Bed, Bath and the Back of Beyond

Back in the back of beyond

So, here we are. Opening camp after a closure of several months for the rainy season.

The usual things have happened. Most of the staff have suddenly found reasons to be urgently needed elsewhere, those that haven’t have got malaria, someone has stolen a beautifully embroidered loo-roll holder from one of our guest tents, (we can only presume that someone with great taste has a rather well-appointed mud hut in the vicinity) and, in our absence,  the travel agencies have been urgently scouring Hitler Youth rallies, senior amateur dramatics societies and the local prisons to find us our first guests of the season.

Meanwhile, some idiot thought that the below was a good advert for a close neighbouring camp, as though the savannahs are a gigantic showroom for bathroom fittings with a two hundred kilogram cast-iron claw-foot bathtub here, a porcelain bidet there.

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“You can just make out the young leopard between the trees, see how alert she is to the hyenas presence? She’s hoping the smell of her kill won’t attract their attention. But if I can just have your attention for a moment, I would like to show you the Austen range of claw-foot baths, normally £399 but I understand there’s a offer on the moment: £299 including the hurricane lanterns and spears.”

For some of our current guests, I fear this would be the highlight of their trip. I’m always glad when people are pleased with the accommodation, but we’re hosting an American family who were over-enthusiastic about everything in the tent whilst I was showing them around.

“OH MY GOD! Is this the toilet?” they asked, pointing at the toilet. After I’ve confirmed that it is definitely a toilet, they call the rest of the family over. “Jackson! Look at the toilet!” Six of us crowdily gather close, reverently staring at a toilet. A hand falteringly reaches out to touch but, losing courage at the last moment, sinks back to its owner’s side.

Joe shakes his head, laughing, “That is the strangest toilet I’ve ever seen!” Everyone, save me, nods in agreement. “It’s a toilet! In a tent!” 

I cannot deny it.

Shannon gets our her iPhone, “Would it be weird if I took a photo?”

Nope, believe me, someone taking a photo would be the least weird thing about this moment.

Bill goes to leave the room when something catches his eye, “OH MY GOD! JULIE! Check out the toilet-roll holder!”

Tent Commandments Part 3 – Thou Shalt Not Read Thy Guest Satisfaction Survey Before Thy Guests Have Departed

guest |gɛst| noun ORIGIN Middle English: from Old Norse gestr, rootshared by Latin hostis ‘enemy’.

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Each and every guest is given a satisfaction survey to complete at the end of their stay with us. Luckily, 99% of our lovely guests are 100% happy but every now and then a little pen-and-paper hand grenade is thrown into our trenches.

We’ve learned not to read the completed papers until the guests have gone otherwise we’d march to their tents to grab them by their lapels whilst shouting, “Whaddya mean, you didn’t like the quiche?! Whaddya mean?! I watched you eat it with your mouth open and YOU WENT BACK FOR MORE and I watched you eat that with your mouth open too.”

Or we’d sit down with the guests whilst they’re packing: “Can you justify why you’ve marked me down as average on ‘friendliness’? Hmm? Can you? Because I don’t think you can, mate.”

Every once in a while guests arrive and we can tell immediately they’re going to spend all their time complaining; we call this a premoanition, or if the guests are particularly nasty we say we’ve made a predicktion. We circle these surveys with trepidation, poking them with long sticks and consider calling in the bomb disposal people.

However, some guests appear to be having a lovely time, say they’re having a lovely time, tell the staff they’re having a lovely time but when it comes to completing the survey it appears they were overcome with misery and, to be honest, we were lucky that they didn’t kill themselves during their stay.

Said by guest on departure: “This has been the most incredible experience of my life, I will never forget it.”

Written on survey: ‘Impalas kept me awake at night. Disappointed to get a flat tyre.’

Said by guest on departure: “This has exceeded all our expectations, it’s been an amazing week. Life-changing, in fact.”

Written on survey: ‘Too many avocados.’

Another guest marked us poorly on the interior style of the tent, but when we went back to have a look, she’d actually stolen most of it. We could only assume that she nicked everything before going to bed, forgot, and when she woke up in the morning to pack, looked around and thought, ‘Blimey, it’s a bit bare in here,’ and then, ‘Gosh, I don’t remember bringing a Moroccan lantern on holiday with me.’

The ones that hurt the most, the ones that leave you with open mouths and stinging eyes, are the bad surveys from people after you’ve performed conspicuous hospitality. The guests who turn the camp upside down with their requests and once, memorably, unbelievably yet truly, at Christmas time, the guests who weren’t supposed to be staying at our camp in the first place – their travel agent had made an error but filled with the Christmas spirit, we made room. I’m not going to say they were miserable but, as they walked past our acacia Christmas tree, a little hanging Santa flung himself to his death.

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Disclaimer: Not Actual Survey. Actual Survey Much Worse.

Jeez.