After being in Lusaka a while, I was starved for some "outside reading". The book "The Africa House" was in the mission home as one that had been read by previous senior missionaries. Kristi and I both read it and we were fascinated by a world that we knew nothing about. The book tells the true story of Stuart Gore-Brown, an aristocrat from England who didn't have much of a personal inheritance. He joins the military and finds himself in Africa surveying the border between the French Belgian Congo and the northern British territory of Rhodesia. He finds what to him looks like an ideal country in which to establish for himself an English type estate, and he falls in love with the land.
His life is very fascinating and it is a good read to bridge the gap between the colonial days and into the 1960's when Stuart Gore-Brown was a mentor of the first president of a "free" Zambia in 1964. The book covers the trials of trying to establish his estate call "Shiwa Ngandu", or "Lake of the Royal Crocodile".
We told ourselves it would be interesting to visit but since it is a ten hour drive from Lusaka it was put in the back of my mind. Then that strange malady hit me again of feeling pretty cooped up in an office. I just figured that no one was responsible for my mental health but me, so I wrote on the President's calendar once again - "Skidmores Out of the Office."
Below is Stuart Gore-Brown's estate, all 26,000 acres that has the lake in the middle. It is fed by several year round springs. It is over 30 km to drive from one end to the other and it truly seems to be a paradise. It was just what Kristi and I needed for four nights.
It was nice to be out of the city and the traffic.
We found our way up to the large manor house that was envisioned in 1914 but not completed until 1945.
There was such a sense of peace to be in such an isolated place and greeted by roaming horses, and goats and this pet eland named Eli.
We were met by our hosts, Charlie and Jo Harvey. Charlie is the grandson of Stuart Gore-Brown and spent much of his childhood living on the estate with his family and grandfather.
We were the only "guests" and felt right at home as they made everything available to us. We ate each meal with them and although we didn't have any pressing demands they were always ready to accommodate us. I can not adequately express how relaxing it was to just chat over meals and learn of their family and to have them be interested in our family and our "mission to Zambia."
In the evening we would relax in the drawing room waiting for the drums to call us to dinner.
The dining room was simple but we felt like royalty with terrific service.
One of the rooms I was looking forward to spending time in was the library. Alas, all the books had been shifted out and it was being repainted and the balcony attached to it repaired. The books had been stacked all over the house to distribute the weight. Jo invited us to return later that week and help replace the books in their proper order. I would really have loved to do that but we had planned to head further north to Lake Tanganyika and then we needed to return to our work piling up in Lusaka.
The book collection was mostly novels of the 1920's and the 1930's and many volumes of local, Zambian and African history.
This was Jo and Charlie's bedroom currently but they tend to sleep "where the work is not going on".
Charlie has his private office in the home as does Jo. (Hers looks out over the grounds to the lake.)
The home has its own chapel and they allow Catholic families on the estate to use it. They attend only on special occasions. There are services on the estate for other denominations also.
Up until this time the only streams I have seen in Zambia were filled with garbage, other than the great rivers, Kafue and Zambezi. Here are beautiful, perfectly clear springs that feed into the lake.
There are over 900 people who live on the estate. Charlie employs about 350 of them.
There are two elementary schools and a clinic on the estate.
What a great place to roam and play. The homes have an English flavor to their architecture.
The estate is self-sustaining. Pigs are one of their sources of income.
This pig house was originally built by grandpa to house the press and machinery to produce citronella oils from lemons and limes and other flora. It paid well for a while but other markets took them out of the competition in the late 1930's.
Being so isolated from the rest of the world, grandpa was always trying to find a cash crop that was easy to transport. Locally, Charlie and Jo have a butcher shop and outlet in Mpika, the closest town.
They just finished upgrading the butchery that supplies the needs of the estate.
We just roamed around and relaxed.
Everyone seemed busy and was very friendly.
Charlie was a polo player and Jo loves horses. They roam the estate but have a handler with them and are "put to bed" every night.
This was Kristi's favorite spot to catch up on her journal.
I just kept pinching myself to realize there are people in the world who really live like this.
We did leave the "action" around the house and drive about at times.
Here we are down by the lake on a platform, looking back towards the house.
Shiwa has quite a bit of wild game. No elephants, giraffes, or cats. They have had them in the past but poachers are a problem. Charlie employs five "wardens" to look for poachers full time. If a poacher is caught and prosecuted successfully, the warden earns a bonus of $500 USD. The week before they had just had a successful prosecution.
Above is a wildebeest and below are sable. The male sable is black and they are large beautiful beasts.
Grandpa Gore-Brown planted many eucalyptus trees and it made Kristi homesick for Australia and me for California.
They had plenty of dogs to keep us company and to play with.
Everywhere we turned looked like a "Constable" painting.
This was interesting to me. It was the first time I had really understood that a zebra had a camouflage that worked.
Out in the open it doesn't do much good.
While driving off the remote "tracks" I found a skull of a lechwe. Charlie thought it was young and probably taken down by a poacher.
I spent a little time in Stuart Gore-Brown's original office where many of his papers, journals, and glass slides are kept.
One evening while sitting out on the lawn with Jo and Charlie we watched "bush babies" scamper around the roof and in and out of trees. They have big eyes and ears and a long fuzzy tail. If you look close there is another one on the far right.
Chickens and eggs are another source of income. There are 26,000 chickens that need to be fed and cared for and the eggs taken to market.
They are hoping to move on to just raising chicks to pullets and let others deal in eggs. Charlie and Jo are planning their retirement and need to get out of some of the more labor intensive areas. Charlie has a farm manager (though he doesn't manage much yet). Charlie would like his game hunting aspects to expand. He currently hosts many foreigners for bagging some older game that needs to be culled.
While we were there Charlie and Jo got a call about an order of baby chicks that should have been cancelled but wasn't. 6000 chicks were coming the next day, so preparation of a warm chick house had to take precedence. When they arrived the chicks needed to be taken from their boxes and their beaks dipped in a sugar water to start them drinking. Kristi and I volunteered to help. By the end we were sitting in the middle of 6000 chicks and tried to very carefully exit without hurting any.
We loved their dogs, Rhodesian ridgebacks, and Jack Russell terriers.
We just chilled.
Drove out to the "farmhouse" where the manager lives.
I was struck by the beauty everywhere I looked, but when I got to the porch of the farmhouse the scene was perfectly framed and I could have sat there all day.
These calves were grazing near the original estate office.
Some kids on their way to school agreed to have their photo taken with me.
Here some ladies had been thrashing corn and then drying it. After a couple of days getting dry enough they are sacking it up and taking it to the mill on the property.
Here is where the corn or maze is pounded into a coarse flour.
More eucalyptus trees to walk down.
More kids to play with. Here I am trying to teach them about the rain and spider. "Up comes the sun, to dry out all the rain…" but they were all of a sudden interested in the camera.
I even tried to make friends with the horses.
All in all, we spent five memorable days unwinding.
We didn't have any concrete plans after leaving Shiwa N'gandu so Jo suggested a spot on the beach at the south end of Lake Tanganyika. She called and they said they would accommodate us so we headed north.