Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 14 Part 3

14.3-HEADER

November 16, 2015 9:18P post cont …

After our visit to St. Mary’s School we returned to Kashawe Camp in Hwange National Park.  Just after passing through the boom gate we spotted a lioness walking in the grass.  She was on her way to lie down in the shade of a tree.  As we zoomed in with our cameras we discovered she had a rather nasty scar around her neck.  Our guide, Mafuka, said it was from a snare trap and that he was aware of this particular lioness.  He explained that the park wildlife reserve will soon be coming to treat her wounds.

Wounded Lioness

Wounded lioness walking towards the shade.

Our evening game drive started out with a nasty flat tire.  Our guide, Thabani, quickly resolved the situation and we were back on the dirt road.  We soon encountered a giant “obstinacy” (herd) of cape buffalo.  These animals appear incredibly curious as they all stop to stare at us in our parked jeep.  As long as we sat there, they stood there watching.

Cape Buffalo

Cape buffalo carefully watching us.

The drive continued without much excitement until we got word from another jeep that there was a pack of 19 painted dogs nearby  ‘Painted dogs?’ I thought.  I had never heard of such a thing.  Thabani stepped on the gas and hurried us to where they were just spotted.  Who would have imagined wild dogs could be so beautiful.  Their mottled black, beige and white coats are stunning.  They have large round ears and dark brown circles around their eyes.  What a peculiar yet handsome sight!

Painted Dog

Painted wild dog in Hwange National Park

The dogs were quick to move as they were hungry and hoping to find food before sundown.  Our jeep was on the road looking down from a low ridge and the dogs disappeared for a moment but then we found them again.  They had identified a potential meal: a lone female kudu and the hunt began.  Oh wow!  How lucky are we to see nature in full action.  The kudu went into the river as her protection against the dogs who were pacing back and forth surrounding her.  The hunt lasted over a half hour – right through sundown.  At one point (probably twenty minutes into the hunt) every one of the dogs disappeared.  This was a strategy to confuse the kudu into thinking she was safe to leave the water, which she did, and the dogs instantly reappeared.  Quickly, the kudu escaped back into the water and now the dogs became more aggressive.  They started entering the water in a drawn-out relentless hunt to secure their dinner.  As they drew in close, water was splashing everywhere and with the night sky around us it was impossible for my little camera to  capture the final kill.  But we could see it from where we all stood at the edge of the bluff.  After a 30 or so minute hunt the dogs succeeded in killing the poor kudu.  They all piled on top of her and in less than three minutes she was eaten.  What a rare sight to witness – talk about National Geographic live and in person!

Dogs hunt Kudu

Painted dogs have the female kudu trapped in the river.

Kudu and Dogs

Painted dogs desperately trying to get close enough to make their kill.

I also caught some pictures of the beautiful sunset behind us.  Those of us who chose to go on this game drive were so excited to brag about our discovery to the rest of the group when we returned to camp.  “Good good” as Vitalis would say.

Expecting rain, we all gathered outside around the crackling fire of the “boma” for some entertainment before dinner.  Over the bluff, the distant overcast night sky was being lit up in a deep maroon by the oncoming  showcase of lightening.  The staff formed a drum circle and performed for us and we followed by them singing the African national anthem.  It was beautiful.  Next, Judy led our group in “The Hokey Pokey” and the staff all joined in.  We all laughed and danced and sang together.  It was so much fun!

Boma

This is a shot of the boma during the daytime.

Next, Sally announced that dinner was served.  First, there was soup and then the main course was served buffet style.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love our dinner conversations.  There’s always so much laughter and new discovery as you get to know the local staff.

Now, I’m propped up in my cozy bed.  For the last 45 minutes or so we’ve been listening to the intimidating mating grunts of a leopard.  He seems to be getting closer.  Despite the other mating sounds we’ve heard, including the lion which I actually find quite soothing, the leopard mating call is a little scary.  I hope he doesn’t decide to come up on our front porch.  The winds have really picked up and are actually sounding rather ferocious.  I hope, if it does rain tonight, it’s a nice gentle rain.  But just in case of a storm, Aryn and I are setting our night stand lamps down on the floor (to avoid them being knocked over by the wind) and unplugging our phone chargers.

Nite nite!

 


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 14 Part 2

14.2-HEADER

November 16, 2015 cont …

9:18P

Back from dinner and drum entertaining and dancing around the boma.  For our presentation we performed the hokey-pokey again.  All the staff members joined in and danced with us.  It was really fun and nice to drink a local beer (Zambezi) by the campfire.

So, anyway, back to our list at the Lukosa Homestead.  As we were sitting there in the “summer kitchen” we all went around and told our names and where we were from.  Then each of the villagers, minus the small children, who were only seen and not heard and very well-behaved, told us their names, marital status and how many children (and grandchildren) they had.

Homestead women

The women of the homestead were seated on a mat on the floor inside the summer kitchen.

Shalom, the first twenty-some year-old boy, translated for the headman as he explained the men’s duties in the homestead and his wife, via her grandson, who was the older young man, told us about the women’s role in the homestead.  We were then encouraged to ask questions followed by them inquiring about our life and culture back home.  They were particularly interested to learn about our process of getting married, weddings, and having children.  They were intrigued to learn that some married couples in our culture choose to never have kids.  The woman then brought in a tall wooden receptacle that resembled a butter churn and two long wooden poles.  Inside the receptacle they placed grain and used the wooden poles to pound down on the corn, alternating one pound at a time forming a fast engine-like motion.  By doing this for hours they would eventually create cornmeal. To help pass the time the ladies would sing while they worked.  The grandson who had now taken over the tour, translated the song’s lyrics:  “Those who work will prosper and those who are lazy will suffer.”

Cornmeal churn

Women making cornmeal

(Note:  We are now hearing the deep grunting of a leopard right outside our tent – yeesh!)

The grandson then gave us a tour of some of the structures around the homestead.

Village tour

Young man giving us a tour of the village. Beside him is the village “headman.”

We were able to go inside the girls hut because it was “the tidiest hut in the homestead.”  Haha!  The boys hut was off limits to our viewing because it was “messy.”

Village Hut

The girls room

We also went inside of the “winter kitchen.”  This is where the women do their cooking when it gets cold out because it’s more enclosed that the “summer kitchen.”  Interestingly enough, this winter kitchen is also where they hold “calling hours” for viewing a dead family member before they are buried.  The room was very simple.  It, like the “summer kitchen,” was round.  We were told the kitchens are intentionally designed this way because snakes like to hide in corners.  The villagers build their kitchens round so there are no corners for the snakes to hide.  Against one of the walls was a case of shelves and in the middle was a small fire covered by a metal grate.  On it sat a cast iron kettle with two small cast iron pots beside it on the ground.  The structures where everyone slept (the girls’ bedroom, boys’ bedroom and headman’s house) were all square.

Winter Kitchen

Inside the winter kitchen

After the tour we returned to the cool summer kitchen for “bush tea”, coffee and delicious rosemary shortbread cookies.

African Bush Tea

The young man being very hospitable and serving the “bush tea,” coffee and cookies.

We were also given the option of eating home-cooked mopane worms – yes, you read this correctly – WORMS!  This was a very interesting experience.  Vitals informed us prior to arriving in the village that the women would not be offended if we declined eating them.  The worms come from the mopane trees and are loaded in nutrients.  They were first boiled in water, then fried with onions and tomatoes.  As the bowl was passed around, I took one of the worms.  I mean, why not?  When in Rome … right?  The worms were crunchy on the outside and squishy on the inside.  Their flavor closely resembled that of a sardine.  Hmmm … no regrets but not exactly on my most favorite list.

Mopane Worms

Village woman offering us some mopane worms

As we enjoyed our morning tea and coffee, the learning and discovery continued as we were told that when a young man is talking one-on-one to an elder he never looks him directly in the eye or if the elder is seated the young man never remains standing so that he is above the elder’s head.  Eye contact is considered a form of aggression and standing above an elder is disrespectful.  So the young man must kneel or be seated.  I did not notice this behavior during our visit to the village.

Overall, visiting the Lukosa homestead was an amazing experience. The family was so grateful for all the groceries and cleaning supplies we brought them.  It was wonderful to see smiles on all of their faces.

Smiling African woman

I love the smiles on the faces of the villagers.

Next, we took the minibus to St. Mary’s School.  There, some of the kids came outside to greet us with a song.

African children singing

The boys and girls of St. Mary’s School in Zimbabwe greeting us with a song.

We were able to visit three different classrooms (the 1st graders, a computer room and the 4th graders).  In the 4th grade class we sat down amongst the students and talked with them.  They were still learning English but able to communicate pretty well with us.   I sat at a table with Cheryl and the kids told us about their favorite sports and games to play at lunch time and what they were learning.

St. Mary's School

Sitting down with the 4th Graders at St. Mary’s.

One particular boy was very enthusiastic in answering our questions and even read us a long paragraph from his English textbook.  It was so heart-warming to see the excitement in all their faces.  They loved having their pictures taken and insisted on us showing them their picture from our digital cameras.   Each of these kids had their own pencil, broken in half from a full one.  There were also aluminum soup cans on their desks filled with rocks or corn kernels.  This was what they used to learn math.

African Student Reading

One of the boys eagerly reading to Cheryl and I.

The school’s principal was grateful for all the gifts we donated including reading books, coloring books, deflated soccer balls, pencils, pens and crayons.

Some of these students walk up to 6 km a day to get to school and then, of course, another 6 km to return home.  This made me ask Vitalis if they had to worry about encountering wild animals during their walk.  Vitalis explained that the kids are only walking when their is, at least, some daylight and they are taught what to look out for and how to respond.  However, he said, there aren’t too many encounters with animals except for elephants.  Then he chuckled and explained that the elephants have learned to avoid and actually will run away when they hear children coming.  This is because children will sick their dogs on an elephant who is too big to stop a small dog as it darts in between and around their legs.  This behavior exhausts the elephant who then gives up.  In addition, Vitalis said that children used to roll tires over to an elephant who would pick up the tire with its trunk and throw it down.  The rubber tire would then bounce back up and all over the place.  This frustrated and exhausted the elephant who didn’t expect the tire to bounce so they would eventually give up and walk away in frustration.  So because of this, Vitalis stated that as soon as elephants hear the sound of children coming, they take off to avoid these frustrations.  I thought this was an interesting and hilarious look into the life of the locals.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all the new learning and discovery throughout this trip.

 


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 14 Part 1

14.1-HEADER

November 16, 2015 – 5:50A
Looking out from the front porch of our “tent” at a beautiful sunrise over Hwange National Park.  Temperatures are nice and cool.  Enjoying all the sounds of nature surrounding me and feeling very privileged.  I slept like a log last night.  Heading to breakfast soon.  I have a feeling today’s visit to the “homestead” and the elementary school will be eye-opening.

3:45P

Back at Tent 9.  What an enlightening day for learning and discovering.  Our jeep drive from Kashawe camp to the Hwange National Park boom gate entrance is 45 minute and from there to “Hwangetown” was maybe another 25 (by minibus).

First, we stopped at an open-air market to look around at the wares the local people were selling.  Most of the stuff was items you’d find at a hardware store along with cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, produce, spices, dry beans and nuts.

Fruit Market

A glimpse into one of the open air markets we visited. This was a produce stand but most of the items sold were hardware-based.

After browsing around for about a half hour, we got back on the bus and drove to a local supermarket called OK Market.  There, we donated $5 to Vitals for him to purchase groceries and cleaning supplies for the family at the “homestead” we were about to visit.   Browsing through the OK supermarket was a learning and discovery experience in and of itself.  The store was clean and very well-organized.  There was a variety of grocery items along with a section of cooking supplies, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, paper products, etc.  Everything was arranged on the shelves in a neat and orderly fashion and each aisle was clearly labeled overhead with the category of products it held.

OK Supermarket

Looking in the OK Supermarket from the front entrance.

I bought a $1.00 packet of oxtail soup dry powder.  I thought this would be an interesting thing to take home and cook for Aaron.  I also bought some pre-packaged chocolate chip cookies (brand name Charhons) to try.  I ate two and gave the rest to a family of three sitting outside the store.  Their baby was so adorable and smiled at me when I handed him a cookie.

Flame Tree

A beautiful flame tree across the street from the OK Supermarket in Zimbabwe.

Then we got back on the bus to head for the hosting homestead in the Lukosa village.  On the ride there, Vitalis taught us the words “Chi-ni” (which means “Greetings”) and “Ta Boca” (which means Thank You in the Shona language.  Vitalis explained all about his native language of Shona.  He said the alphabet is the same letters as ours expect they don’t have the letters X or L.  Their vowels are the same 5 vowels as ours but pronounced the same as they do in Mexico.  Words of the Shona language are very basic and easy to sound out as everything is pronounced just as it looks on paper.  Vitalis joked about how difficult it was for him to learn the English language.  He asked us why certain words were pronounced nothing like they are spelled.  We all couldn’t help but laugh in agreement as he gave some examples.  One example he used was the word “cafe.”  He asked: “If the word ‘cave’ is pronounced ‘k-ayve’ then why is the word ‘cafe’ pronounced ‘ka-fay’?”   That’s when Nora shouted out:  “Blame the French for that one!”  Haha!

Next, Vitalis asked us:  “If the plural version of ‘tooth’ is ‘teeth’ and the when you have more than one ‘goose’ you have ‘geese’ then why if you have more then one ‘booth’ you don’t say ‘beeth’?”  We all laughed hysterically at that one.

As we neared the village, we saw a couple of women carrying baskets on top of their heads.  Very cool.

Basket African Woman

A woman gracefully balancing a basket on her head.

There are a total of 500 homesteads within the village of Lukosa.  The homestead that hosted us today was very simple.  There were a few small structures made of mud from termite mounds with thatched roofs, a chicken coop and corn and grain silo made of sticks and a small outhouse made of cement blocks.

Lukosa Homestead

A view of the homestead we visited within the village of Lukosa.

We were immediately greeted by the family who were all very friendly.  There were six women, an older gentleman (the “headman”) and a boy in his twenties.  The school-aged kids were all in school but there were four 3 and 4-year-old boys.  One of our OAT pre-trip letters had suggested bringing something customary of your home state to share with the people at the homestead.  I brought a small pack of Ohio State Buckeye candies.  I handed them to one of the women.  She showed her son who was standing beside her and a big smile came across his little face.  It was adorable.  I loved it.

The family invited us into a structure called the “summer kitchen.”  They said it would be nice and cool in there.  We all filed inside and sat along the built-in bench that aligned most of the interior wall.  The women and children all sat on a grass mat on the ground.  In the center was a long wooden table. The boy in his twenties did most of the talking and then another boy (also in his twenties) came and took over the lecture.  Both of them spoke very good English.

Summer kitchen

In the foreground is a wooden stand used to dry dishes. The round building in the background is the summer kitchen where we all gathered to meet the family.

I’m heading out now for our evening game drive.  I will write more tonight before bed.

 


Trip of a Life Time: Ultimate Africa: Day 13 Part 2

Day13HEADER.01

November 15, 2015 12:46P post cont …

While Mafuka continued making the bracelets out of the baobab tree fibers, he invited us to ask whatever questions we like.  After all, we’re out in the middle of nowhere so, other than a nearby fisherman down on the riverbank, who else in the world is going to overhear our discussion?  No one!  Our questions eventually led us to another controversial topic:  Parents teaching their kids about sex.  Here in Africa, what a child learns about sex is from another adult figure other than their parent.  In fact, parents won’t even so much as kiss one another in front of their children.  Vitalis seeing your parents kiss would only occur at a special event, such as a wedding, and it would be very brief.  These affectionate displays are kept private.  So when a parent realizes it’s time for one of their children to learn about the birds and the bees they will approach a respected elder in the village that’s close to the child (say an uncle, grandparent for close family friend) and ask them to have “the talk” with the child.  It’s not that it’s too embarrassing for the parent to talk to their child about sex, it’s simply that it’s not an appropriate behavior in the African culture.  Very interesting.

While we were all standing beneath the thatched roof of the stone pavilion, listening to Mafuka, we spotted a crocodile floating along in the water down below.  In the distance, there arose a rather plump hippo.

Speaking of animals, when you’re out on these game drives, never assume any of them to be uneventful.  On our ride back to camp, we had a near assault with a rather upset teenage male elephant.  I was able to get some great photos, being so close, but wished I had caught the experience on video instead.  Here’s what happened: we were driving up the dirt road and spotted two elephants to our right.   The nearest one was not happy to see us.  He raised his head and threw out his giant ears.

Hwange Elephant

Elephant throws out his ears as a warning.

I zoomed in my camera lens and got a great close-up shot.  This one is definitely getting framed!

Elephant Close Up

Quite possibly one of my favorite pics from the entire trip.

Our guide Thabani said that the elephant was probably trying to cross the road and our jeep had interrupted his path.  The second elephant stayed calm in the background but the one nearest to us, continued staring us down.  For a moment, I sensed that he and I had locked eyes.  I moved my camera out of sight worried that he might think it was some sort of weapon.  He began swaying his head from side to side, flopping his ears.

Angry Elephant

Angry teenage male elephant approaches our jeep.

We all sat there breathless with our hearts racing.  Thabani backed up the jeep to make room for the elephant, who them stepped into the road.  As he crossed the road he faced us head on and ran forward.  We thought we were about to get plowed over by this massive creature.  Suddenly, he reared back and trumpeted loud.  None of us could move  Oddly enough, Thabani and Vitals, seated at the front of the jeep, appeared perfectly calm – almost relaxed.  After the elephant cross the road he rounded one of the mopane trees, tilted down his head and thrusted his entire head and body into the tree knocking it to the ground. Wow!  Now the road was clear and Thabani turned around and asked:  “Had enough?”  Each of us swallowed the lump in our throat and assured him that we were ready to get the heck out of there!

Charging elephant

Elephant stepped into the road and started to charge towards our jeep.

Now that we are back at camp, I am relaxing on the front porch of our tent enjoying the peaceful view.  At each the 4 camps I have collected a small handful of dirt from just outside our “tent.”  The dirt I collected from this particular camp was a few feet from the stairs to our tent and had a lion print in it.  How cool!  I’m hoping to find a wood-carved bowl with a lid, identical to the ones placed on the bathroom counters at every one of our tents, holding the powdered laundry detergent we can use to wash our “smalls” (underwear).

Before our evening game drive, the camp staff is going to show us how they make origami safari figure out of table napkins.  Lots of laughs.

Napkin Origami

Origami with napkins lesson at the dining table of the main lodge of Kashawe Camp.

3:31P

Maybe this is just a guy thing but it’s so cool to stand over a toilet as you’re gazing out through your screened tent window into the nature of Africa.  Haha!

9:10P

I love watching all the warthogs run away.  They’re so cute with their tails sticking straight up like an antenna and then having to stop and look back at what they’re running from because they’ve forgotten.  So funny.

Back at tent 9 relaxing in my very comfortable bed.  It’s a cool, clear night with no lightening or thunder so hopefully we get a good night’s sleep.

Napkin folding was fun to watch and our game drive’s main highlight was pulling up to the top of a ridge for a stunning look of the golden and green valley below.

Hwange View

Stunning evening view of a small piece of Hwange National Park.

This was a great opportunity for Aryn, Judy, Katheryn and me to capture a picture together with the beautiful view in the background.

Hwange Zimbabwe

Kathryn, Judy, Aryn and me in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Two particular palm trees were pointed out to me as resembling the facial image of two lions.  Very cool.

Lion King Trees

The Lion King palm trees in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Hwange Natonal park

Mafuka and I. This cat’s been leading safari game drives for over 50 years.

We remained up on that ridge, taking pictures and mingling, right through to the final drop of the sun into the horizon.  It was a beautiful experience I will never forget.

Hwange Sunset.

Sunset over Hwange National Park. See image at top of blog for another sunset view from the same night.

Our drive back to camp was full of laughter as Aryn, Katherine, Judy, Cheryl, Donna and myself joked about making up some extravagant tale we could boast to the group in the other jeep about what we saw on our drive back.  The story took the embellished and hilarious turn (thanks to Cheryl’s contagious laughter) of our group witnessing an elephant giving birth to a baby.  Before you knew it we were fabricating that the infant got stuck halfway outside of the mother and Cheryl had to get down from the jeep and assist in delivering the baby!  She said: “Oh yeah, I just reached right in there and pulled on the baby’s trunk!”  We laughed the entire way back to camp.

(Note:  I just heard a hyena in the distance).

Aryn and Cheryl both have much nicer cameras than my Canon Power Shot. Aryn has a DSL and Cheryl a two DSLR’s.  I know they were able to get some pics of animals running or birds in mid-flight that my camera’s shutter speed is too slow to catch.  Cheryl’s always so funny when she gets one of those unexpected amazing shots – with an expression on her face as if to say:  “Wow.  That was 100% luck.”

I’m off to sleep now.  Tomorrow we are visiting a village “homestead” and an elementary school.  These are schools that OAT supports and money has been raised at this particular school for a computer room.


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