So my better half did get a job in Kruger National Park, South Africa and I decided to help her move and check out life of the employees there.
On arrival we were given a nice cosy 2 bedroom house directly on the Sabi River, on the downside it is rather dirty from the previous occupant. Never less we started to get busy with the place and being Africa you will find always people who need some money and are willing to do the job for you.
We lived for 3 days out of a cooler box as we did not get a fridge as promised and believe me when I tell you that the staff supermarket has a pricing that you think that you are shopping in a top class deli with one major difference.
1) You are very limited in your choice
2) There is hardly any fresh product around
3) If you need something which is not available your are either screwed or you go to the next supermarket which is only 30km away.
4) Getting in and out of the Park is a major mission until you get your staff access card and Kudokoep (this sticker allows you to be after 18.00 on the road and to enter all gates).
Having spend a fortune on ice to keep the meat somehow cold in temperatures in the high 30 to low 40 C I decided that we can’t wait until somebody conveniently remembers to bring us a fridge.
Luckely my woman does life in relative close proximity to the Park and I went to fetch her fridge and at the same time stop at the closest supermarket to do some shopping for the house and food for the remaining week.
Well this particular supermarket by the name of “Shoprite” is situated next to a township/village and the last possibility to do your shopping before entering the park.
Taking in consideration that the local population is rather poor and I really mean poor with most people either being unemployed or earning just around minimum wage in an area where your cheapest accommodation for a tourist is just below ZAR 1000,00 per person up to US 5500,00 per person in the 5 star lodges, Shoprite charges you an arm and a leg for rather poor quality food and the local’s do not have much of a choice to either pay their prices or starve.
So nearly ZAR 2000,00 later and a pick up full of goods and a fridge, I’m off to Kruger Park, going through the normal routine of questioning what I want here and where I go, I arrived back at our place just to find out that I forgot halve the cleaning material we need and now I need to go to the Staff Supermarket.
Trust me I spend more money in one day than I normally would moving in Gauteng to a new place.
With all that behind it is time to concentrate on life in the Park and I do have to say that I met and will be meeting some serious characters.
Take my new friend Moses for example, a Mozambique who is a learned and qualified pastry chef and lives for 10 years in Kruger Park.
Now you would think WoW this guy is going to make beautiful desserts and pastries.
Sorry to disappoint you, the catering company who has the contract is using him to grill Boerewoers (South African sausage) chicken and burger patties.
Does Moses has stress and long hours, especially at night? No!
Is he happy with what he does? Didn’t sound so!
Does he earn a good salary as you would suspect a qualified craftsman does?
Hehe the catering company (and I will not name or shame companies here) paid their staff hardly anything in March. Moses did get a full ZAR 295,00 which buys him a small bottle of brandy, 1 liter coke, some soap and a few loaf’s of bread and that’s exactly what he bought from his salary.
However his wife and kids will once again not get any money from him and are left to their own in Mozambique to see how they will get through the month.
And then take Leolin, a colored from East London. He is married, lives with his wive and 2 children for more or less 12 years in the park, his wife works for one of the contractors, his mother-in-law works for the park and Leolin does not really have a fixed job, he is more a Mr. Fix-It-All for odd jobs.
While his wife is making the bigger moolah’s, he spends his money on booze the moment he receive’s it and on Friday’s its party time for him and a few other guys in the park and most likely his wife will only see him on Sunday night or Monday morning again.
The lack of entertainment in any kind of way in an environment like this is the main reason for alcohol and other substance abuse.
You need to imagine life in Kruger Park like being in a 19.485 sqkm prison where roll call is at 18.00 hours expect for the lucky ones who have vehicles with the permission to be on the road thereafter as the closest cinema is one gate and 80km(one way) far away from the park, in the closest town (if you can call Hazyview a town that is) is 45 km away were the restaurants close at 20.00 hrs and the only other thing to do is to go to one of the numerous shebeen’s (local bar’s or tavern’s) along the Hazyview-Kruger Park Road which sell you alcohol from 18.00 – 6.00 from Friday to Sunday and trust me there are enough places in the villages who open from 06.00 – 18.00 to sell you more alcohol.
However there are other examples too, most of the staff living in Kruger Park are loving and caring community members who will welcome you openly into their home (The Park), assist you to find your way, go to church every Sunday and life peacefully together.
Kruger Park boasts a top primary private school which is very inexpensive on school fees, a superb kindergarten, a cricket pitch, a decent size gym, a full soccer stadium, tennis courts, 2 pools and a clinic which is all or nearly for free for staff members.
On top of that the Park is subsidizing school fees for high school, hostel and transport for employees of all grades and how many employers offer benefits like this for their staff?
Another big plus is that you do not life behind walls and burglar bars, actually you don’t even need to lock your house door and can leave your keys in the car, as the only ones stealing from you are the monkey’s which roam around and this is a big plus in a country which, lets face it, has a very high crime rate, as well that your kids can run around and play to a certain extent freely.
Kruger Park and its contractors offers each family a decent house (yeah I know I was bitching about ours but face it, I have seen much worse staff accommodation around the world), allows all family member to stay in the Park and gives you the right to invite your friends to stay with you or enter the Park for free.
So if you ask me, i think for somebody like me who has been living all his life in the big cities all around the world and is not really a nature freak but seeks an improvement of life,spend time with his loved ones and does not want to work his life away without seeing his kids grow up it might be a perfect place to settle down for a while and enjoy nature from 6.00 – 18.00 with the odd beer in the hand overlooking the Sabi River while watching wild life just pass by in one way or the other.
Watch out for more about life in Kruger Park
Hitchhiker of Life.