I made as I screeched at Chris to, 'fucking well do something!!!'  Leo took to the bush like Harrison Ford to Indiana Jones.  He roared his approval to everyone and relished in playing with the Christmas present wrapping paper over any toys, except for a plastic water bottle or my dirty flip flops.  He cut a top tooth with little fuss.  He developed a love of dodgy sausages and in the afternoons sat happily in a cooling bucket of water though by early evening showed his complete disapproval at having to be manhandled into a baby gro.

We had guests from Christmas Day to New Years Day and a smattering have stayed since.  We served, cooked, talked, laughed and made a note of all the things we still need to do.  As you can imagine the list is endless and Chris left this morning with more building materials to try and finish the family cottages with.  I'm being hounded to get the website online and it's coming (albeit slowly) but in the meantime to promote what we're doing and to give guests and agents an idea of the accommodation and location I've created a Murchison River Lodge Facebook Page.  I'd love for you to have a look.


And that, thank god, is us embracing 2012.........full on, sun battered and knackered.  I wish you a belated Happy New Year and yes, since you ask, my name is Tina Turner and I'm off to Thunder Dome.

1 comment:

K said...

Congratulations! I looked at the pictures on FB and it's stunning. You have done amazing work and should be very proud of yourselves. I truly hope to visit your lodge in the future.