zambiaCrossing the Zambian border, once again we noticed straight away how different the houses were. It’s quite amazing how these countries are separated by an imaginary line but that line speaks volumes as to the differences in the way of life of the inhabitants.

We spent the next few hours driving and before long we were driving through Chipata and heading for our campsite near Mfuwe on the fringe of South Luangwa National Park. We arrived in time to set up camp and take a look over Luangwa river – on which we were camping – and view all the hippos who were getting ready for the night time grazing. As myself and another lady on our tour started to head down to the banks to see if any crocs were still around, we looked to our right to see an elephant who was only about 20 metres from us eating from the nearby trees. We were dumbfounded and I had my camera on me, but it was already too dark and the sun was setting behind him, so unfortunately I didn’t get any good shots. Excited, I grabbed Kim and showed him.

Unfortunately we weren’t at the campsite early enough for an evening game drive (of which we were pretty much all keen on), so we had to wait until morning. But that night at 3.30am, I was woken up by what I thought was long, loud and repetitive footsteps. I poked my head up to see what was happening to find a lone hippo feeding on some lush grass about 10m from our tent!!! I was SOOO excited I instantly woke up Kim and showed him! We watched him for about 20 minutes – listening to his rhythmic chewing – before I slowly opened the tent zipper to try to get a photo of him. But he heard the zipper and stopped to look at us. I froze for what seemed to be minutes, but he continued on eating after that. My photos were crap as it was in the middle of the night and there was no way I was going to use the flash. He ended up walking away but that was it – the rest of the night at the smallest noise, I was poking my head up like a meerkat to see what was going on, but unfortunately I didn’t see anything. But we heard the hippos grunting all night long :)

zambia2Departing at 6.30am, we drove 5km before entering the imaginary main gate (ie. animals were not confined to the park) and saw some elephants and giraffes on the way. We ordered a leopard sighting with our driver to which he laughed. As soon as we crossed Luangwa bridge right after the gate, we stumbled across a family of elephants. Such beautiful creatures! Our guide was fantastic and was extremely informative and entertaining. We saw loads of animals – plenty of hippos, giraffes, pukus, kudus, waterbucks, warthogs digging for tree roots, crocodiles, loads of birds, more elephants… the list goes on!

We stopped for tea and coffee at a waterhole where we got out of the car and watched as the hippos played right in front of us. Two of them were trying to bite each other playfully – it was so great to watch! We considered it a fantastic drive and were happy as Larry when we got back to camp (especially given Ebron, our chef, had cooked us up a storm of a brunch!).

Kim wasn’t feeling particularly well and spent the afternoon sleeping while I hung out at the pool reading before also having a nana nap. We departed for our evening game drive at 4pm and were all pumped and hoping to see a leopard – this being the place that was infamous for spotting them. We started the drive and saw some cool birds and a single hippo splashing around in a pool that was covered in bright green plants – it would have been an awesome photo if our guide had stopped, but he was not as good as the first guide unfortunately.

But he soon made up for it by finding 3 lionesses in a tree! Whoo! Two more of them were playing in the sand not far from the tree and they then joined them in the tree. So it is true after all, lions do climb trees! It was awesome to see – one of them had both her back legs dangling each side of her branch – it was quite funny! Initially we had got so close I was worried one of them might actually jump on our 4wd! And given the 4wd’s had no roofs, sides or even windscreens, there wasn’t much between us and them!

After the lions, we went to a clearing for a drink while watching the sun set over the horizon. After this, we set off for our night drive. An assistant used a huge spotlight and shone it around to see a thousand eyes looking back at him – a magnificent sight that strangely reminded me of chameleon hunting! We saw some other little creatures that looked like cats but were apparently not a part of the cat family, but they were cute all the same.

We soon grew tired due to the constant searching and following the spotlight and before long it was 8pm and the gates were closing, so we headed back to camp. By this point, we were pretty wrecked and our eyes very sleepy! But we had an awesome dinner – 3 course meal – but unfortunately Kim was still unwell so missed out :(

After dinner, I was also not feeling so great and given that we were wild camping, I was not so keen on leaving my unsteady gut state to chance in the tent. So I hung out for a while in the loo’s to make sure everything that was going to leave my system did so without the need for multiple toilet trips (ie. night wildlife encounters). A friendly frog kept me company – he was behind a toilet roll holder and I became aware of him because I heard a very quiet rhythmic noise like someone opening and closing their mouth. Low and behold, it was the frog – it looked like he was trying to talk to me! So he kept me company while I waited for a chance to get back to my tent.

One step out the loo door and I shone my torch looking for predators eyes. Nothing there, I briskly walked toward the tent. Everyone had gone to bed. I had another quick flash of the torch and BAM, about 20m away I found a pair of eyes looking right at me. My heart stopped briefly and then I realised it was a hyena – luckily on his own. He was being incredibly still until he realised that I saw him, so he ran off. I started breathing again. I hastened my pace and practically jumped through the door of the tent!

I settled into bed, half excited and half buzzing from my little encounter. It wasn’t long before my friend was back, however. He was walking around another truck’s camp which was right in our view from our tent door. I woke Kim (again) to show him the hyena. Then it started going through anything it could find for food. Given it was a hyena, I lost a bit of interest and settled back into bed but was soon back up because the thing was actually opening the lid of the fridge of this camp! I was dumbfounded, but also thinking these people were soon going to be parted with their food supply for the next few days, so I tried to shoo him off – but he barely acknowledged me. He gave the lid another go and got it so wide open that it slammed shut loudly. The noise scared him so much, he bolted. I thought he’d solved the issue with this, but I was wrong as it wasn’t long before he was back and trying again. He actually dragged the fridge about 10m by the end of his stint, which was interrupted when the cook from their camp got up to lock the fridge and chase the hyena away.

An eventful night, it was pretty late by this stage. But once again at 3.10am, our friend the hippo was back to much on his green grass by our tent. This time he got within 2m of our tent!! When I got up to look out the tent window, he heard me and stopped his munching. I tapped Kim and even he was impressed at how close he was! He walked towards Ralph and Jacky’s tent and I could hear one of the snoring. So could the hippo because as he walked past, he looked at their tent to investigate the noise but soon grew bored and walked back into the bush.

Well, I was buzzing the next morning, as I was the previous morning and was thrilled at the nighttime life at this place! We were told that a few nights before we got there, a leopard had waltzed through the bar! As excited as I was, I was still not feeling 100% and there were a number of others in the same situation. There were about 4 or 5 of us who were not looking forward to the next day’s drive!

A small hiccup with the truck again and we were off. A long day’s drive, we ended up at Bridge Camp along the Luangwa River again arriving fairly late. We could see bushfires in the distance, but the setting was actually quite beautiful. As a group, we decided to make a beeline for Livingstone the next day so we could get an extra day’s break.

So we started the next morning at 4.30am, departing at 5am. We arrived in Lusaka at 9am which was awesome – it was like seeing civilisation again! The roads were established, the shops were in shopping centres like in the Western world (not in shacks by the side of the road with hand painted signs), there was even a Subway and bookshops! It was kind of crazy after being 5 weeks without such things!

About 12 hours of driving, we finally arrived in Livingstone after driving on gravel for about 45 minutes because of roadworks and watching a beautiful sunset from the truck. We were so relieved to have arrived and it was an early night for us all after setting up in the dark.

2 Responses to “Zambia”
  1. sonia says:

    wow… that was an awsome story and i cant wait for the next chapters to come. just caught up on your trip and i am speechless. cant even try to comprehend what you guys have actually witnessed with your own eyes. you have to put up some pictures soon to prove how far your photography skills are comming, and so i can attach some visual images to what your describing. cant wait to see and hear more. take care and look after your selves. hope you both feel better by now.

    sonia

  2. No 1 Aunty says:

    Been reading your trip thru Africa with envy as I sit here in boring Bundoora doing equally boring tax work! Keep up the good work. Great to read about your travels and look forward to hearing more. Enjoy and take care.

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