21.01.2009 - 21.01.2009 24 °C
Antelope Park itself is a 10 minute drive off the main road about 10km outside Gweru. All the buildings are open sided and have thatched rooves, the main eating area overlooks a river with 2 pretty wooden bridges crossing to guest lodges and some of the lion enclosures.
Everywhere is lush and green, the lawns are mowed, there is a peacock, 5 resident cats and 2 guinea fowl pecking away at nothing on the clean ground and tea and coffee making facilities are available on tap. There's a large camping area complete with Brai's (BBQ) for the few infrequent overland trucks that pass through Zim these days and there is also a large swimming pool. The volunteer block has satellite TV, internet and a laundry! The whole place is far more luxurious than I could have ever imagined and a far cry from the reality of the rest of the country. We get three cooked meals a day and I can see it may be hard to leave, and I definately wont be leaving carrying less pounds than when I arrived!
It seems the volunteers are looked after as well as the guests as our financial contribution clearly plays a very significant role in the survival of the world's only lion breeding program.
The Volunteer Block
I have my own room and later find out that everyone else is sharing so being the oldest volunteer already has it's advantages. My room is cleaned daily and the bed made. I have my own safe and the electricity socket is the same as England although the power has been off for almost 10 days due to a damaged cable. I've been provided with a towel and there is a free laundry service, where everything is washed, ironed and folded better than I would do myself.
The showers and toilets are shared and the home to an array of insects, frogs, toads and unfortunately snakes! The frog has joined me most days for a shower and when it didn't appear yesterday I feared it had been eaten by a python and the snake was waiting for me instead! For good reason, I don't like showering in the dark and wearing a head torch while washing my hair is not ideal.
There is a Volunteer lounge with sofa's, fridge, games, books and satellite TV. We have been given 2 t-shirts which helps preserver my limited stock of clothes for a bit longer.
Workshop and Carpentry
This is where the vehicles are maintained, vegetables are grown and meat is killed, prepared and stored (both for us and for the lions). A variety of crude looking tools, the removable seats on the back of all the vehicles and the boundary and enclosure fences are created and maintained here by hand.
We get provided with 3 home cooked meals a day. At 8.30, after the mornings duties, there is porridge, a full cooked breakfast, bread, butter and Jam, cereal and unlimited tea and coffee. Lunch is served at 1pm and always consists of a fresh salad, rice or potatoes with meat or vegetarian option. At 7pm, after a 12 hour day, we are ready for our third hot meal of soup, stew, curry or Brai (BBQ) with desert. There is plenty of food and I have been unable to shed the extra pounds acquired over Christmas and New Year and unfortunately have probably gained a few more.
There is a snack bar but to date I am not aware of anyone making use of this facility between meals.
The 5 resident cats usually take up their positions around the volunteers table during each meal and shamefully they probably eat better than the majority of Zimbabweans! There is one cat to be avoided, aptly named Anti-Christ, and bearing in mind this is a lion breeding park she is the most vicious cat here!