THE GIRLS & DAN – MALAWI & ZAMBIA SAFARI

 

THE GIRLS & Dan ON TOUR

 

By Katie(and sometimes Mum)

 

 

Day 1

 

 

We arrived in Lilongwe to an emotional reunion with the parents and swiftly loaded our kit and selves into The Landy,a tight fit, but before long we were on the road, after2-3 hours, we crossed the border at Mchinji into Zambia. A novel experience, but it was achieved quite swiftly, so I’m told. Spent our first night camping at Deans lodge in Chipata after stocking up on food and drink, plus 5 kilos of Groundnuts bought on the roadside). A cosy first night, snuggled up with Meely and Dan,in the ground tent – We were faily exhausted after the flight, catching up on all the news with Mum & Dad and distributing all the various items they had asked us to bring out.

 

Day 2

 

Up early the next day, hit the road and drove to South Luangwa National Park.

 

First sighting went to Meely with her monkey find. Our arrival at Track and Trail Camp was a bumpy one filled with much bouncing, hitting our heads on the roof due to Dad being distracted by the far more interesting hedgerows full of birds, rather than the speed bumps on the road!

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the tree house

the tree house

 

 

We set up camp – parents in their roof-tent and us on a Treehouse balcony to avoid the elephants, which Mum had specifically requested for our safety, apparently the Elephants are particularly interested in vehicles especially when they have fruit and veg in the back,and tend to wander around the camp, giving no warning of their arrival, so we had to give our shopping to the kitchen for safe keeping!It was a great spot, with a lovely Lodge overlooking the river. We went swimming in the pool to cool off, whilst watching the many Hippos and Crocodiles in the river. We decided to stay here for the rest of day as it was getting late, but we were happy just chilling and chatting. summond back to the tent by Dad who had just spotted 3 giraffe about 100 yards away, drinking at a watering hole,suddenly at the same time we saw some Impala and puku or ‘poo picks’ as I like to call them, that were rather close to a croccodile dinner incident, I thought, but escaped without any real drama.

 

 

We were invaded by Baboons and Monkeys at dinner but Dad got the trusty catapult out and soon they were off. Retired to bed with much rustling in the bushes – an Elephant finally made an appearance about 50 metres away- it felt like Christmas, especially as we were so excited about the next few days, exploring the park.

 

Day 3

 

I woke up at 5am after hearing elephants outside the tent and woke the others.we watched them until the sun came up at 6am and they had moved off, a safe enough distance away from the treehouse that we could escape to the loo.

 

Drove into South Luangwa NP and whilst Mum was paying, an Elephant walked straight in front of the car! Plenty more Hippo,Crocs, Impala/Bush buck and Puku were seen early on, as well as countless birds – Open billed storks, Sacred Ibis, Pied kingfisher,white faced and Lappit faced vultures, Hornbills, as of Zazu from Lion king fame…..oh really Katie!

 

It wasn’t long before we were in the deepest depths of the bush and were invaded by Testes as I thought they were called but they are actually called Tsetse flies.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Katie- ”stay still Dad,your hair is covered in testes!”

 

On the way out of the park for lunch we were cornered by a family of elephants having a lovely mud and dust bath – brilliant!

bath time

bath time

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NIGHT DRIVE

 

Climbed on board the Safari vehicle, with Friday, the driver and guide, who turned out to be most knowledgeable, giving us plenty of interesting facts. We also had a Honeymoon couple on board, which was equally interesting!

 

 

Spotted the sweetest baby Giraffe on entry, then a a few metres further on we saw a LEOPARD! It was stalking some Guinea foul but sadly went behind a bush so we didnt get to view the outcome.

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obliging leopard

obliging leopard

 

Discovered from Friday our guide, that baby Hippo’s can drink milk from their mothers under water and that a group of giraffe are called a “Tower” or a “Journey”. As the sun went down two male kudo came by, with beautiful curly horns, after that, a large “tower” of giraffe, non-stop action. The river was stunning at sunset, we stopped for a Sun-downer, a few photo’s to please Mum and watched and listened to the masses of Hippo.

 

Later on we saw a herd of buffalo, four Hyena’s,Genets and to top it all off another Leopard running down the river dry into the distance,2 in one night, can’t be bad….and a rare treat!

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Arrived back to Monkeys and Baboon’s, jumping all over the tents,wreaking havoc, The Lodge cooked us a lovely dinner, as by now it was too late to be cooking ourselves,extremely close by an elephant strolled up also looking for dinner, but only 10 feet away – just a standard night out really!

 

An interesting night – with all the different sounds, this time woken by bush babies and a grazing hippo, outside our tent.

 

DAY 4

 

On a Lion hunt, we managed to see a Lioness lying down on the river bed just below us, thanks to mum’s Eagle eye! She soon got up though and casually walked away to find some shade, very close though and fantastic to see.

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sunbathing lioness probably had cubs nearby

sunbathing lioness probably had cubs nearby

We shortly turned into serious twitchers,for today at least’ lucky enough to see The “rare” Ground hornbills, which we seem to find everywhere! Brilliant Emerald green Lovebirds,absolutely dazzling in the sunshine. Later at a Lagoon, there were quite literally, hundreds of Maribou Storks,Pelicans, Spoonbills, Goliath Heron,and Yellow-billed Storks. Went back for a swim at lunch time, to find the most enormous beetle in the pool. Later that evening took a drive back into the park, having had a tip-off there were a Pride of Lion and four large males, quite close to the main gate but we failed to see anything, having driven around for ages. However had a lovely sundowner as the hippos grazed,yet another action packed day and such a beautiful park. Before retiring to bed the elephants, came to visit again, this time right next to us in camp. We watched Mother and very young baby munching on the greenery for a while before going to bed.

 

Day 5

 

We went ‘Dark’ (As katie would put it) i.e. Venturing into the Bush, as it’s known to everyone else! Heading for North Luangwa, on roads that have not been used much at all. In and out of a small park called Luambe. We didn’t see much other than at a Waterhole,full of Crown Cranes, Carmine Bee eaters and more Ground Hornbills.

crowned cranes

crowned cranes

 

Katie acknowledged the inevitable, moment had struck at this point and the bush toilet was calling, she had no choice but to try out the shovel and hard ground technique. With roaring beasts(if only) in the background, time was running out. Everyone else was finding this quite amusing, but I was not happy. Mum and Dad might be quite used to this by now, but I certainly wasn’t!

 

There were not many Animals to be seen, but lovely wild countryside , huge MopaniTrees(Cathedral) so-called for their tall arching shapes. We had to argue our way through the final gate as they tried to charge us for The park entry fee.Typical African Logic according to Mum& Dad, as the guy’s on the gate said it was free when just passing through on arrival. We went through lots of pretty, well built villages, With many young children, waving and cheering,begging us for pens and sweets, not that we had anything to give. They started mobbing the car and offering us interesting sour fruits, which we think was Tamarind. We carried on along the dusty track and found a relatively new sign leading to a campsite, After driving for some considerable time we discovered the campsite simply wasn’t there,so after another couple of kms we decided to call it a day and Wild- camp, much to my horror! As it happened we found ourselves in the best(but possibly darkest location we could find)the most spectacular of places on the bank of The Luangwa river, in the middle of nowhere,hundreds of miles from civilisation. The Sunset,Hippo’s and fishermen were all that could be seen.There was a fly camp nearby for posh safaris we looked it uo $700 a night each so we got a bargain!!

danger camp!!

danger camp!!

bath time

bath time

 

Sprayed each other with the hose-pipe to try and rid ourselves of the day’s grime!

 

Cooked some yummy little fried potatoes over the open fire,which I had lovingly prepared,we ate these with Bacon and tomatoes…..yum!

 

 

Day 6

 

I’d survived the night and hadn’t been eaten by anything, apart from a nibbling from a mossie or two

 

We spent the majority of the morning trekking through the mostly unknown and unused roads towards North Luangwa,the landy was certainly put to the test with rocky terrain to tackle and steep, sandy river beds, what with no low gears and diff lock the Beast managed remarkably well, with no problems to speak of.

 

 

Finally arrived after several hours on the road/track at Chifunda BushCamp to find I had developed a rather impressive dust beard, Meely and Dan looked equally hilarious,as if they had just come out of make-up, covered with a thick layer of brown dust, mixed with sweat…..I swear people pay a fortune for that look at home. (a St Tropez Tan I think they call it) The parents don’t seem to notice anymore!

danger camp!!

danger camp!!

 

Poor Meely got a mighty thorn stuck in her foot. Luckily I operated successfully with the tweezers.

 

Lovely open-air loo’s and cold showers, all made from reed, rustic and basic, but being about as far off the beaten track as you can get, came as no surprise and lovely to have a wash!

 

Cooked supper over the open fire once again and admired the beautiful starry skies.

 

A rather large Elephant strolled passed as we were doing the washing up that night With a leopard also coughing just behind us., ….all rather surreal really.

 

DAY 7

 

Had to cross on a Pontoon to reach the park, hard to describe it(see photo’s) we were all a bit nervous to say the least, except Dad, who seems to take great delight in all things scary! It was a very makeshift and rickety construction and certainly not used to the weight of The Landy, but we crossed safely as The Hippo and no doubt Crocs looked on.

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Took a fairly useless guide with us, as these are the rulesa nd we had to take one, so whilst he had the best seat, Mum had to squeeze in the back with us. Had only been in in the park for a short time when yet another Leopard(our third) shot out of the bush ahead and ran straight in front of the car…..sadly no time for photo’s, but awesome all the same.

 

Almost got stuck in the sand,mainly owing to the guides hopeless instructions, thankfully Dad sorted it and deflated the tyres a bit, before we got truly stuck, which we very nearly did. Luckily this was the first and last time as it was rather too hot to start digging ourselves out.(although secretly I think Dad wanted to see us suffer a bit!)

 

Saw a very large herd of Buffalo, several Cookson’s Wildebeast endemic to The Luangwa valley and slightly prettier than the usual ones.

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We wanted to visit The Rhino Sanctuary, but were told we risked being arrested and thrown in jail if we did , so we called it a day. Took the scary crossing back again to camp, but with supplies at their lowest, feasted on a tin of cold baked beans and a few chunks of Orange rubbery cheese flung in….. all this between the five of us……how spoilt we are!

 

 

DAY 8

 

After Porridge for breakfast cooked on the fire, we packed up and left around 7:30 am. The road was dusty, very and bumpy, every now and then we’d be plagued by a swarm of Tsetse fly, which it has to be said, bite and make you itch like crazy.Stopped in a village for some fried Donut/bread roll type things to fill the gap and at Lunch-time found some Chicken and fried sweet potato chips, which were actually very tasty washed down with a couple of bottles of coke. Having travelled several more hours we finally reached the Malawi border post at 6:00pm.

 

After dealing with a couple of drunks at the border we took another two hours to reach Chelinda, home of Mum and Dad. A welcome relief, between them, Nellie and Rashidd had lit the fires and Nellie had made a much needed Cottage pie. After hot showers we were ready for bed. Meely and Dan had a nice comfy bed and I slept on the sofa in front of the fire. Pooped we surely were after 13 hours on the bone rattling road.(You feel quite shaky and worn out)

 

DAY 9

 

Got to meet a few of the locals,many were away on leave. Sadly Dad had to go on a mission to sort out the grader,so we didn’t have time to visit some of their favorite places,however it was good to relax, enjoy the lovely house, clean out the thick dust from the car and enjoy a Rutter singalong session in the evening as we had power for at least 3 hours!

 

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DAY 10

 

Drove to Vwaza, stopping at Chosi view briefly, a stunning location, but freezing cold and windy, so continued down the mountains to warmer climes.Saw a few Zebra, Eland,Roan and Reed- buck along the way. Collected supplies via Rumphi, setting up camp once more at Vwaza.Made a pot of Chilli in the Potje on the fire, surrounded by Hippo in Lake Kazuni,a handful of Elephants made an appearance later on in the evening and we saw plenty of monkeys, Baboons and Bushbuck.

 

Dad did some serious sleep-talking, the Hippo’s grunted loudly and we had a trapped Cicarda in our tent, so not altogether a peaceful night lovely though.

 

 

DAY 11

 

Passed through Mzuzu, most places were shut as it was Sunday,but made a brief visit to the market for some brightly coloured material, then headed on to Makusi Beach on Lake Malawi.

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Arrived in time for lunch.A beautiful tropical paradise, White sand, warm waters and lush green gardens. We set up camp, right on the beach, spending the next two days swimming and soaking up the sun.

 

Ate dinner on the beach to celebrate Meely’s forthcoming birthday, Dad fell asleep, but a lovely evening was had by all.

 

We were amused by the South African campers,with their roll out fake grass and massive telescopes, although what they thought of us I really can’t imagine!

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DAY 12

 

Headed back towards the airport, spending our final night at a really strange camp-site in Senga bay, sharing it with some American army boys, who were obviously trying to keep quiet about what they were doing there. I jumped out of my skin when the biggest Grass-hopper you ever did see leapt at me when going for a shower, Mum and Meely laughed a lot! We slept under some rather foul smelling trees(or maybe it was just the toilets)We will never know.

no idea whats going on

no idea whats going on

 

Set off early for Lilongwe Airport, another strange place,had a quick drink(Passion fruit Fanta)before our tearful farewells,a great time had by all.

 

 

PS

 

Seem to have lost a day in our travels somewhere, but operating on Africa time I think anythings possible !!

Also received a text from Blessings that chickens were all dead from “poopy” as were everyone elses. We learned while away that Pattison the old watchman from Vwaza who had become our frieind had died after being ill for some time which was sad news. He at least lived to seventy odd which here is something official life expectancy is under 50 and from the many funerals we are aware off that clearly is still dropping like much of Africa.

 

THE NYIKA TIMES ISSUE 6

NYIKA TIMES ISSUE SIX

Wev’e been up on Nyika for four months now and the drama’s continue on a daily basis,no matter how big or small,there’s never a dull moment,our stay has simply flown by and with plenty still to achieve,time is running out.
Katie, Meely and Dan are visiting next week,which is very exciting,hopefully we will see plenty of beasts in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, at the same time as catching up on all the news from home. Hoping to visit Nyika and Vwaza briefly so they can see where we hang out! It’s going to be action packed with only two weeks to play with.

On to the news in general….

Took another trip to Mzuzu,the main reason being to get our long awaited work permits from immigration, this time we had success,not without a few drama’s though, including the main man behind the desk doing a bit of shopping,whilst trying to deal with us. He seemed to buy an entire wardrobe, including everything from socks,belts,to cosmetics whilst we shuffled papers with him, still at least he finally gave us the much needed stamp in our passport…..sadly they got the date wrong and it expires the day we finish work, which means exiting Malawi,popping into zambia briefly before returning and being allowed into Tanzania, oh joy! Things could have been worse, the lady, in the same office had been waiting four years for her work permit and still hadn’t got it when we left.

Stopped off at Vwaza on the return journey for the night, hoping to spot some Ellie’s and although we did see some, the Lake and surroundings were full of tourists(which I know is a good thing, but we rather selfishly have got use to having it all to ourselves) so we made a hasty retreat back to the old campsite, it was fairly chaotic with no water or flushing loo’s and some angry Brits on a school trip….it dosen’t worry us much anymore,being self- sufficent and at least they got to see some Elephants at close quarters, which compensated slightly for the run-down Lodge. The Ellie’s then proceeded to inspect our sand-bag bund(a dam built across the river)and thankfully they left it alone this time.(In previous years it’s been trashed) This has been built to keep up the Lake levels for the Hippo’s, which is necessary as the river has been diverted further up North and therefore doesn’t have enough water in the Lake during the dry season.
This year the guy’s have done a good job and the water is rising, which is excellent news.

We travelled Northwards through the park, retracing our road opening expedition of last year. The first half that we(NVT) had regraded,is best descibed as an absolute joy, though there’s still a couple of bridges missing, but as it’s so dry created no real problems, especially for Michael but can’t say I was too excited at crossing some of the dodgy wash-outs in the Northern section, which at least has been cleared of fallen trees etc
It’s a beautiful park and although we didn’t see many big animals there’s always plenty to keep you interested.
Continued back up to Nyika, on the way we saw plenty of Reed-buck,several Roan and the odd Zebra. The Eland are scarce at this time of year as they go down to lower ground for the warmth. We also admired many tiny Alpine plants starting to re-emerge after “The Burn”

Back at Chelinda, it was suspiciously quiet for an hour or two. We had acquired a couple of supposedly egg- laying chickens to accompany our Cockerel,all of whom seemed to be settling in well, although no eggs as yet,………and then back to reality,with impending births,a big local funeral involving the sister of one of our workers, many of whom, together, with several others left the plateau to attend the traditional three day funeral in their village, Gamba on the western side of the plateau. Unfortunately, this is a weekly occurrence…..the biggest problem being AIDS.

Whilst down at Vwaza, we re-visited The Orphanage,giving the children some T-Shirts.They welcomed us warmly once again with some singing,a bit of speechifying which included Michael muttering a few words, I rather cowardly declined, prefering to take photo’s instead. Everyone was clearly very excited about the money Katie’s school had raised.We hope to take the girls there if time allows when they visit in a couple of weeks.
Called in on our friend Pattison,who is still sick and were told he was visiting ”The Witch Doctor” when we stopped at his house.(thoughts of him getting worse sadly spring to mind)

Rashid has our garden looking fab, with vegetables coming on well. What we thought was large cat poo in the garden, turns out, according to Paston, to be The Leopards Toilet……how cool is that though(gardeners world, eat your heart out, imagine having Leopard compost in amongst your veg) although I think the time has come to put away the water pistol!!

Recently, we appear to have become the local bureau de change/Bank of Malawi.
The guys that work for Wilderness Safari’s get their tips in US Dollars and come to us to exchange for Kwacha. This suits us at the moment,as we need Dollars for when we go to Zambia next week with the girls. It has ,however become a bit manic of late, finding the exchange rate,etc, so everyone gets a good deal!

We heard this morning, the sad news that Pattison, our friend and night watch-man at Vwaza had died. He was a good age(75) by Malawian standards and was a lovely old boy, we will remember him fondly, after all those evenings he spent attempting to teach us Timbuka,the local language.

FOOD UPDATE
The last few day’s have been a joy! Bacon finally hit The People’s supermarket in Mzuzu. We grabbed what little there was (three packets) at great expense and although probably not the finest,seemed to us delicious and has been going down a treat, especially since our last bacon was found in South Africa.
Sadly, Rice, Beans and Greens,is still the staple diet for us!

HEALTH
I attended an HIV and AIDS meeting yesterday. Having been told it started at 1:30 pm, I rather foolishly arrived promptly. At 3:00pm everyone else were just arriving(clearly Africa time)It kicked off with what can best be described as a disco,with all the ladies doing their thing,grooving to the beat, babies on backs, another half hour passed and a handful of guy’s showed up. Finally the speaker,HIV positive himself, got started, after the formal introductions. He seemed to keep his 50 or so people interested and well informed, luckily, the school teacher on my left translated for me, so I was able to understand all that was going on.After another couple of hours had passed by I was feeling well informed. Depressing statistics for Malawi,but good news that such events take place occasionally, educating the villagers here at Chelinda, especially being so far from civilisation.I finally departed, leaving everyone to it,the drumming started up,followed by music blaring from several speakers.

OMG
As I sat down to write this, there was an extremely loud Leopard coughing, just outside our bedroom window, Michael went to investigate and it coughed again as he reached the back door/it’s a strange deep, primeval sound, not easy to describe, surprising as there was plenty of human noise close by. Michael reckoned it was only 10 metres away, just a shame you can’t see them, even in daylight it’s tricky !

CASUALTY
Knock at the door mid morning, always met with some trepidation, Charles Chiana from The parks department, with a guy from the timber contractors in tow, explained that there had been a horrible accident and that a guy had fallen backwards onto an unguarded Band saw of a wood miser machine, used to saw the pine trees into timber. We, as usual had the only vehicle available, so we had no option and agreed immmediately to go and fetch the guy. Joseph, one of our drivers shot off to collect him about 2 km away.They brought him back as requested, while Michael and I rushed around getting our limited medical kit together. Michael proceeded to tend his wounds, which were not pleasant, strangely there were’nt many spectators! The poor guy now has three buttocks and is lucky not to be a Siamese twin, he was then whisked away, face down in the pick-up, on the three hour bumpy road to Rumphi. Michael went into ‘elf & safety mode and wrote stroppy letter’s to all and sundry, as this the third such incident this month…..all avoidable. Unfortunately it will probably have absolutely no effect.

TEAM MEETING
Finally we managed to get Sam Banda,the deputy manager here, whose been trying to sort out all the problems, with the TFCA project. Having not been paid for some time and with no funds for six weeks, he had been marooned in Mzuzu. So after several months and one or two visits he finally got here,we had a nice dinner with him and Apollo who works for the lodge and the next day filled him in on current affairs. The much awaited meeting started at 3:00pm, with all our guys(30plus) and Nellie sitting on the grass outside our cabin, we went through the new contracts first, followed by many other matter’s, it was question time Malawi style, but because of Sam’s translation skill’s, it was agreed we had had a successful meeting all round. Meetings and greetings are quite ritualised here
and extremely polite and long drawn out, it was almost dark when we headed for the G&T!