THE GIRLS & Dan ON TOUR
By Katie(and sometimes Mum)
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.