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South Luangwa National Park

Rain? In the dry season? In Africa? Are you sure? Strange but true. Our plan after breakfast is to walk to town and find a minibus to take us to the town of Mfuwe and our lodge near the national park. In town we find a minibus with the help of a local guy, and board it at 09:30am. Over the next few hours we depart the town, and run errands before returning to the exact same spot. After the 4th time, we are convinced that the minibus will never take us out of the town. C then seeks out the guy we have paid our fare to, and demands alternative transport. We are swapped to a different van, in which we run further errands, and pack the minibus to the brim with goods and people. Our bags are tied securely at the open hatchback of the bus, while a bag of frozen meat lies on the seat infront of us. At 13:45 we set off from town and before long the road becomes unsealed. The rain we have had has already turned the dirt track into a muddy mess, and our driver, driving at speed, skids, slips and slides on the road. The paving of the road has been an ongoing project for over a decade, and when dry, the road is manageable, but in the wet, it's a different beast. We reach Mfuwe and unload most things, and they prepare to take us to our lodge. C's backpack is missing! It's no longer in the minibus. The driver makes a call, and locates the bag at a previous stop, and promises to deliver it next day. We struggle to reach the Wild Life Camp Lodge, and have to run back several times until we find a road that is not too rutted. Finally we arrive after another arduous day of travel. We are greeted by the owner Dora who is from Switzerland, and then taken to our hut, and then brought back by 4WD (no walking after dark at the camp, owing to all the wild animals) to the restaurant. We are seated with Wolfgang and Andrea from Germany and tuck into a 3 course dinner of soup, Shnitzel, and apple pie. (We have booked ourselves into an all inclusive 24 hour period, which includes meals and 2 game drives.)
We book a 5am alarm call to bring us for breakfast prior to the morning drive.

The nightwatchman wakes us at 05:15 and we are collected at 05:45, joining Wolfgang and Andrea for breakfast of cereals and toast, and hot ground coffee. Over E's shoulder an elephant has wandered into the camp, and stands in the fading darkenss. We are spellbound.
We board the converted landrover with 3 rows of high mounted seats and with our guide, BJ, we reach the gates of the park as the sunrises. At the bridge to the park we pass baboons, we see hippos in the water, and once in the park we soon see impala, waterbuck, puku, warthog, lion, vulture, lilac breasted roller, crocodile, more hippo, and fish eagle. We return about 11am and have an early lunch at 11:30am of delicious mousaka and salad. Then we wander back to our tented room, through the campsite and by the river front, watching the hippos in the water. Before our evening drive, we have afternoon tea. Back in the park we see giraffe, before a sundown beer at the riverside, looking down on the hippo and crocs. After dark we see hyena and leopard. The rush to see the leopard is abit of a frenzy as the 4WDs race with their spot lights to the location of the siting. The leopard, in the spotlight glare, seemed to lose some sense of the natural setting. He was, however, beautiful and so impressive, and we were slightly mesmerised and knew we were lucky to spot 3 different leopards that night. We return at 8pm, and greatfully sleep.

The following day is another early start and we leave for our morning walking tour. We are joined by 2 English medial students Martin and Amar. The walk with armed guard begins as we leave the vehicle and find ourselves close by to several giraffe. They look even taller from down here! We pass near elephant and waterbuck too. We are treated to a wealth of information from our guide James, including the detail of why hyena droppings are white in colour, owing to all the bones they eat.
We later board the 4WD again, and visit the river beach where lion are lazing in the sun, before seeing buffalo wading in a nearby lake. We return to camp for lunch and plan our next moves.
We arrange a shared taxi for tomorrow with Martin and Amar, and spend the rest of our time cooking at the campsite and watching the hippos and crocodiles in the river.

Next day we bid farewell to Wolfgang and Andrea and board our taxi, which is now a minibus. Here we go again, as the 'private' taxi looks to be becoming a shared taxi. We load up and zoom off. No rain for 2 days means the road is no longer a mudbath, and the driver puts his foot down. The poor girl in the back is soon throwing up as we career along the winding road. We all stay at a hotel in the middle of town, so it is easy to get transport in the morning. So ends our last night in Zambia.

Posted by bumble_bee 07:08 Archived in Zambia

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