Jump to content

Scratching the not-quite-seven year itch: Zambia travelogue


TintinMumbai
 Share

Recommended Posts

(Hi everyone,

 

This is my first post on safari talk but it almost feels like I know a lot of you individually, having literally devoured the content on this website. I thought that maybe I owed you one effort, however insipid and feeble, to give something back in return. The following is the prologue of my trip report to Zambia, a trip that starts after six days! After a day's rest in Lusaka, I fly into Victoria Falls for a couple of nights at the Royal Livingstone. From there we move on to South Luangwa where I split my eight nights in the following manner - Luwi (2), Sleepout (1), Nsolo (1), Kakuli (2) and Mchenja (2). Then we are spending 4 nights in Lower Zambezi at Chongwe Camp.

 

In the way of background, my name is Tintin and I am from Mumbai, India. Our traveling party will include my friend Sayan and my 73 year old father, Rupen. Henceforth in my writings, I will refer to the latter as Dad, to avoid dissociation from my reality. :)

 

I will be posting the trip report in my new blog as well, so it is targeted to include a non-safari going audience. Purists on the forum, please excuse any trivium foisted upon you.

 

The next instalment will probably arrive in about 25 days.)

 

Scratching the not-quite-seven year itch: Zambia travelogue (Part Zero)

 

Prologue: The waiting

 

I have felt it before. I have known it in my stomach, my beating heart and my very bones. Ever since I read “Chander Pahaar” at the age of seven.

 

That first glimpse of the African plains. Some will tell you that it makes you feel small in comparison. From experience, I disagree. I think it makes you blissfully unaware of your own existence. Small is a small word. Nothingness is powerful in its occupied negative space.

 

Ever gazed upon a starlit night sky? Take that feeling and imagine – what if you knew that you will soon be in that big blue mosaic? Now you have started getting close to the intensity of the feeling I am talking about.

 

Ah, so the self is not really missing in action, is it? The excitement and possibility of YOU being THERE does matter.

 

I feel, a safari is the most selfish of pursuits, the pursuit of bliss itself. Bliss flooded with the bright light of observation, projected inside out. See, smell, hear and most importantly feel. But for god’s sake don’t touch! Most occasions at least. :)

 

The last few months have been a blur of activity. Getting ready is not easy. Also, you will never be fully ready. This last sentence is more of a note to self.

 

I have planned this trip and replayed it in my head in excruciating detail over the last six years. I have lived vicariously through so many online forums, trip reports, travel guides; tossing and turning over this option and that. I do not exaggerate when I say that I know quite a bit about what and where. (A bold statement that I hope Safaritalk titans will graciously overlook! :) )

 

Do I know too much?

 

Couple of weeks back I was feeling drained out of emotions. Memories of excitement remained more than excitement itself.

 

The anticipation is back with a bang. Just like that. The moment is so close I could reach out and touch it. I am going back after six years. Mother Africa calls and it is irresistible in the most primordial sense of the term.

 

My 73 year old father and my friend Sayan will keep me company. We will be tracking dangerous animals on foot in South Luangwa National Park and canoeing through hippo pods in the crocodile infested waters of the Lower Zambezi basin. We will spend a couple of days at Victoria Falls. In all we will be travelling for well over two weeks. I plan to stand under a Baobab tree.

 

These are mere details though. Most importantly, we intend to be free.

 

Attached photograph is my last farewell…six years back.

post-49462-0-14871800-1439478177_thumb.jpg

Edited by TintinMumbai
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to a de-lurked Safaritalk life, great first post. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How lovely you will be returning soon. I am sure you will have a wonderful time and hope you will tell us about it when you get back.

 

You can be sure the sunsets are still spectacular. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is a fantastic first post and a very warm welcome to ST, @@TintinMumbai! I feel the tightness in your stomach, the anticipation in your bones. Do you know too much? That's such a great question, but I don't think you ever can - not even if you read everything that was ever written :)

 

Chaander Pahar at 7 was guaranteed to take you down this path, haha.

 

Have a wonderful journey and we look forward to reading it all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Sangeeta: At that age I could probably quote you every line of Chander Pahaar :) I also wanted to thank you personally for something. I had misplaced my Yellow Card and got the vaccine again, from JJ hospital. Suffice it to say, the relevant page from Chalo Africa website was printed out :) I really dig your website which is genuinely 'Chalo Africa' rather than 'Minibus Mein Keekorok Bhejo' that most aggregators seem to be :(. Not that there is anything wrong with Keekorok...but the quality of operators in India continues to be poor. People want to advise without even knowing the map. Imagination and customisation seem to be rare in my experience; deal pushing being the flavour for all seasons. Bravo, on your effort.

Apologies to others for the brief Hindi sojourn. :)

Edited by TintinMumbai
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@TintinMumbai - :wub:

 

Seriously though - thanks so much for your kind words and we are glad the website was helpful. I am excited to read about your trip. Somewhere on this site if you dig deep enough, you'll see that I was once exploring a very similar Norman Carr walking trip for myself with a focus on Luwi and Nsolo. Sadly, it it still hasn't happened, but it's high up there on my wish list.

 

Before Matt gets on your case, let me do the honors - in the time between now and when you leave, why don't you while away your time by writing up a TR about your last safari?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@ Sangeeta I wish for time to while away :( ...but promise to do that report after this one is finished.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@TintinMumbai welcome to ST and thank goodness you've taken the plunge and started writing here. Great intro but I have to wait 25 days more before the next instalment? Such a teaser!

 

I loved Mchenja, the food is glorious and the happenings at camp is astounding. Our guide was Simon and he was an excellent guide. SLNP delivers so I'm sure you and your dad and your friend will have loads to keep your adrenalin going for the entire trip. Have a blast!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

~ @@TintinMumbai

 

A very warm welcome to Safaritalk!

It's nice of you to join us and add your safari impressions.

That saturated color sunset photo is a terrific beginning!

Tom K.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

@@TintinMumbai

 

What a start to give your upcoming trip report a proper attention! You Indians do have a way around with words (on Tripadvisor there is your countryman, now living in England, who also writes long and detailed and almost poetic trip reports!).

 

I have no doubts about that your trip will be as colourful and as saturated and as poetic as your sunset photo is! And so will be the trip report. Looking forward to read it end of September.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Scratching the not-quite-seven year itch: Zambia Travelogue (Part Two: SLNP)

 

Instalment One: The day of long journeys

 

(I am starting off with the second part of the trip, when the pure safari bit begins. I will write about Livingston last.)

 

My friend Sayan caught up with us (me and Dad) at Lusaka Airport after we flew in from Livingston. We boarded the flight to Mfuwe together, where we would start our South Luangwa National Park sojourn with Norman Carr Safaris.

 

It is a short flight, on a small plane (21-seater Cessna). Planes would get even smaller later though!

 

This cute young kid struck up a friendship with me on the flight. She was too shy to talk but continued to wave and smile at me.

 

gallery_49462_1357_612185.jpg

 

On arrival, Adam (the second guide from Luwi Camp) received us. Offers for cold beer were gratefully accepted and we started breezing through Mfuwe village on his Landcruiser. Mfuwe is a village in the true sense of the term, not a small town masquerading as a village.

 

gallery_49462_1357_1478929.jpg

 

My pre-ordained love affair with Baobabs started.

 

gallery_49462_1357_607953.jpg

 

Within about 30 minutes, the small huts dotting either side of the road thinned out first and then stopped appearing. Our first wildlife sighting, within five minutes of this, was a posse of Thornicroft’s Giraffes.

 

gallery_49462_1357_1397528.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_251919.jpg

 

As we stopped we spotted some warthogs and a couple of bushbucks as well. In my earlier experiences, I had found bushbucks to be very shy. But in the Luangwa, Kudus seemed to be more skittish than bushbucks. Kudus of Zambia were especially cruel to me! More on that later…

 

gallery_49462_1357_640642.jpg

 

Then we had our first elephant sightings. Watched a few of the tuskers up close.

 

gallery_49462_1357_3286328.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_570663.jpg

 

I took a deep breath as we drew up to the National Park gate. We could see the Mfuwe Bridge on the Luangwa right behind it. I was exactly where I wanted to be.

 

CC6A0589 DxO

gallery_49462_1357_279254.jpg

 

We came across plenty of plains game as we drove through the area close to the Mfuwe Gate. The scenery was harsh and beautiful.

 

gallery_49462_1357_792400.jpg

 

 

gallery_49462_1357_375015.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_26152.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_285156.jpg

 

The Luangwa mid-day sunstar singes all.

 

gallery_49462_1357_519533.jpg

 

We made a stop by the lagoon next to Mfuwe Lodge. It’s a lovely spot.

 

gallery_49462_1357_3005504.jpg

 

 

gallery_49462_1357_149509.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_54552.jpg

 

 

gallery_49462_1357_809004.jpg

 

We unsuccessfully looked for a leopard that Adam had spotted a night before in the area. We come across some impala contentedly chewing on golden grass flowers.

 

gallery_49462_1357_30791.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_564643.jpg

 

More elephants along the way.

 

gallery_49462_1357_3372823.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_2064154.jpg
gallery_49462_1357_314771.jpg
gallery_49462_1357_1439858.jpg
Soon after, Adam declared that since we were running a little late, we will be taking a transfer road called the “O-Five” rather than take the longer drive by the Luwi river.

 

(Warning: Rant coming up. Actually, a rant and a warning!)

 

A sincere word of caution for future safari goers. Do NOT take this road. It is a narrow alley with thorn bushes packed on either side. You are unlikely to see anything on it. Apart from some doves, drongoes and the odd impala/bushbuck we saw precious little. I was enjoying the bird calls and the sense of isolation but if your time in the park is limited…

 

To be entirely truthful Adam had told us this. But he had also dangled a carrot. He said that he saw a pack of dogs on this road a couple of days back. For the entire length of over two quiet hours on the “O-Five”, I spotted dogs behind every bush.

 

As I was saying earlier, never take the “O-Five”. It is where tired dog dreams go to die amidst the despair of never-ending and self-repeating thorn bushes. You might just be haunted by the ghost of my hopes past. J

 

gallery_49462_1357_2445.jpg

 

I did not say it was not beautiful.

 

gallery_49462_1357_560893.jpg

 

Luwi: Love at first sight

 

Photographic safari dollars generally help conservation. It provides resources and added incentives for anti-poaching patrols and provides an alternative to consumptive use. In the most heartening examples, it provides the local community with a real stake in protecting the ecological riches of their backyard. Generally speaking this is a fairly convenient truth for us safari-goers.

 

Yet, every time you visit such special parts of our world, you do so with some trepidation. Do you cast too long a shadow? Is your footprint too big? Minibus Rallies in Mara and the Bandhavgarh Tiger Circus come to mind as extreme examples.

 

Then there are the likes of Luwi Bush Camp. Good place to exorcise such guilt and doubt.

 

The camp is made completely out of natural local material and yet there is nothing flimsy about it. There are only four guest chalets. They rebuild the camp every year and it is disbanded before the rains come in. The focus is firmly on walking safaris.

 

gallery_49462_1357_933523.jpg

 

Camp design seems reflective of the highest form of civilisation – in peaceful harmony with nature, not at odds with it. There are no compromises with comfort though and the design language is tastefully subtle. Nods to Ye Olde style of safari all round – ebony carvings, antique leather trunks and sheepskin (?) visitor books.

 

gallery_49462_1357_739078.jpg

 

 

gallery_49462_1357_379402.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_2687189.jpg

 

I had great expectations about Luwi from my research. They were all surpassed. Luwi is not just a camp. It is the safari purist’s romantic dream come true. An indulgent fantasy smack bang in the middle of a parched South Luangwa National Park.

 

gallery_49462_1357_747854.jpg

 

The camp is named after the Luwi river, a branch of the Luangwa. It dries up completely and the riverbed forms this long picturesque channel of white sand with serious animal congregations. We were told that once the rains stop in April, the river goes from full to the brim to bone dry in eight hours!! Yes you read that right, eight hours.

 

We were to sleep out on the river bed in two days time.

 

If Luwi Camp is the temple of Walking Safaris, then Lawrence Banda is its high priest. The Professor, is what we called him. Calm dignity, encyclopaedic knowledge and a deep love for the bush. A man you can trust your life with. And we did. (Pic will come in subsequent posts)

 

Frank is the camp host. As I never tired of teasing him, he is a beautiful man! He loves to have pics taken. The second picture is of the second guide in camp, Adam, relaxing after delivering us to camp from the airport.

 

gallery_49462_1357_779526.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_1128673.jpg
We had arrived into camp a little later than expected. We were told that Lawrence had already left for the walk with three other guests. A mouthful of coffee and a piece of yummy cake later, we jumped into the vehicle for a short drive. We were to meet the other guests at the sundowner spot and continue on a night drive with them.

 

We came by the riverbed and saw Amon for the first time as he ambled across the river bed to escort us to the other side. The muscle and teeth to our little walking troupe, he is a ZAWA scout. In 2011 he had to shoot a charging hippo on a walk and had needed exactly one bullet for the job. He smiles easy and broad.

 

gallery_49462_1357_3062412.jpg

 

It is here that we met the other three guests in camp. Conversation flowed, as did G&Ts. There were two lovely ladies from Australia travelling together, Frances and Jackie. Then there was the one and only Joan from Ireland, with whom we caught up again later, at Kakuli Camp.

 

We went for a night drive and it was a novel experience for me. Sighting highlights included a 300+ strong herd of buffalo before sunlight completely disappeared, a big group of elephants and a heavily injured hippo submerged in a dried up lagoon. The lions had had a good go at it that morning.

 

CC6A0738 DxO

gallery_49462_1357_3401925.jpg

 

On the way back to camp we were wondering if the Hippo would live. Lawrence, commented in a low voice, ‘Hippos can take a lot’. I knew two things right away.
One, the hippo would probably live. Two, Mr Banda does not exaggerate for effect. Ever.

 

As the vehicle reached camp and we were about to get down, Lawrence said that if we were fresh we might as well just continue to a party!

 

A short drive later we arrived at the Luwi river bed. There was a champagne barbecue set up for us there. We all gaped at the set up in open-mouthed wonder as the camp staff worked their magic. (Note the blue sparks flying from the chef's magic wand)

 

gallery_49462_1357_284244.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1357_717719.jpg

 

I got along fabulously with the other guests. They were my kind of gals, teasing rough and often. Felt like a reunion of close buddies rather than strangers meeting up at a camp.

 

gallery_49462_1357_39112.jpg

 

We dined easy and slow. Within an hour, the camp host Frank realised that the camp bar is going to need serious re-stocking. I even looked back at the time on the “O-Five” with fond indulgence. I may be exaggerating a bit here.

 

What a night and what a start!

 

(To be continued...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And the journey begins! From landscapes to portraits, from colourful to b&w, and all shades in between. It will be a fabulous September, reading your trip report, @@TintinMumbai !!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's very fun to see these extremely familiar landscapes through your lens.

 

Your "tired dog dreams" line made me laugh, though you're right in that it's a beautiful scene.

 

gallery_49462_1357_570663.jpg

 

This shot in particular really speaks to me. Such fine detail on the ele's trunk.

 

Glad you have joined ST and very excited to see where this thread takes you!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That was a great start. What a beautiful camp but if I ever get there I will remember that shortcut advice. The long way sounds good to me...but they had a plan I guess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice start and looking forward to the rest!

BTW, wild dogs often use the 05 road. It can be desolate, and in the early season there can be lots of tsetse flies. But it's also the place where you might run into hartebeests, and some of the other rarer antelopes in Luangwa (but you can also encounter those along the Luwi river).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you everyone for your kind remarks. It has been a bit busy and I apologise for the delay. The next instalment should be up soon.

 

@@xelas : I have followed your Namibia trip report closely and am a fan. So your words are very flattering.

 

@ Marks: Looks like you had a gala time in SLNP too. It is a magical place, is it not?

 

@Pault: Please take any advise I offer with dollops of salt, especially given the talent and experience this forum is blessed with.

@Egilio: While on safari I selfishly wished many times that you guys share the location of the dens with the camp or at least our party :rolleyes: . Obviously I am not serious :)

Until the next instalment arrives here is something to hopefully whet your appetites.

post-49462-0-43987600-1443126495_thumb.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@TintinMumbai A magical place indeed! Very nice hippo pic, almost like they were posing for the camera (the same cannot be said about that oxpecker! :)).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@TintinMumbai AAhhhh South Luangwa. i remember that Mfuwe gate. we had arrived in the evening, but your picture in broad daylight recalls clearly the sense of wondrous expectations, the fast heartbeat that precedes the thought that any second soon you would see the wildlife you came to admire,and the sense of urgency that the gate formalities be quickly ended.

 

Great pics, but I especially love that closeup picture of the impala as she delicately opens her mouth to eat the flower, and the little tongue rolled up anticipating the morsel.

 

Hope the baby hippo didn't get crushed in your last pix among the giants!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What an appealing start to your report - I almost feel I am there with you and can't wait for it to continue! South Luangwa is on my list but haven't made it there yet!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Scratching the not-quite-seven year itch: Zambia Travelogue (Part Two: SLNP)

Instalment Two: Introduction to walking safaris

Mosquitoes are droning with menace and purpose. I am trying to shake my head vigorously to ward them off. Ironically, my head seems to have a mind of its own! It is moving in slow motion with the occasional laboured jerk. The stock market has crashed and all my clients are trying to reach me in vain. They are deeply disappointed in the character of a man who has run away in the middle of a crisis. I am shouting at the top of my voice to attract their attention but no sound is coming out. For some reason my eyes are burning. The roof sounds like it would cave in.

 

I sit up on my bed with a start. True enough, something is eating big chunks off our roof!

 

Dad is up too. I hear myself telling him, in a manner of assurance, ‘Elephants’. I look at the massive shadow outside my window. This is fun. I chuckle and glance down at the inviting pillow. It beckons me and I gratefully sink down into a sweaty warm haze. The roof munching melts away ever so slowly.

 

After going back to our rooms the night before, we had realised that the chalet is rather open from all sides. Big gaps left between the ceiling and the walls, for easy ventilation. Forget leopards, I have seen street dogs jump higher. No door to our open plan bathroom. My Dad and I agreed that pretty much any inquisitive animal could pay us a visit any time they wanted. Surprisingly, this realisation was liberation itself. I even summoned the courage to step out for a minute to shoot the moon. With eyes pressed up against the viewfinder, blind to your surroundings, every twig snap is a leaping lion!

 

gallery_49462_1368_37204.jpg

 

The wake up call is a gently murmured ‘Good Morning’. I am up and running. Somewhere in here, must lie a life lesson?

 

Breakfast is yummy and I bag a few sunrise shots.

 

gallery_49462_1368_3163172.jpg

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_3085816.jpg

 

We say fond farewells to our new friends. (Here is Dad with them)

 

gallery_49462_1368_740532.jpg

 

Sayan has also had an elephant visit in the night and is thrilled to bits. Words like magical thrown about. He regrets not attempting an iphone video.

 

We are ready for our first walk. At least, so we think. After a brief security talk we are off.

 

gallery_49462_1368_5107389.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_1414355.jpg

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_847830.jpg

 

 

We arrive at this small lagoon with a large hippo pod. All the hippos rush away at our approach, apart from this lone bull that keeps calling out to his ladies to not run away.

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_216977.jpg

 

Understandably, he is not happy to see us.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1351535.jpg

 

We see a Grey Heron (?) score a kill.

 

gallery_49462_1368_511828.jpg

 

A family of Egyptian Geese put in a show.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1769772.jpg

 

Initially dad is leading the way forward to a morning swim.

 

gallery_49462_1369_591240.jpg

 

But, he seems indecisive. To plunge or not to plunge.

 

gallery_49462_1368_194591.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_1388290.jpg

 

Mom steps up.

 

gallery_49462_1368_5103508.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_1421728.jpg

 

And all is well.

 

gallery_49462_1368_2649537.jpg

 

Lovely spot, this little lagoon.

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_807433.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_23205.jpg

 

 

We approach the Luwi river bed and cross over it.

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_26986.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_3264692.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_300242.jpg

 

Walking is a novel experience. From scatology to botany via zoology/ornithology, the sweep of Lawrence’s narrative is breath taking in both its vastness and nuance. It is one thing to conceptually know that every bit of life is interconnected within an eco-system. To see proof positive is humbling. You start to question the arrogance/ simple mindedness of many human interventions. Our attempts to control systems we do not understand. Yet bio-diversity wise the world stands at such a precipice today that to have any hopes of conservation, intervene we must. No easy answers. May be reasonable to expect a few unexpected fallouts down the road, even from well meaning policy. We would all need to learn to roll with the punches.

 

As we walked through thick bushes, various animals and us continued to periodically surprise each other.

 

gallery_49462_1368_491180.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_264938.jpg

 

We cross the dreaded “O-Five”. As I mentioned before, I never said it is not beautiful! ;)

 

gallery_49462_1368_3351588.jpg

 

A warthog contemplates a charge and then decides that discretion is the better part of valour.

 

gallery_49462_1368_535141.jpg

 

One of my favourite birds, Lilac Breasted Roller.

 

gallery_49462_1368_8235.jpg

 

Lawrence decides this is where we will break for tea and coffee.

 

gallery_49462_1368_911885.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_1891624.jpg

 

Pictured above is my friend Sayan. A little back-story about the dazzling blue footwear is warranted here. Both me and Sayan had bought hiking boots for our last safari. They had been stored away a looo-ng time. I decided to give my pair a test run about a month before the trip and their heels promptly and decisively broke into two halves each. I passed on this newfound understanding of the damning correlation between shoe-heel health and lack of use, to my dear friend. He insisted that no such thing could ever happen. I twisted his arm into a compromise. He would carry his gym trainers as back-up, purely to satisfy my stupid insecurities.

 

First day of the safari his boots duly disintegrated. Can’t blame them, as them boots were meant for walking (and not sitting on a shoe shelf).

 

The upshot was that no Lilac breasted roller or Carmine bee-eater could match my friend for sheer chromatic chutzpah for the entire length of our safari. In Hindu Mythology, Lord Krishna is supposed to have had deep blue feet. To all our mutual acquaintances, I need not whisper a word beyond this for the metaphor to sink in.

 

As you can probably guess, he will never hear the end of this from me! I would have let this slip if I was graceful, polite or mature. Happily, my existence and personality is uncorrupted by such silliness. :D

 

Me and Dad.

 

gallery_49462_1368_2348579.jpg

 

 

After we started again, I had the most jarring moment of my whole safari. Lawrence spots fresh tracks. Not lion or hyena but tennis shoes and a mini-truck. This is not a part of the park where locals could have walked through. No ZAWA patrols around either.

 

Poachers. Not some locals looking for a Puku lunch either. Lawrence says he will report to ZAWA. The sun is blazing, but it is as if a cloud hangs over our merry band. Downcast glances, impotent anger and frustration visible on all faces. Reality had just run us over. Suddenly everyone was having a quiet and private moment.

 

Such is the serenity of the place that within a short time we bounce back. What happened a while back banished to a corner of our minds, we try to soak it all in. Despite the increasing heat and sweat.

 

gallery_49462_1368_806555.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_1220560.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_2325254.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_313193.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_187623.jpg

 

We cut across towards the Luwi riverbed and spy on impala playing on the river bed.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1208785.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_3102820.jpg

 

We get closer, but inevitably they run off to a distance and give us the once over.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1503802.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_336059.jpg

 

 

 

The achingly beautiful Luwi river bed. To think we would be sleeping here the next day...

 

gallery_49462_1368_3409469.jpg

 

We circle back to camp where Frank and other camp stuff welcome us back with cold towels.

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_2180846.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_3788321.jpg

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An afternoon to remember

 

The greatest luxury I have had in my life is a cold afternoon shower in our chalet at Luwi Camp. Hot and sweaty from the walk, to step into a robust flow of life giving awesomeness, open to the cooling breeze and views of elephants in the open plains - is decadence redefined. Did I mention how the wet straw felt under my feet, every edge of it carefully polished into smoothness? I cannot describe it. You have to experience it yourself.

 

Brunch was garden fresh and yummy.

 

Afterwards, while we were polishing off many more G&T’s than the qualifying standards for Alcoholics Anonymous, Philip, protégé of Lawrence Banda, suggested a visit to the hippo hide. We had always planned to be there but had somehow lost ourselves in the moment, cocooned in camp trimmings.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1400520.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_4844257.jpg

 

We jumped at the opportunity. We did not even get into safari clothes, just picked up my gear and headed off.

 

The hide is situated in a particularly beautiful bend of a largish permanent lagoon. First thing I noticed were the crocs. I really missed my younger brother, who is bit of a croc fanatic.

 

gallery_49462_1368_3294362.jpg

 

You can easily spend afternoons in that thatched hut, nursing a drink and watching the hippos.

 

There were two hippo pods to the left and right of us. Both had a baby each.

 

The pod to the left was smaller but the mother showed us that she meant business.

 

gallery_49462_1368_265294.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_982087.jpg

 

We had the bright idea that maybe we could inch towards the hippos! Eye-level shots and all that. We were smart about it and chose the bigger, meaner looking of the two pods!

 

gallery_49462_1368_79904.jpg

 

And they looked like a rambunctious lot.

 

gallery_49462_1368_658747.jpg

 

 

 

Eyes on us as we got closer.

 

gallery_49462_1368_218276.jpg

 

As we got to about 40 feet of the pod, Hippo baby and momma were particularly interested in us.

 

gallery_49462_1368_637891.jpg

 

Aggressive snort despite the best soothing efforts of an oxpecker.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1679353.jpg

 

In less than five minutes, birdsongs prevailed and we had a day dreaming hippo baby smiling to itself. Dreaming of whole fields of green grass to feed on, presumably. :)

 

gallery_49462_1368_702470.jpg

 

Mom was not yet fully pacified though.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1239146.jpg

 

But soon enough.

 

gallery_49462_1368_869625.jpg

 

We could not thank Philip enough. Also, these little guys who go where eagles do not dare.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1038802.jpg

 

A word here about Philip. Lawrence Banda was by far the most impressive guide on our trip. Being his understudy is not easy. Lawrence’s teaching style reminded me of Pai Mei of Kill Bill fame. :P

 

All walking trips included surprise quizzes for Philip! Real toughies too.

 

When Philip was out of earshot Lawrence confided in us one time, ‘I see something in the boy, that is why I push him’.

 

I have no doubt that Philip will on to great things, boot camp hardened and battle ready in binoculars.

 

But the human constitution is frail… ;)

 

The cruel tutelage of Pai Mei does strange things to a man. Here is a man searching desperately for tenderness.

 

gallery_49462_1368_3285204.jpg

 

Meanwhile in the beautiful lagoon.

 

gallery_49462_1368_5208420.jpg

 

A wider frame.

 

gallery_49462_1368_2095861.jpg

 

We realise that we are not the only ones doing the watching. Here is an intrepid waterbuck.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1260453.jpg

 

Suddenly, it was evening game drive time.

 

A strange sort of evening

 

We scampered back to camp. After the time-honoured tradition of coffee and cake, we left on the vehicle. The idea was to get to a pre-designated spot from where we start our walk.

 

On the way we come across these elephant bulls that had declared war on palm trees.

 

gallery_49462_1368_749022.jpg

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_1205963.jpg

 

We marvel at their size, until something much bigger emerges from the bushes!

 

 

I cannot describe in words how stately this bull was, so I will let the photos speak for themselves. This was self-assurance on a different plane. It could not care less about us.

 

gallery_49462_1368_4042131.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_2298263.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_116092.jpg

 

There was just one brief moment of careful assessment, pregnant with acceptance.

 

gallery_49462_1368_624646.jpg

 

As it moved back into the bushes, we ambled on looking at the rest of the group.

 

 

Shortly, we faced a road block.

 

gallery_49462_1368_2836388.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_1360329.jpg

 

He was in no mood to let us pass.

 

gallery_49462_1368_402796.jpg

 

He moved off after some time but remained very antsy about our presence.

 

gallery_49462_1368_1525000.jpg

 

This juvenile vulture was clearly not bullish about our chances to make it through this scrape. Is that cautious optimism that I detect in its eyes?

 

gallery_49462_1368_874134.jpg

 

 

We reached the pre-designated spot and started our walk.

 

gallery_49462_1368_3178084.jpg

 

We walked through thick bush trying to get close to a couple of elephants.

 

gallery_49462_1368_3089818.jpg

 

A puku marvels at our stupidity.

 

gallery_49462_1368_537647.jpg

 

After 30 minutes of dogged bush-crawling, we realised that there were almost no approaches to get close, that did not compromise us. Too many other elephants around and the wind direction was not favourable.

 

Mr Banda called time on this sortie and we started to meander towards the Luwi river bed.

 

gallery_49462_1368_55981.jpg

 

As we reached there we realised that our pre-designated sundowner spot was crowded by a herd of 500+ cape buffaloes.

 

gallery_49462_1368_6626007.jpg

 

We inched closer and could get to about 50 metres of the herd. It was amazing.

 

gallery_49462_1368_6904477.jpg

 

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_8193533.jpg

 

Then there was the inevitable runaway stampede.

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_2587389.jpg

 

We had sundowners and bore witness to an amazing Luangwa sunset.

 

 

 

gallery_49462_1368_2750769.jpg

 

gallery_49462_1368_2009696.jpg

 

We were buzzed about the upcoming night drive. Somewhere the safari gods must have been smirking.

 

What followed was a super quiet night drive with a few elephants and buffs, all in the first half hour. As we looked for the Luwi boy, the last 90 minutes were practically eventless.

 

When we were back in camp, Sayan half-jokingly started a diatribe about how he had wanted to experience a lion encounter on foot. My dad has only been to Kenya and had no idea about what Luangwa could potentially offer. I could see that the discussion was impacting him. I do not know how many more such walking safaris he could experience, being 73. I was desperate that Sayan’s half-joking rant was not interpreted literally by him. I wanted him to feel special about this trip.

 

I thought that being excited about it was critical to his experience. So far he was doing amazingly well and loving it.

 

 

 

But, I could not challenge one fact that Sayan had mentioned. No predators in two days.

 

I tried my best to communicate how special the whole setting and our experiences had been. But Sayan had lion in mind. I was the planner and therefore felt responsible.

 

Somehow I convinced them that we are going to have awesome predator viewing once we got to the camps closer to the Luangwa river. Luwi was where they should concentrate on the experience and the oft overlooked.

 

(Spoiler alert: Things worked out ;))

 

Dinner was lovely and what followed is one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

 

After dinner we all gathered around the fire for a nightcap and conversation meandered around conservation, hunting, Luangwa history etc. as the Scotch flowed liberally. At some point, I asked Lawrence about the most amazing experience of his guiding life. At first he was reticent but later opened up to tell a story that had every hair on my body standing on end.

 

This was at a time when Lawrence worked for another outfitter in the valley. He had taken some guests for a morning walk and they were trying to track a leopard. The leopard suddenly jumped out of a bush and grabbed the scout’s rifle. Lawrence had watched with amazement, as this trained hunter was unable to fire a single shot and had struggled on hopelessly. Thankfully, the leopard let go at some point. Both the guests and the scout had been too shaken up to continue. Another scout came in as replacement for the evening activity. He was an old local friend of Lawrence that he had grown up with.

After Lawrence completed the evening activity and the whole party was back in camp, the scout had excused himself to go to the camp toilet. In about 2 minutes, the chef came running that an elephant has attacked the scout. Lawrence secured all the guests in the bar and rushed off. When he came to the spot he saw that the elephant was still next to the guide’s severely bleeding body. One tusk had gone right through his throat and the gun was nowhere to be seen.

Lawrence could see a small baby in the distance.

Luckily the elephant rushed away, calf in tow.

As he reached the luckless man, he was moaning for water. The scout passed out right after having a little water poured into his mouth. Lawrence thinks he died right at that moment.

Lawrence radioed in a SOS. He remembers seeing the group from main camp arrive and nothing after that.

Apparently, he passed out in their arms. The elephant was shot the next day.

The guests in camp actually set up a charitable account for the widow of the deceased scout with Lawrence as administrator. To add to the tragedy, human greed took over. It came to a point where the widow’s life was in danger from her own relatives. They had no option but to close the tap.

Lawrence still tries to help her in whatever way possible but she has a hard life.

 

As I went to bed, I remembered the calm gaze of the stately bull elephant we had met earlier. So much power and yet restrained in its self-assurance. Despite the mindless slaughter of elephants that has happened in the region, some of which he must have directly witnessed, he was still willing to give us bipeds a chance to get it right. His acceptance was out there, for us to see. It was a form of, I stand here, and therefore I am. How did that compare with the poachers whose tracks we had found, conspicuous in their insidious absence?

 

gallery_49462_1368_624646.jpg

 

Lawrence’s voice echoed in my mind.

 

- ‘Do not tell me about man-animal conflict. Africans lived in peace with animals for millennia in far more uncertain conditions.’

 

I was in no position to judge that statement. But it was clear that Lawrence believed and cared.

 

Was it just me or was the Luangwa moon shining just a little brighter.

(To be continued...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A traveller disguised as a writer? A writer disguised as a traveller? A poet of the nature? Have skills not only of the words but also of the photos? Our man Tintin! He promised he delivers!! Oh, what a beautiful place Safaritalk is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@xelas: Humbled is what I am. For you guys to take any interest in my ramble and kiddish photos is miraculous to say the least. I mean it, I have seen the quality of content on this forum.

 

Safaritalk is awesome and I thank serendipity for bringing me here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy