2017 Christmas Extravaganza featuring Beverley Eikli
Okavango Angel – Romancing the Holidays
In a couple of weeks, I shall remember Christmas and New Year as the 25th anniversary marking the end of my of old, stable, predictable life as a journalist in Adelaide and the start of my life’s greatest adventure.
After a holiday with my dad to Botswana in 1992, I was invited by the General Manager of Okavango Wilderness Safaris to return at Christmas to run Mombo Luxury Safari lodge in the Okavango Delta for several months while the incumbent managing couple took a break.
It’s these two months that form the backdrop for my Christmas novella Okavango Angel, part of our Romancing the Holidays anthology that was recently released.
Managing a 16-bedded camp in those days was dawn-to-dusk hard work. I’m sure it still is, but, back then, communications were limited to a two-way radio while, for six months of the year, the lodge became an island retreat, accessible only by light aircraft, due to the annual flood.
Although the floodwaters created logistical difficulties when getting supplies to camp and in the transportation of guests from the various lodges throughout the Okavango, it attracted a plethora of game, which in turn attracted our guests.
My role as hostess and manager brought me into contact with people from all over the world who paid a lot of money to see the amazing wildlife but also had high expectations with regard to their comfort. With no mobile phone coverage, and sometimes no electricity – such as at Jedibe water camp where I also worked – there was, on occasion, disgruntlement. Sometimes guests were frightened when lions paced around their East Africa tents, or hippos munched noisily on the grass at night, literally feet away with only a bit of canvas to separate them. But the general mood was one of excitement and expectation. Botswana’s policy of high cost, low impact tourism meant safari lodges had huge concessions with only a dozen or so resident guests at any time so there was never a chance of seeing another game vehicle when going on game drive.
Due to the safety risks, guests were not allowed to go beyond the perimeter of camp which was marked by nothing more substantial than a sandy walking trail. After evening drinks in the boma following a communal five-star dinner (organised by the hostess/manager aka me consulting a pile of dog-eared Women’s Weekly cookbooks that had been used in the lodges for years), we’d walked the guests back to their tents at night carrying a lantern. There was the odd occasion, of course, when guests would go jogging where they shouldn’t, or try to get closer to the animals, and on several occasions during the years I spent in Botswana, when the safety strictures were ignored, there were a couple of fatalities.
For, yes, I did stay. The magic seeped into my soul, I met a handsome Norwegian pilot the day before I was due to fly home to Adelaide, and, on New Year’s Day 1993, I made Botswana home when I returned to live with my husband-to-be in his thatched cottage in the middle of a mopani forest 12km north of Maun.
Okavango Angel has been described as a sweet, gentle story in which the guests take matters into their own hands to create a magical Christmas with a happy ending when the managing couple’s relationship is foundering. With so much of my own experiences bound up in this fictional couple’s experiences managing a camp at Christmas in the Okavango Delta, it was a fun story to write.
And you can get the whole boxed set of nine Christmas-themed novellas for only 99c here.
Beverley has kindly offered one lucky AusRom reader the chance to win an ebook copy of her recent release, Devil’s Run, about a young woman who’s prepared to make a wager on her future marriage in the hopes of being reunited with the child she was forced to give up after an indiscretion. It’s been described by readers as a “very intriguing Austen-esque novel with well developed characters and story line.”
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