Ask anyone at Londolozi where Tom and Kate live and you’ll get a confusing answer. “Below Chris and Emma, opposite Duncan and Jess and just down from the Main Kitchen”. Most people never find us and that makes our home the ‘secret Imrie enclave.’
Houses at Londolozi are accorded numbers, I guess like anywhere else in the world, except here it only matters to a spreadsheet which digitally lurks somewhere that you’d be hard pressed to find. There are no streets or grids, just arbitrary nicknames given to certain regions: Bollywood, The FC Strip, Gringo’s Tavern and Swamplands. We fall outside of all of those. Tucked away just behind Granite and Varty Camp and hidden from Google Earth by an enormous Cape Ash Tree, we have quietly gone about our lives for the last 8 years in this house. Once, when having to provide a street address, I wrote: 1 Kitchen Lane, Londolozi, Mpumalanga, South Africa. We never got any post at that address.
Well, if you do head down from the kitchen, watch your ankle. Frequent rain storms and the surge of water down the steep bank have made it a perfect track for a BMX race, and at the bottom there is a quaint wooden bridge that was constructed from a tired wooden pool recliner. It used to have a swinging wooden gate with a sign that read: The Imrie’s, but an elephant called Nightshift swept that out of his way years ago.
The garden, most summers is a sprawling attempt at Little England, a clipped green lawn, with a trampoline, netball hoop, swing-ball, errant golf balls, a sprinkler and a fortress like vegetable garden. Currently however, the termites are finishing what’s left of the grass as the current drought takes hold and the vegetable garden hasn’t seen a tomato since the last baboon raid.
An Estate Agent would write: Quaint thatched two bedroom house perched on the Sand River, neat garden and modern kitchen. Tidily furnished with bonus Trojan rowing machine (unused) included. A must see, sellers relocating abroad.
The house is two bedroomed, with a small bathroom separating the two, and a lounge that hugs the open plan kitchen. There is a front door, that the baboons can open if not locked, and a glass sliding door to the garden that they haven’t worked out yet. When the door is clean, a Yellow-billed Hornbill spends some mornings tapping on it, in a fruitless attempt at knocking out a rival. The kid’s bedroom is the roomier of the two and most weekends it becomes increasingly unnavigable as the teddy bears and toys pile up. It’s also the refuge to some wildlife that sneaks into the house. We’ve had a few snakes fall out the thatch over the years, and once the nanny drew our attention to a Marbled Tree snake that had snuggled up to Thomas during the night. Thankfully the kids have learnt the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to these reptiles, and Thomas doesn’t panic now when he finds that the spotted bush snake is back inside the house chasing geckos. Recent inhabitants are a family of Mauritian Tomb Bats, that hang delightfully upside down from the rafters in the children’s bedroom.
In-spite of living inside the fenced area of Londolozi, we’ve had some bigger visitors over the years. The most famous of the regular visits by elephants, was Nightshift- a 6 ton elephant hell bent on the destruction of our light fencing and our splendid trees in the garden. In 2012 he actually pushed an enormous Acacia onto the roof of our house, which bent the corrugated iron covering the porch and cracked the A frame wall, leaving a useful entrance to our bedroom for geckos. A few visits by the Tsalala lionesses, a female leopard, old buffalo bulls and even a stray hippopotamus once mowed the lawn for us. I once spotted a porcupine on the way down to the house, and every day the garden plays host to baboons, vervet monkeys, antelopes in the form of nyala and bushbuck and even a business of banded mongoose.
Most staff at Londolozi would call this place work, but having lived here for 12 years and listened to the children’s pitter-patter for 9 of those, this has quite simply become home. Is leaving it hard? You bet, but I suspect that a happy family home is the sum of the joy of the occupants and not the quality of the fixtures. We’re leaving to up the ante in the happiness regard, and we’ll joyfully take the memories of our brilliant first home with us.