Happy New Year to all! I know I already whished our readers a joyous 2013, but it sounds so good, I will say it again. Hope that everyone’s year will be a very prosperous one, filled with good fortune, happiness and excellent health. The year started off on a very hot note. We had temperatures ranging from 52 °C in the sun, to 45 °C in the shade. Because it was so hot and there were no clouds around whatsoever, we knew that we were in desperate need of some rain. We all heard that we were going to have a massive drought this year as we had been receiving very good rains for the past five years. Then on the morning of the 19th it started raining and it did not stop until the morning of the 21st! We had a re-enactment of last year all over again, but this time, it was not as bad. Last year a cyclone caused the vast amounts of rain, but this year it was only a low pressure system that moved down from the north. With the water table still high from last year, the seepage started quick and we are still seeing water flowing from the ground. The rivers came down with a speed. Normally after a few hours their levels drops quickly, but not this time. The level of the river continued to rise higher and higher and at six o’clock on the first afternoon the dry Manyeleti riverbed was a raging monster, flowing around seventy meters wide and in some places four to five meters deep.
With the water rising by the minute, we had to get four of our guests out. The water was too high for a normal vehicle to cross, so we had to make a plan. We sent our tractor with a trailer, driven by Braam and accompanied by Willie, through the crossing. All the guests sat on the trailer as if they were riding a horse into battle. With the massive weight of the tractor the current did not move it even an inch. Thankfully friends from Simbambili lodge were waiting on the other side to get our guests to the gate where a transfer was waiting for them. In the end, it all worked out. Our guests got to the airport in time to catch their flights back home and I am sure that they had quite a few exciting stories to share back home.
After a sigh of relief for getting the guests through the river safely, we thought everything would go smooth for the rest of the day. Before the guests went over in the tractor, I had sent Dawie and Richard to the Gowrie Gate to fetch the week’s deliveries as no trucks were allowed into the reserve with the roads already in a sensitive state. Going to the gate, the water was not high at all. But on their way back, the water was too high to cross back to EP. We sent them to leave the Land Cruiser they were driving at Simbambili lodge and get on the tractor to come back across as we had just used it to get the guests across. By the time all had been sorted it was too late – nothing was going to now get through the raging waters. Staring at one another on either side of the river, I felt quite helpless, now being 4 staff members short. I wanted to cry big old crocodile tears, but refused to add to the water level of the river. We had no choice but to send them to go wait it out at Simbambili lodge for a few hours till the river dropped. Well, it didn’t. The river was so big that we only managed to get the guys back to lodge the following afternoon and they had to spend the night at Simbambili lodge. I would like to thank Simbambili for their hospitality and looking after our guys. That’s what good neighbours are there for.
We were fortunate not to have any guests checking in or out on the Sunday. So we sat it out, hoping for the rain to stop and eventually it did. It always does. The river started to drop and things were looking good to get the next day’s guests out. But by late the afternoon it started to rain again and not long after this the river was back to its old self. The rain continued through the night. Monday morning our open area looked like a lake, with water everywhere. Luckily all our guests were fantastic, which made decisions very easy. In one hour they all agreed to fly out by helicopter and two hours later all seven guests were at their destinations. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank you all for being so great and understanding.
Besides the few days of drama with the rain, the month was very a good one. We’ve been busy, which is always good as it keeps us all out of trouble. A bit of sad news is that Willie and Atasja Woest will be working their final month with us. We wish them all the best with their future. As they are planning to start a family in the near future, they have opted to move to a lodge that is situated closer to town and school. Good luck guys!
We have decided to change our entrance gate to the lodge. Because the area handles a lot of traffic, especially during check-out and check-ins, we have decided to add another gate and therefore have an entrance and exit area from the main lodge. I believe that this would relieve the congestion of vehicles on busy days. It will also add a new, fresh look to the reception area, which of course, is the first impression of Elephant Plains!
To all our guests who celebrated their birthdays this month, we hope you had a fantastic day filled with love and laughter. May your future hold many more happy and joyful days! This month we only had one staff member celebrating his birthday. Hemet celebrated his birthday on the 1st of January .He is our fill in guy, being a qualified tracker as well as a grounds man. If one of our trackers are sick or on extended leave, he joins the rangers on game drives. But most of the time you will find him creating artistic designs in the gardens around lodge.
I now hand you over to our head chef, Linda Van Heerden, for her mouth-watering Stuffed Trout recipe. This dish is served as a plated option at the lodge and is a definite must if you are given the option whist staying with us.
Cut the head, tail and fins off the trout so that you are left with the two fillets still joined. Set aside. Heat the butter in a pan, fry off the garlic and thyme. Add the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Fill the cavity of the fish with the bread mixture and bake for +- 15 mins in an oven preheated to 180°C.
For the sauce:
Mix all the ingredients together.
Add a lemon wedge, some Tartar Sauce.
Serve and enjoy!
Well, that is all from my side this month. Have a good one!