I arrived in Loango Lodge, just on the border of the Loango National Park, on the Thursday. This is where I came to visit in April to make the decision to move here or not. So I knew a couple of the people, mainly the manager – Matthieu and I was ready to get stuck right into my work. However before I could start working on my product development plan for the company, it was all hands on deck to ensure the group arriving on the Friday got to experience a smooth, slick and professional operation.
Samuel L. Jackson and his posse were arriving between lunch time and 4pm in 2 helicopter trips. We had also been overbooked by at least 9 people in this group, due to the fact that the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Forestry was also coming, the head of the ANPN , as well as some eco-guards and a few body guards along with the film crew too.
To combat this we put up tents in the garden, one of the Government Expats even slept in a hammock between two trees next to the pool, while the top officials stayed at our Louri camp with the owner of Gabon wildlife camps, Jannie.
We also had to ensure Louri camp was ready for the big arrival while Jannie was in Port Gentil buying food drinks and extra pipe to lengthen the borehole operation.
So as per the law of Murphy, there was no water in the camp on Friday. The borehole had dried up – Allegedly. Of all the days!
We had to get the borehole working, somehow. This was not even negotiable. Matthieu (the manager) and I worked tirelessly along with all the staff to ensure all the rooms and tents, short a few mattresses were neat and tidy. Yes we also didn’t have enough mattresses – these arrived eventually at 9pm – just in time for bed. We basically made it by a ball hair.
The new pipe arrived at 18h30 and we went about fixing the borehole. By dinner time all the guests had water in their rooms and we had water in the kitchen.
It turns out the staff had shifted the water to pump to the village and broken the valve, so we couldn’t get water while their tanks were happily overflowing. So we actually could have saved ourselves many hours of stress and sweat if I had only just spent some precious time troubleshooting the problem clinically, but I really didn’t know the full setup at the lodge at that stage – live and learn.
Earlier when Samuel arrived in the helicopter in the national Park (Loango Lodge is just on the banks of the Iguela Lagoon and looks across to the Park), before being transported the last leg to the lodge by boat, there was a large crowd that gathered here to get a glimpse of the mega-star. These included some very drunk villagers and their dancing girls who put on a spectacular show for Samuel’s arrival.
The poor guy was bombarded with cellphone’s and cameras shooting images as he progressed up the path from the boat jetty to the restaurant. I must say he was a good sport. In my past experiences with celebrities in hospitality, we have had to practice a high level of discretion. But not here in Gabon!
Later I heard a very funny story about a filmed interview they wanted to do in Libreville at the oldest restaurant in the town during breakfast time. Apparently the night before, after the film crew scoped out the joint, the owners of the restaurant put out an advert offering clients an opportunity to have breakfast with Samuel L Jackson at some exuberant price. The crew all arrived at the restaurant the next morning to do a quiet little interview, only to find hundreds of people queuing for breakfast. And that’s how I think it was for this poor guy during his stay in Gabon, although I’m not sure what happened during his last week here.
His purpose for being here in Gabon was to film a documentary, which will be called “Enslaved”, which I believe is about tracing his ancestry back to the slave trade that occurred here in Gabon.
The film crew did their thing and everyone just got on with their business. I remember I was so embarrassed, I was serving the starter to Samuel during their first dinner and one of the ladies asked me what it was, and I had no freaking clue. So she told me as I put Samuel’s plate down that I should really know what I’m serving the guests. I apologised and went to find out immediately. But actually in my defence, I had basically just come back from fixing the borehole, still unwashed (except for hands), but changed at least and went straight into putting plates on the table, so I really didn’t think to ask what they were eating. After that though, I made sure I knew what was on each and every plate.
For the entire weekend I honestly just felt like a glorified waiter and barman. However I was really terrible at both. Except I was told I made the best dry martini in all of the land. So I was pretty chuffed with that at least.
At the end of it all, the staff managed to get a photograph with Samuel. We felt proud of a job well done, considering some of the managed chaos we went through. It turns out he is an awesome guy and super cool. I’m really glad that he lived up to and even exceeded my expectations as a celebrity.
In Part 4 I get into the nitty gritty of the work I was employed to do.
If you have any questions about this story or about travelling in Gabon, please leave a comment below.