November 11, 2015 – 9:12A
It was nice to sleep in till 6A. Had a quick & delicious breakfast before saying goodbye to Kay and all the wonderful and friendly staff at Wilderness Tented Camp before we all hopped in our 2 jeeps and MP and Paul drove us to the airstrip.
We stopped to view a hippo walking around, a dozen or so more in the water and a steenbok laying in the grass. Proctor said that steenboks are affectionately referred to as “chiwawas” because they are the smallest of the antelope.
I couldn’t help but reflect that on the last few game drives I’ve really had fun bonding with two of our travelers Cheryl and Norma. Cheryl is Italian and lives in San Diego, California. She and Norma travel together. Cheryl is very funny with a contagious laugh. She is a great photographer and actually takes pictures of horses (or “anything with four legs” as Cheryl puts it) for a living. Cheryl always has 2 cameras ready while we’re on these game drives and her 40 lbs (I’m guessing) backpack of camera equipment. I’ll never forget seeing her lug that around everywhere. haha! Norma is retired and lives in Palm Springs. I enjoyed a really nice chat with her as we sweated out the afternoon heat in the main lodge yesterday. She is 74 and this is second Ultimate Africa trip with OAT. The other day when Vitalis had us all tell one another a little something about our background and reason for coming to Africa, Norma talked about the peace that she’s experienced during her two trips to Africa. She stated that she believes “God lives here.” I also learned that Barbara, from Washington state, is an artist. I would love to see some of her drawings and asked her if she was going to do sketches of some of the photos she and her husband Dana have taken.
I’m now on the 7-seater “puddle-jumper” with Aryn, Judy, Katherine and our pilot flying back to Kasane Airport. It’s so cool being able to look down and spot elephants and giraffes feeding off trees.
I’ve learned so many new things on this trip. I think back to the days and weeks before I left for this trip and people would ask me what it was going to be like. My only response was I had no expectations. I had never been on an African safari. All I knew to expect was what I’d read from the little “Final Document Booklet” that OAT had mailed me. This entire trip has been quite the learning experience. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about all the wonderful people I’ve met so far. They are always smiling and seem to maintain a positive attitude. I also get a sense that they take very little for granted. They don’t seem to be wrapped up in gossip or “drama” as we say in the US.
Vitalis told us that the African culture believes in witchcraft. He shared two anecdotes of how the African culture relies on guilt to punish those who’ve wronged against you.
One Example: There was a man who stole a plow from his neighbor in the middle of the night. The plow was very heavy and he carried it home on his back but when he reached his home he could not get it off his back. For a while he tolerated carrying around this heavy plow on his back, for many days and nights until he couldn’t take it any longer and decided to return the plow to its rightful owner, who, at first, said to him: “that’s not my plow, you can keep it” knowing that the witchcraft’s punishment of guilt would force the thief to continue lugging the heavy plow around on his shoulders. Finally, after the plow owner felt the thief had learned his lesson, said: “You know, come to think of it, that is my plow. Thank you for returning it” and wouldn’t you know it, the plow was finally able to be released from the thief’s shoulders.
Second Example: There was also a man who stole corn from a farmer’s field in his village and for days he suffered of corn kernels falling out of his scalp and hair. Eventually, the thief couldn’t take it any more and fessed up to steeling the corn and the corn kernels stopped coming out of his hair.
On another note, Vitalis educated us on the cultural belief: ‘you get what you give.’ For example, if you are starving you can go to a neighboring family and they will feed you. Also, if you are out of something in your kitchen (ie. cooking oil) you just go to a neighbor and ask if they will give you some cooking oil (versus walking all the way to the nearest store). The African culture understands there will come a day when they are out of something in their kitchen or they are hungry and will need to seek a favor from that same neighbor. I appreciate all the “learning and discovery” that Vitalis and the other camp staff members are providing us. Well worth it.
We would be landing soon. Then it’s off by minibus, boat and another plane to Zambia. (btw – I’m amazed how well I can write in my journal on this flight – very smooth flying).
Flying at 12,400 feet in our “upgraded” 12-seater “puddle-jumper” over Zambia. Looking down at a beautiful view of the great Zambezi River. We had a half hour delay at Livingston Airpot due to an issue with a traveler’s luggage. Unfortunately, Wifi was down at the airport. What a bummer since, last night, I had prepared a long text of updates to quickly send off to Aaron and my mom. Oh well. I’ll try again in 3 days.
It is said that yesterday’s high temp was 105. Today’s is 110 and we are flying north, which means closer to the equator so I can only imagine how hot it’s going to be in Zambia if this heat wave keeps up. For the next three days we are staying in another “tented” camp but this one’s situated along the junction of two big rivers. As always, I am excited to see what this next camp is going to be like.
While we were waiting on our bus, a group of natives came up to our bus windows selling copper bracelets and wood carvings of animals. After some persistent bargaining, I bought 5 bracelets for $20 – a good price for five. The bracelets are beautiful. I have one for me, Aaron, my mom, my sister Lisa and my friend Lynne. Vitalis said to rub the inner lining of the bracelet with clear nail polish to keep the copper from turning your wrist green. I noticed that our pilot Kyle’s wrists were green where he was wearing 3 or 4 copper bracelets on each wrist. Our pilots on this flight are Shane and Julie. They are very friendly. Shane is from Ireland and introduced himself to me at the Livingston Airport. He was very nice and we actually talked a lot about Ireland as I am planning on traveling there in 2017. He gave me a few tips on food to try and towns to visit. Thanks Shane! Very nice guy.
I’m signing off for now.
OMG! I love this new camp! It’s beautifully situated where the Lafupa River meets with the Kafue River that eventually flows into the Zambezi River. We are literally 100 km from any other form of civilization. How exciting! The camp is called Lafupa Tented Camp in Kafue National Park (say that 10 x’s fast). As our jeeps pulled up, we were welcomed by men singing and playing African drums along with a cool wet hand towel (which has been a standard at each camp). The hand towel is handed to you to unfold and place over your neck or forehead or just rub all over your face if you wish to help cool down … haha! The camp manager is Natalie. Very sweet girl. The back of the main lodge is a long stretching balcony that overlooks the beautiful rivers. The view is absolutely stunning.
When we first arrived we were served another one of those sweet tri-color cocktail along with “High Tea.”
This was tea served with three different kinds of flat bread pizzas (chicken, ham and vegetable), filo dough triangles filled with creamy butternut squash and a chocolate and white cream roll (like a pumpkin roll). Delicious. We sat at 4-seated small round tables along the deck overlooking the sparkling tier and the staff delivered a quick orientation of the camp, only to be interrupted a few times by some nearby snorting hippos.
After “high tea” we were escorted to our “tents.” Aryn and I, of course, are in the furthest tent from the main lodge – #9. We’re practically in stitches laughing over how being the youngest, we’re placed in the furthest tent. HAHA!
I’m sitting at the desk of our tent and absolutely loving the view of the Kafue River. Right beside our front porch is a large indentation in the land leading down to the water. This is what they call a “hippo highway” as it’s the repeated path that the hippos take to get from land to water. Hmm … I wonder if we’ll have any visitors tonight. The tent is extremely spacious. It’s walls and ceiling are canvas with a cement floor and a wooden front porch with two director’s chairs. I’ll definitely be sitting out there. I absolutely love this place although I did love how at the previous camp our beds faced the opening flaps of the tent for a great view. I also miss Kay and the staff there. They were all so nice and friendly.
We are surrounded by a lot of tall trees so it doesn’t feel as hot as I thought it would. At 5:45P we are to meet at the main lodge to leave for our first game drive in Kafue National Park – so excited!
We’re back at our “tent” after a delicious dinner. For my “sundowner” drink I chose a Jack & Coke instead of a beer – which was very refreshing. Our game drive was very interesting because half of it was a “night drive.” The elephants are more aggressive here because of the history of poaching in the area. We encountered an elephant and our guide “Golden” (short for “Golden Boy”) would only stop for a few seconds for pictures. The elephant looked up from the tree he was eating, turned to face us and immediately started towards us with his trunk raised and that’s when “Golden” stepped on the gas. Wow! That elephant meant serious business. I think all of our hearts literally skipped a few beats. Next we heard the warning call of a puku (another type of antelope that is prevalent in these parts) and just then a leopard striding down from its perch on top of a termite mound and disappeared into the “thicket.” So for the next half hour, we drove throughout the area with “Golden” directing the spotlight all around looking for the glowing eyes of that leopard. What a unique and exciting experience. We never did see the leopard again but it was cool looking out with the spotlight and seeing pairs or dozens of pairs of eyes glowing back at you from a distance. Someone mentioned the glowing eyes looked like a small town in the distance and I said: “Yes, it looks like Bethlehem” and we all agreed that that was a perfect description of how peaceful and beautiful those eyes appeared among the dark African night. Mostly, we saw puku and impala but we did see a mom, dad and baby hippo walking in the grass. Later on, we spotted another few hippos, a beautiful genet cat, a scrub hair in the middle of the dirt road staring back at us and two spotted hyenas creeping along – very spooky. My camera takes horrible night shots but one of the couples in our jeep Dana and Barbara had an amazing camera that beautifully captured one of the hyenas. Dana promised to send me that shot! I love these night drives! Very peaceful and intriguing to be on the hunt for these wild animals at night.
During dinner, an elephant walked right up to the entrance of the main lodge but the staff quickly “shoo’d” it away. Golden then told us a story about one night last week when one of the guests blew their air horn (which is supposed to be for medical emergencies ONLY) because their was a hippo outside the door of their tent. The entire staff came running for the emergency, with Golden at the head of the group. When he saw the hippo he warned everyone else to go back. The hippo immediately began chasing him. Apparently, when hippos run after someone their jaws repeatedly open and close. So imaging Golden’s fear as he looks back to see this giant opening and closing jaw at his heels. The hippo chased him all the way inside the main lodge where Golden was finally able to dart behind a corner, which confused the hippo, and Golden managed to get away. Wow! What an incredible story.
Speaking of hippos, Aryn and I just heard one snorting and grunting outside our tent. We’re hoping to hear more. We just heard a hyena too. Hoping to sleep well tonight and praying for cooler temperatures tomorrow. The good news is there is a swimming pool here.
Okay … I’m sitting here at the desk in our tent and there is something very large moving very slowly right outside. The noise started right behind where Aryn is laying in bed, across the room, surrounded by mosquito netting and writing in her journal. She can literally hear it breathing down her neck. Holy cow. Hold on.
We just turned off our main lights and it moved to the back of our tent. I stood up on our toilet seat to try looking out through the screens above the bathroom but it was too dark out to see anything. By the sound of it we assume it must be a hippo because when we heard it eating the leaves, it was too quiet for an elephant which would be breaking off tree branches and leaves to eat where it sounds like this thing is going only for the grass on the ground. I hope these canvas walls are strong. Very exciting yet quite intimidating.
Oh Geez, it just pooped outside our tent – you can totally smell it. It’s amazing to us that there is nothing more than a canvas wall separating us from this 2.5-3.5 ton wild beast. OMG! It is now scratching is body against the back corner of our tent. Our entire camp walls and ceiling are now shaking. Holy Geez!
Now it’s walking along the side of our tent and seems to be heading towards the water. I can see it now through the screened windows and yes – it is a massive hippo. Amazing!
Well, on that note, time for bed. I hope I can fall asleep after that experience. HAHA! Night night! Don’t let the hippos bite! 🙂