Mutinondo Newsletter 2007

Posted on Fri December 28, 2007 in Newsletter.

Dear All,

Our plans to work harder at working less were coming together perfectly for the first half of the year, accounts were absolutely up to date, the staff were gradually making us redundant, Mike’s back operation after a year and a half recovery has been a success, there was plenty of time to give our plant photo collection the attention it needed and our wish list of places to explore and things to do was growing.

Lari’s parents had their 50th Wedding anniversary celebration in March gathering many old friends and recollections in the process. Lari scanned their married life’s collection of about 3000 slides during the very wet February when the limited solar power permitted. The rains reached 1155mm and despite cries from Luangwa Valley dwellers to stop sending any more water down, our Musamfushi River just got fatter and kept rolling by. We sold the microlight in February but we are not allowed to talk about that……………and then we splashed out and bought 5 new horses which arrived at the beginning of March - many thanks to the Asherwoods for parting with these great horses, they are just the type and temperament we want, complementing the others beautifully.

April brought a truly magical wedding celebration to Mutinondo. Julian and Bruce and about 30 of their very special family and friends gave us a wonderful week of what fairy tales are made of!

In June we went sailing in Croatia for 2 weeks after a fortnight in UK when Lari did a very wet but extremely interesting week-long Pat Parelli horse training course in Devon. Several islands down the southern coast of Croatia were the destinations for our flotilla, we had a Gibsea 33 and fortunately Mike could still remember how to sail. The undeveloped parts were wonderful but still showing evidence of the war. We flew back the day after the airport and nightclub car bombs so the airport security hype was sad, very inconvenient and a good deterrent from future plans of putting our carbon footprints too far afield. Archaeologists from Liverpool University were very busy doing a dig at the Caterpillar rock art site whilst we were away, it was good to get back before they left to enjoy hearing some of the adventures of what Quentin called “the giggle” of archaeologists!

Whilst we were away Edmund from Kasanka gallantly got our airstrip fully commissioned and licensed, he recommends flying in but isn’t too confident about heavy departures which will be very good for business at Mutinondo! In July/Aug we had another 5 groups of World Challenge school leavers walk from Mutinondo into Luangwa Valley where they get a transfer to Mfuwe which might be the solution for those who fly here but can’t get out! The other option is to depart from Mpika airstrip if the load is too big for a Mutinondo based take off. This advance in our communications was joined by Celtel network becoming available in July. We appreciate our guests being very private with the use of their phones and threaten to throw any noisy phones at the bar into the fire.

For most of July Lari was kept out of the office practising Pat Parelli horse training with Kerin and the grooms - hope the horses enjoyed it as much as the learner trainers did! After a very sinister visit from our Chief Mpumba and Tazara Corridor officials questioning the validity of the Mutinondo title deeds followed by a liberating and fun ride jumping the chopped trees at the end of the airstrip Lari got the news that her Dad had had a stroke. Sadly he died a couple of days later.

Mike spent the rest of the year running Mutinondo whilst Lari tried to help her sisters sort out their Dad’s businesses and look after their Mum. Frequent sightings of Roan antelope rewarded Mike’s hard work at home when he got out of the office on his bike. Lets hope that the new year will allow us much more time to enjoy Mutinondo and Mum who we hope will be joining us as much as possible up here. After 10 weeks of grinding through what used to be Dad’s daily routine in ever-increasing Copperbelt corruptions, we cherish Mutinondo even more than ever for the quality of life it gives us, its natural charms and all the very special people it has introduced us to. We continue to be spoilt by our wonderful guests who make our “work” such fun - many, many, many thanks to you all for your encouraging support and the friends you have also introduced to us. A big thank you also to the Zambian Bradt Guide, Lonely Planet, Reisen in Zambia und Malawi and Alison Cooper, our website keeper, for introducing people from further afield. The number of direct bookings from overseas guests has increased significantly this year.

After reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring we will never take bird song or our wilderness for granted. Our bird list additions for 2007 are the Striped Kingfisher, Dwarf Bitten, Yellow Wagtail and Black Goshawk. The first batch of photos and names for the Mutinondo plant data base has been delivered to Paul Smith at Kew Gardens for checking. The IBA (Important Bird Area) project had a Barn Swallow art competition in the surrounding schools followed by a gathering of winners and representatives in Lusaka. Mike is still working with the Mpumba Natural Resources Conservation Society and the Community Centre and its campsite is progressing well and should be open soon.

Lari returned home for a rest in September. The morning we were to leave to collect Mike’s sister and her husband from Lusaka Mike found that his bag of socks was missing - that led on to the discovery that Lari’s bike had also been stolen by an ex employee who had become a problem over the past few years. A couple of days later Diwell and Willie received a text message saying the culprit had been arrested with the bike by Moses of Mufubushi neighbourhood watch 60km away. They collected and took all three to Mpika Police Station. Bikes are stolen all over the world all the time but Lari took this very personally especially when she heard that the police were seen riding it around Mpika. Friends and family visiting from UK and Kenya were a wonderful distraction and excuse for us to have a fantastic holiday at home, we went camping and hiking with them and loved being tourists in our own backyard.

The evening before we were due to take Angie and Chris back to Lusaka to catch their plane three of our horses went walk-about. One returned that evening but it was horrible leaving camp with the other 2 still missing. It was good to hear the following day that one had been found by the scouts but the third was still out heading towards the escarpment. We got back from Lusaka as quickly as possibly to join the search. Lari and the grooms, later joined by visitors, went out for several hours every day on horseback trying to lure Spirit home. Apart from the anxiety to find Spirit, it was fantastic to explore the valleys to the Southeast and continue on wonderful rides towards the escarpment. About 200km later after crossing the umpteenth boggy stream we eventually met the trackers and Spirit who had been traced back to a dambo below the Mutinondo and Musamfushi confluence (where he seemed to be hanging out with a hippo with a young one). What a wonderful bush horse, he was fine, a little thin but completely cool about everything and had also become an excellent ditch jumper. We will never understand why they walked off 2 hours before feed time, away from the other horses and towards a dreadful fire to the South of the camp and just kept walking. The two fillies turned around only when they came to a ditch too big for them to jump.

What a relief to have them back safely. We were just getting back into normality when, having been out for a morning ride and let the horses out, a very shaken staff member who was on his way home returned wide-eyed to say there were lion footprints on our road heading towards camp as close as campers rock. Mega mega panic! - the horses had just gone off that way and it was just before Independence weekend when we were expecting plenty of campers. We found the horses, tried to get them home but they went off and couldn’t be found for the rest of the day. A lady visiting from SA came across a lioness drinking from the river on her return from an early morning walk so at least we knew they had moved downstream a bit. Fortunately Dee retreated very slowly before coming back safely (and very quickly!). Understandably no one wanted to investigate where the 2 lion were hiding out so Diwell collected 2 ZAWA scouts from Mpika to guard the horses for the night and they looked for the lion the following morning. They had moved further down river by then and hopefully have gone back to the Luangwa Valley for good. A few weeks later a group of visitors went riding and on their return they came across tracks of a very large hippo coming down the road, he too seems to have made his way downstream.

After spending November in the Chingola smog Lari escaped and we hopped on the train to Dar with our nephews and their 2 friends for the most perfect 2 weeks of swimming, reading, sleeping and enjoying the boys adventures over cold beers and delicious food in an idyllic setting in Zanzibar- Pongwe Beach Resort.

We got back just in time for Lari to attend Mpika court to try to retrieve her bike. It took all day before she gave evidence and then the case was adjourned to Christmas Eve - the bike was released from Police custody and Simon our jeweller working in Mpika returned it to Mutinondo on Christmas day! On Boxing Day we cycled out and collected a big basket full of huge mushrooms to celebrate its return and a happy ending to the year.

With love and very best wishes to you all for a peaceful 2008.

Mike and Lari