The Great North South Expedition

Due to lack of resources the parks roads have virtually disappeared – Em and I explored a small length last week putting it on the map.

There’s a need to travel them to assess the condition of bridges etc, many of which are burned by poachers. So Kennedy and I planned a trip – nobody had driven these roads for over 8 years and although its the dry season we still had river courses to plot. So off we went travelling north first section is open for a few Km’s then it was axes out to cut routes round trees, make routes to cross rivers, climbing over logs, all good Landy stuff although Emma squealed quite a bit.

We recorded defects on GPS as well as route. Made it to North boundary and stayed at a rangers camp there. Emma made friends with local kids while I looked at houses. Set off next day having been warned the new anti elephant fence erected to protect villagers had been erected in the middle of the track meaning we would have to go through the bush for “ about 100m” this turned out to be a huge under estimate and Kennedy and I chopped routes all morning, bloody hot (40c) plus tsetse flies everywhere. These are like horseflies except they chase cars being triggered by movement so you learn not to jump out too quickly when you stop. Emma was chief killer and the car looked like a massacre had taken place inside by the time we got home – blood splatters everywhere.

The boys at work Kennady using great african axe with removable head for transport

Elephant drinking spot and bathroom. The rangers use this as theres no water for 30k. They get dropped off then walk back through the bush up to 50k – pretty hardcore!!

Tree climb – emma squeeled

We could not find the other route south – long overgrown so we circled round the park on an outside road that is the Zambian border. Entered the park at mid point on west ( say 9 o clock and travelled along another unused track to the north, again much tree cutting etc. Finally broke out on the top track putting it back on the map. Decided to turn round go back down the track the further and again uncharted. This was most difficult as in most places it was simply a very small path/ game trail Finally made it to the other side of a river we had got to previous day and wild camped in the middle of the Park. Kennedy and I did a scouting expedition on foot next morning where we found a place I thought we could cross – bit more chopping and digging and a bit of wellie and I got down across and up the other side. emma not happy as if we get stuck theres no help.

Only a couple of hours back to the main camp so we saved several hours. Nobody can believe we have opened two north south routes which means rangers can be dropped off to patrol back and after repair works to bridges etc tourists can use them again. Filthy wasn’t the word when we got back – only to find no diesel for generator/ pump so I donated 20 litres – still no water till next day but also meant all the people ( except us!!) had electricity for a few hours.

All jolly exciting if very hot and itchy stuff.

 

Since we’ve been back, our Elephant friends have become even more matey since they’ve got used to our presence and come up very close indeed,but in a very gentle and cautious way,including babies, which the mother’s don’t feel they have to protect to the same extent, all we can do is stop and watch in amazement.

view from our door step

they seem to like us

 

Vwaza

Last week,we went to a very interesting talk,given to the wild-life trust of Malawi,by Geoff &Patsy,the Nyika trust managers, all about the work they do up on the plateau, including,controlled burning,bridge and road repairs. Two of their guys also spoke which was brave of them as they had never done anything like it before. Well attended meeting, Michael showed them a few photos of vwaza – I think they were impressed by the number of animals we are seeing so hopefully word will spread which is good.

 

 

Spent last week-end visiting Nkhata Bay (Lake Malawi),roughly three hours drive from where we are now staying. Rather bizarrely,when almost there,another Land-rover flashing it’s lights as it came towards us,turned out to be Luke & Shelley,from the UK, whom we had spent time with in Brazzaville,Congo, whilst trying to obtain our Angolan Visa’s…….a small world considering the amount of miles travelled between us.(they’ve been to Cape Town and back) As it happened they were coming to visit us, but sadly we were heading in the opposite direction,however we parked up on the side of road and had a good old chin-wag,by the time we said good-bye at least fifty villagers had gathered around !

Found a lovely little room at Mayoka Lodge,built into the very steep hillside,overlooking crystal clear,turquoise waters ,perfect for swimming and snorkelling. This is definitely “The Happening

place” with many back-packers/volunteers staying,we had a good chat to two lovely Israeli girls who are volunteering in Zomba, Southern Malawi and had just come for a break. Seeing all these young people made me miss our girls all the more,but we did have some good long-distance chats at the w/e.

We ate some delicious fresh fish from the lake…..actually we ate far too much the entire week-end !

about 8inches long with sting like a scorpion i am told.

Returned to Vwaza,for the working week to commence, Michael’s been busy,measuring up more staff houses with George 2 and having meetings with George 1, in his spare time he likes to make catapults and bread.(I know I’m meant to be the cook and I do all the other stuff,but he does rather fancy himself as the master baker…….you can imaging ,I’m sure !!) The catapult is definitely needed though,as the monkeys constantly want our food. I know I packed ours for Africa ,but can’t find them anywhere.

the “masterbaker”

Michaels been assessing the park workers housing so we can put a work programme together. In one of the outlying camps the women walk 3 to 4 kilometres every night to collect 40 litres of water which they carry back on their heads – try it, that’s over 80lbs. One got bitten by a snake last week and is in hospital. Michael and Geoff were not impressed as the water system is all there and has been for 4 years all it needs is a solar panel and a pump – a firm kick is required ,we think.

 

Emma told me to do this bit.

Visiting the camp office last week, Kennedy the senior ranger called me over and showed me two local hand made guns – brilliant examples of African ingenuity. These are made by local poachers using water pipe and are essentially flintlocks.The detonation is carried out by the hammer hitting a small primer pipe filled with match heads, this then triggers the main gunpowder charge which is made using fertiliser. All done by guys who have never been to school using hardly any tools.

 

African Flintlocks

Corn cricket – none seem to be classified. Quite big though