Lake Kariba and Hornbill Lodge is one of those beautiful places which people need to know more about. A quiet solitude where one can find tranquility and a piece of ones soul again. I can vouch for this. On a return visit to Zimbabwe I went on a houseboat on Lake Kariba, and the other guests had to return home early. I was browned off as I had come all this way and wasn’t in the mood to leave. I needn’t have worried, fate was on my side, firstly in the form of the Linforth’s who have a house on the harbour. Secondly in the form of my old College of Knowledge friend Tommy Millar who is the owner of Hornbill Lodge.
So the Linforth’s spotted the houseboat coming back to harbour and phoned the diesel guy to get Spook sent over to their house which was done. Tommy was in town and they phoned him and he agreed to put me up for a few days. Thus began a marvelous time, good friends, good entertainment, and so many laughs. Spare a few moments whilst I try and explain what happened at Lake Kariba and Hornbill Lodge. I’m so glad I had this experience. The other thing to realise is of course that I wasn’t lodging there but was a guest of the hosts living in their house there, but, I had a birds eye view of Hornbill Lodge, and this is the story.
Swimming pool and stunning view from hosts house.
Now Tommy has been patiently explaining to me that when they have guests I’m not allowed to walk through the complex, and possibly disturb them. So I have to go home the long way, which is out the entrance to Hornbill Lodge, hard right and a short uphill climb. Then a long walk down to the new house they are building for themselves. It’s some walk, believe you me so I patiently explain to him that my balance has never been the best and is now (due to my advanced age), very, very, bad. I am however beating my head against a brick wall, so eventually I relent and say, “OK, but I’m telling you right now I’ll never make it down here at night simple as that.” So he shrugs his shoulders and assumes a tough luck pose. I’m seriously browned off again and ask if he has a golf cart I can use? Negative. He’s secretly amused and the fun behind a long friendship is beginning again, but, more on that later.
Now when I first arrive they only have a young Australian couple staying at Lake Kariba and Hornbill Lodge, both with ‘twangs’ on them like a broken guitar string. Oddly enough I’ve always got on well with Aussies and the same thing happens again, I like them both and long chats are held in the pub later that night. It is however, the calm before the storm as soon more guests will be coming, and the Lodge is going to be full. All day there is a great scurrying to and fro. Now what on earth is this, whoosh, very short interlude, and then whoosh again? It is in fact Tommy and Jackie’s lovely daughter. Not so much as a good morning or hi pleased to meet you, no Sir, noSireeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. When she has left I say to Tom, “what was that whirlwind?” He goes into his old routine copied from me, tsuh, of holding his stomach with both hands and pretending to give a hearty laugh. Again I’m secretly amused. This happens a couple of times during the day. Later that evening she comes up to me and says, “what’s this about a whirlwind?” But she is smiling, and the ice is broken. I later learn that she has a Degree in Hotel Management. You see, although I’m trying to get the old rapport between Tommy and I across here, the most important thing to remember, is that, between them all, as guests one is getting, first class service with first class management and a wonderful family in between. Having said that, I’m still browned off with Tommy with splitting on me about the ‘whirlwind’.
THE MAIN LODGE LAKE KARIBA HORNBILL LODGE.
Now just for a moment do me a favour please, and stand back and look at it in awe. The African theme, the beautiful thatch. Perchance one now understands what I mean about the ambiance of the place? The stone work, need I go on? Hard on top is the first room beautifully furnished with overhead fans to keep one cool and a shower and toilet. Through the opening entrance, hard left the pub, on the right the dining table. Left of the pub the small lounge and television area. In the middle all the paraphernalia about Lake Kariba and Hornbill Lodge. Many books about Zimbabwe. Then a curtained off toilet. Right of the dining table the kitchen, where Jackie is cooking up a storm. Word of warning here, enter at your own peril as I’ll explain again, later. Can one see the wee little doggie outside the entrance? They have three of them. In fruity women’s la, la, voice I say, “I love all animals especially wee dogs.” But the feeling isn’t mutual, for some reason they don’t like wee little Spook. But I have experience of them, so every time I enter the complex one in particular comes up snarling and barking at me. I just stand still, comes of experience, but, not this bloody blighter, it nips my heels. Thoroughly browned off I corner Tommy and say, “what are you going to do about that bloody mutt?” His hand go down to his stomach again and he makes a shaking motion whilst laughing his head off. This happens everywhere I go and am about to do the mutt a serious injury. Then Tommy eventually explains to me that it is a Blue Australian Cattle Nipper or something. They are specifically bred to herd cattle and control them, round ’em up, head ’em out by nipping at their heels. I feel sorry for the poor thing after all it is only doing what it is bred to do. I actually begin to like the bloody mutt. Furthermore, it has a tendency to join guests whilst showering. Even the bloody dogs are characters here eh.
It is late afternoon and the Australian guests are being taken by Tommy on a game viewing ride in his speed boat. I tag along and no sooner than the boat is launched, Tommy zooms off at high revs. Now I don’t know what it is about this boy, but, give him a car or anything even remotely similar and he doesn’t drive, he aims. Trying not to get in the way again sitting in the back left seat, and we haven’t gone ten metres, but already I’m drenched. Hit them waves baby. I sidle along to the middle and thereafter only get the occasional soaking. The game is playing hard to see and Tommy is flummoxed by this as normally would have seen loads of Elephants but so far not a one. I’m reluctant to say maybe the sound of the engine at full speed has scared them off? But manage to hold my tongue. We have now left the mainland and skirting around some islands. Fat chance of seeing Elephant here methinks and so it entails. Tommy is busy explaining to the guests that as winter approaches or hits fully there is little food for the animals on the islands. He is part of a charitable group who donate hay bales etc. for the animals during this crucial period and thus keep them alive, and uses his boat to take supplies across. Good people can be found in the most unlikely places too. Still nary a thing to be seen and I’m not surprised at the speed we are going. Hawk-eye Spook spots some beautiful Kudu fawns and mentions this. Tommy cuts back on the speed and does a U turn and approaches. On the right is a photo of the scene, can you see them? No. They are there alright hidden among the trees. The Aussies have state of the art camera’s so am sure they got some lovely photos. Tommy can’t believe my eyesight and keeps on mentioning it. Another story on him in there one day. Once the guests have taken their fill of photos, the high speed chase begins again with the driver as keen as mustard. Nary a thing to be seen until I spot a Fish Eagle atop a tree. Same sequence begins again as we creep up on it and then the bloody thing flies away. Time to get back home. Jackie has packed us some drinks and eats and once under Kariba Heights Tommy throttles back, thank heavens for little mercies, stops the boat and drinks in hand we watch the spectacular Kariba sunset.
LAKE KARIBA AND HORNBILL LODGE.
Pictured is the main sleeping quarter Lodge, of which they have three and the one atop of the main lodge. Beautifully maintained lawns with appropriate sculptures in place. In the winter months when food for animals is scarce Zebra can often be seen grazing on the lawn. Things are heating up and Hornbill Lodge is full. My favourite place is the kitchen as I love the in play between Tommy and Jackie. She is one of those women who get flustered in the kitchen until of course everything is done and served. I’m sitting there in the early morning before breakfast is served having a cup of tea. Oh dear, Jackie is in a mood and advances on me, her arms at waist level and her hands making sweeping measures back and forth at me. I get the message and go outside for a fag. Shortly thereafter Tommy appears with the same old routine already mentioned. He tells me that unfortunately, Jackie has just banned me from the kitchen. TSUH. I’m mortified. So he says don’t worry too much about it, just stay away until she’s done. After all it’s where we eat not being guests and all. Jackie is also Australian and was ‘reared’ in Alice of a Springs of. ALICE? Who the f**k is Alice? She also has at times, what can only be called as ‘colourful’ language, not that Tommy is any different, however they have had to tone it down while guests are around. So take it out on poor old Spook hey. Now where was I? Yes, every morning I take the long walk up the hill and into the kitchen (no longer), for some tea. At night I duck down through the lodge whilst the guests are having coffee. It’s a hard life eh? So picture coming up shows you Tommy and Jackie’s new house where I’m boarding, but more importantly how I see it from where I’ve just ducked out the lodge.
OK, now I’m going to swing around and show you Lake Kariba and Hornbill Lodge if I was allowed to walk that way in the morning. Taken, while no guests staying. Tommy and Jackie are quite correct, you cannot have anyone walking which way they want when there are guests.
Plus another two left of this. Now a strange thing happens, Hornbill Lodge is full but I know more than half the guests. It’s a small world in the end. Now in the evening guests are seated around the swimming pool for a more romantic setting. The lovely daughter comes in and arranges all the settings and cutlery, pays to have a degree in Hotel Management. There is no set menu, Jackie decides what she is going to cook and that is it, but it’s lovely fare. Blow me down, Tommy is cooking tonight. I just have to see this. He saunters along to me in the pub and asks how I like my steak? So I say, medium rare, SLIGHTLY, on the rare side. You’ve got to box very clever like? Later I duck my head into the kitchen. Smoke is billowing everywhere which not even the fire brigade could diminish. I duck out again before Jackie can spot me, psml. The guests are served and lastly poor old Spook. Wow, it’s absolutely amazing, spot on and tender like you wouldn’t believe. The guests are also very suitably impressed and raving about it. Just goes to show. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover eh?
ROMANTIC SETTING FOR DINNER AT LAKE KARIBA AND HORNBILL LODGE.
Now isn’t that, just splendid. The most important thing to remember is that when Jackie and Tommy first moved here, it was just a plot mainly of trees and scrub. So hats off to the both of you turning it into a monument of vision, hard work, and good taste. Very impressive all around.
LAKE KARIBA AND HORNBILL LODGE DECOR INSIDE GUEST LODGE.
So what you get here is a set charge, but with it, three full meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Drinks are free and part of the fee. So is the game speedboat ride, fishing if you so desire and also thrown in is a tour to the dam wall. So if you are ever in Kariba I strongly suggest, some time spent at Lake Kariba and Hornbill lodge. You will not be disappointed.