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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.

 

Publishing

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.

 

Travel

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

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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.

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 12

Day12.HEADER

November 14, 2015 – 7:30A

Today is my dad’s birthday!  Happy Birthday Dad from Zambia!

We are getting ready to take off on our 12-seater “puddle jumper” plane to leave Zambia for Zimbabwe (or “Zim Zim” as Vitalis calls it).  Zimbabwe is his homeland and you can tell he is both proud and excited to show us some of its highlights.  Unfortunately, Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is 80%.  Yikes!  Many of its unemployed are earning money by selling their hand-carved and handmade goods (i.e. sandstone and wood carvings).  Our pilots again are Julie and Shane.  Skies are clear and the sun is shining. It’s tough to leave this particular camp. The riverfront view from the main lodge and our “tent” was spectacular.

Last night, I woke up briefly around 1:30a to use the bathroom and heard footsteps in the grass outside our tent.  I turned off the oscillating fan for a better listen and discovered there were two hippos using the “hippo highway” right along side our front porch.  One at a time, they splashed into the water.  I then, turned back on the fan, walked through the mosquito netting, and got back into bed.  While we were getting ready this morning, Aryn said she had been awake and heard them as well.

I woke up to my 5:30a cell phone alarm (a half hour earlier than our wake-up call from the camp staff).  I planned this to give myself some extra time to sit out on our front porch.  As I stepped outside, all wrapped up in my giant white comforter, I checked my surroundings for hippos.  As soon as I knew the coast was clear, I sat down on one of the director’s chairs with my feet stretched out before me and gazed out at the morning view of the beautiful Kafue River.  The reflection of the trees in the water across  the river was stunningly perfect.  The staff informed us that the water level is currently down around ten feet due to the lack of rain.  From my vantage point, the benefit to the drought is the ability to see the intimately-woven root system of the trees exposed along the river bank.  The low waters also allow the hippos to stand on the river’s bottom and poke their eyes up and look around.  I saw a couple pairs of hippo eyes popping up this morning, as well as, a couple of fish jumping up out of the water.  I could have sat there for hours.  It was so peaceful.  It was perfect!

Kafue River

Morning view of the Kafue River from my tents front porch. Zambia 2015

As I was sitting there thinking, I recalled saying to the group during one of our recent game drives that with all the magnificent animals and scenery we’ve experienced: “I expect my afterglow from this trip to last me a whole year.”  After saying this, Norma turned to me in the jeep and said:  “Brian, it will last you the rest of your life.”  I bet she’s right.

Now, we are flying at 10,900 feet with beautiful views of the green “bush” all around.  So far, it’s been a smooth flight.  Thank you Julie and Shane!

Vitalis told us that on our way to our next camp, Hwange National Park, we are stopping to look at fabrics.  Should be interesting.  I know Aryn’s mom, Judy, is very excited as she hopes to buy a huge variety of bright colors to make things when she returns home.  Vitalis told the women in our group that he would pay for the first round of fabric.  His idea is that they are to bring one of their fabrics to the homestead we are going to visit and the women there will show them how to properly tie it around their waist.

On a side note, I find it interesting how the staff at each of these tented camps will spend months away from their families.  They either work for 3 months with one month back home with their families or work for 2 months with eighteen days off back home.  That must be a hard schedule but they say they love it.  We’ve learned that some of the single staff members end up dating some of the other single staff members and, sometimes, marrying them.  Makes sense because these are the people with whom they spend most of their time.

On another side note, I must say that I have been very fortunate with the choice of anti-malaria pill (Proguanil) that I was prescribed by Passport Health back home.  Even though the bottle lists no specific instructions, I have always taken it will food and have yet to experience any stomach issues.

We are now flying over a large blue lake.  Spanning from its breadth is an intricate system of rivers stretching and turning in all different directions.  What a spectacular perspective we have from this height.  I’m really hoping for some Wifi at the airport.  I’d like to get some communication out to Aaron and Ma.

4:10P

After landing and crossing into Zimbabwe by minibus, we were able to stop at the Sprayview Hotel in Victoria Falls (which is actually going to be where we’ll stay for our last two nights of this adventure).  There I found a single spot where my phone was able to get a good enough signal to send text & Facebook messages.  I camped out in this chair for a good half hour touching base with Aaron and sending other messages.  I also visited the Sprayview Gift Shop in the lobby (bought nothing) and shared a Zambezi beer with Karen, one of the ladies from our group.  While checking in with Aaron I learned that nearly 200 people were killed in Paris by members of the Isis terrorist group and the entire soccer stadium was under threat and, therefore, evacuated.  Back in the US both JFK and LaGuardia airports were shut down as a safety precaution.

After leaving the hotel, we briefly stopped at a small tented marketplace in town to browse and buy the $2.00 fabrics Vitalis had told us about.  They were all so colorful and I bought two (a tan and brown one for me and a purple one for Aaron.  Purple was his mom’s favorite color).

 

Market Fabrics

Beautiful fabrics only $2 a piece at an open-air market in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The bus ride to Hwange was over an hour and before entering the park we passed through an open casting coal mine – very interesting to see.

Now we have arrived at Kashawe Camp in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  From our front porch we overlook a beautiful view of the rust-colored river valley.  Again, the water level is extremely low.  Hwange National Park is 14,000 square km and the terrain is completely different than the previous game reserve parks we’ve visited.  The terrain here is quite rock and hilly.  The main lodge at Kashawe overlooks the dry river valley and the golden rolling hills and tall bluffs.  When we arrived there were 12 giraffes down in the valley feeding off the acacia trees.  Vitalis proudly refers to this as “African tv.”

Kashawe Camp

My travel companions enjoying the view from the main lodge at Kashawe Camp in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

African TV

A few of the giraffe’s we were watching from the main lodge. “African TV” in Hwange.

We all stood in the main lodge and looked out at all the giraffes.  The camp managers, Sally and Ed, requested our attention and introduced us to our game drive guides Mafuka and Thabani and briefed us on the camp’s layout and safety protocol (ie. the medical emergency horns, walking backwards vs turning and running if you encounter an animal, etc).  The current temperature is 98 degrees and Sally explained that this hot dry weather is unusual for this time of the year.   Their rainy season was supposed to have begun by now.  We filled our OAT water bottles before being shown to our tent (Tent 9).

Kashawe Tent

Tent 9 at Kashawe Camp in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

On each of our beds was a towel folded up into the shape of an elephant.  Very cute.  As always, our OAT bags were in our room when we arrived.  We only are responsible for carrying any small bags (ie. carry ons).  The room is very comfortable.  I’m going to grab a quick cold shower before walking back to the main lodge at 5:00P for our evening game drive.  When I get there I do want to check out their gift shop.

Hwange Tent

Inside Tent 9 at Kashawe Camp in Hwange National Park. Notice the towels on our beds formed into the shape of an elephant.

9:10P

Our evening game drive took us past scores of vultures perched high up in the trees.

Hwange Vulture

Vulture perched high up in a tree scouting the area.

This is a good sign that there is a lion nearby so we began scouting for the high profile animal.  Unfortunately, we did not find one.  We did, however, stop to watch an entire herd (or properly referred to as an “obstinacy”) of cape buffalo.  There were dozens of them along with some of their young.  It’s funny how they will stand there staring back at you, motionless, the entire time you’re there.  We also saw a few giraffes, a memory of elephants and actually heard a couple of elephants trumpeting in the distance during the picturesque sunset … Ahh Africa!

Game Drive Jeep

Our jeep in Hwanage.

Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo staring at us in on our first game drive in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Before dinner, Mafuka was standing at the edge of the bluff, beside two wicker chase lounge seats, that looked down into the river valley.  A few of us walked over and he held one finger up to his mouth and said:  “Shh, there is a leopard out there.  I can hear it calling.”   In my opinion, the leopard call is the most intimidating.  It’s a low and throaty panting grunt.  We stood there listening for a while but did not hear the leopard again.   Sometimes the waiting is the most exciting part.  🙂

Right now, I’m propped up in bed at our “tent.”  Dinner was delicious but dessert was even better: chocolate mousse.  Our guides, Mafuka and Thabani, escorted us to our tents bearing rifles.  This is the first time we’ve been delivered to our tents by armed guards.  Apparently, it’s Zimbabwe law.  They did warn us about frequent lion and leopard sittings throughout camp.  Jetting in one direction from the main lodge is the rust-colored dirt path to our tents.  The shorter path to each “tent” is marked by a series of sticks planted into the ground.  The number of sticks marks the tent number to which the path leads.  It was a long walk to our “tent” – Tent 9.  The guides were sure to shine the flashlight into the darkness looking for eyes looking back at us.

Tomorrow morning’s wake-up call is early at 5:00a in order to beat the heat while out game-driving.  I hear lots of sounds outside although, so far, no cats.  Night night!  Don’t let the lions bite!

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 7

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November 9, 2015 – 4:45P

Relaxing on the front porch of our tent watching a warthog leaning down on its front knees eating some grass.  They are so funny when they run away too because they run with their tail sticking straight up like a radio antenna.

Today’s game drive felt long as the afternoon hours seared with temperatures nearing 100 degrees (38 degrees celsius).  It’s cool when the guide pulls over the jeep to show us animal tracks in the dirt.  This morning Paul pointed out a leopard and lion track right beside one another.  We saw some cape buffalo and a huge elephant that started directly at us for a while – very cool, then a few giraffes and before we stopped for tea & coffee around 9:30A, both of our jeeps pulled right up to two lionesses resting in the shade.

When we stopped for tea & coffee, the other jeep in our group had a flat tire that Paul, MP and Proctor had to change.  We also found an elephant skull laying in the grass.  A few of us, including myself, picked it up.  It was huge.  I got a great pick of me holding it.  On these morning coffee & tea breaks I usually request tea.  They serve “bush tea” which is a rooibos.  I take mine with warm milk.

Safari Tea

Morning tea on our game drive in the Okavango Delta.

(Now the warthog is walking towards us).  By the time we returned to our camp were all felt dazed and dehydrated from the heat and the only water in our water bottles was warm.  I headed straight for our tent and downed the entire pitcher of ice cold water.  Took of my shirt and laid face-up on the bed with a cold washrag over my head.  That really helped.  I had the oscillating floor fan directed on me but soon realized it was just blowing around the hot air (sigh).  My camera battery had died (TIP:  pack spare batteries) so I missed shots of all the wildebeests we saw but did get a vid of the zebras running across the road in front of us with my iPhone.  Very cool!  We also saw a parade of elephants on our way back.  Oh, plus, when we stopped for lunch a dozen, or so, elephants walked into the pool of water just a few yards away.  They were gathering there to cool off, taking up water into their trunks and then spraying it up into the air so it fell down on top of their bodies like taking a shower.  It was funny because the guides were trying to serve lunch while we were all distracted snapping dozens of photos of these fascinating elephants.

Spraying elephants

Elephants spraying water to cool off in the hot Delta sun.

On two separate occasions we came across a stride of giraffes, one stride, of which, was gathered along a river and in order to lean down for a drink they had to spread out their legs.  That was one of my favorite pics I’ve taken so far!

Giraffe Stride

Giraffes in the Okavango Delta, Botswana


Curious Giraffes

Such curious creatures. Notice the giraffe to the right; neck stretched out and peering directly at the camera.

We also came across a pride of 5 lionesses calmly shading themselves beneath a toothbrush tree but the highlight was finding two male cheetahs (believed to be brothers) keeping cool and well-camouflaged under a bush.  Our guide Paul pulled the jeep right up to the bush and the cheetahs became edgy.  They soon took off, springing into the air and running to another bush.  But that didn’t stop Paul.  He started back up our engine and slowly drove right up to the cheetah’s new resting place.  Not long after the second jeep, carrying the remainder of our group, arrived.  We all just sat there watching these stunning creatures.  Paul said that cheetahs haven’t been seen in the Okavango Delta since April, so we were very fortunate to have witnessed this sighting.  Wow!  What a discovery for our group.  Again, felt very privileged.  The cheetahs left that bush and went to a third, and it was no surprise that Paul and the other jeep’s driver “MP” followed.  Finally, the cheetahs seemed to be calming down and realizing our jeeps were not a threat.  We sat there for a long time.  It was hot but no one seemed to care.  These animals were so beautiful.

Cheetah brothers

Cheetahs hiding amongst the leaves and looking out for lunch.


Hungry Cheetahs

Looks like one of them may have spotted something (no pun intended – haha!)

(The warthog was just staring right at us and when I stood up to grab my camera, he took off).

Our drive back to camp was painfully long (or, at least, felt so due to the heat).  We passed through a small village known as Khwai, which is actually the village Proctor is from.  Most of the homes were wood framed with walls made of mud from termite mounds.  The roofs were thatched.  Some buildings, like the school, the boma (meeting place) and two “shopping centers” which were no bigger than a 2 or 3 car garage, had cement walls and corrugated metal roofs.  It was cool seeing this village up close and you could tell that Proctor was so proud to show us.  Unfortunately, my camera battery died as we were driving into Khwai.

Village Hut

A thatch-roofed hut in the village of Khwai, Botswana.

I am enjoying talking to all the local people we meet who work at the camps and I’m amazing by how many of them have never left Botswana – not even for “holiday.”  (Now, two enormous cape buffalo have entered the field outside our tent to graze).  The facility manager’s name is Kay.  She is awesome.  She shared with us that she has travelled to San Francisco and worked at Walt Disney World.  She got a HUGE smile on her face as she told us.  She said she loved both experiences.

It’s now shortly after 5P and dinner (a “surprise”) is being served at 6P – very excited!  I’m enjoying the view now.  Later!  (Now there are 3 hungry warthogs a few yards away from us eating the grass).

Hungry warthogs

Two of the three hungry warthogs right in front of our “tent.”

9:00P

Bedtime. Exhausted.  Dinner was tasty and for dessert they served a pancake with chocolate syrup – yum!).  It’s been great getting to know our traveling companions (their backgrounds and interests) and hearing them share all their other amazing OAT travel experiences.

There are so many stars out tonight going all the way down to the treeline.  I wish my camera could capture night shots.  It’s just amazing how clear the sky is here.

P.S.  Today was our hottest afternoon yet – reaching 103.  Thank God for Vitalis suggesting wetting a washrag with cool water from the sink in your tent.  It really does wonders.  Some of the women form our group said they drenched their bath towel in cold water and laid down in bed with it over their entire body.  They said it felt amazing!