Zambian adventure….paradise found 2-10 May 2011

June 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

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My daughter and I flew to Zambia to celebrate our birthdays (this year both ending in zero!) We flew to Johannesburg with Emirates and stayed overnight in the City Lodge hotel within the airport which exceeded our expectations. A great transit hotel, ample breakfast and a good night’s sleep.

Onwards with South African Airways to Lusaka and then a tiny aircraft Pro flight to Mfuwe where we were met by Jenny in her long wheel based landrover for the short ride to Marula Lodge, nestling on the edge of the South Luwangwa Park. Marula Lodge describes itself as Budget accomodation (backpackers welcome) but believe me the hospitality and friendliness is first class. Fabulous location with the gardens extending to a hippo filled river with seats perfect for early morning tea drinking, many indigenous shady trees, swimming pool, hammocks, fire pit and outdoor dining room. Accommodation is in comfortable ‘chalets’ with mosquito nets for bite free nights! The food is excellent and local in flavour as you would hope for. Early morning game drive means rising early to get the best sightings and back for brunch around 1100 and then time to relax in the garden. Afternoon game drives commence after tea at 4 – these have two phases…pre-sunset with a spectacular sundowner stop usually on the river, and then 2 hours in the dark hoping to sight a leopard or lion before dinner back at the lodge at 8pm. We saw all the animals and birds we could hope to see during our 5 game drives…elephant, hippo, zebra, giraffe, crocodile, wart hog, water buffalo, leopard, monitors, different types of kingfisher, bee eaters, rollers, maribou storks,spoonbills, weavers, hornbills, oxpeckers, guinea fowl, the ‘go away’ bird (because of its cry),francolins and a fish eagle (national symbol of Zambia)…bird life is abundant here. One of my favourites moments was hugging a mighty baobab tree (reputedly 2000 years old) and if you press your ear to the massive trunk you can hear the humming of many bees inside. A very spiritual moment! Also being privy to a mating pair of lions in the late afternoon golden sunshine. Privileged indeed, as was a late night viewing of a day old hippo, following its mother’s tail very closely indeed and narrowly avoiding being squashed underfoot.

Shopping with Jenny in downtown Mfuwe was a great experience…here, vegetables are sold by the ‘heap’ (3 plus 1). There is also a large second hand clothing market (salaluya) and a general store which sells soap, saucepans, bicycle parts, door handles and corrugated iron sheets for roofing to chittenges (brighly patterned and very versatile lengths of material which Zambian women use for everything from wearing as a dress, carrying a small child on the back, to winding as a head covering etc). A pub called ‘Obama’ and another store called Captain Biggie.

A walk around the village with ‘King’ Kenny is very enlightening…his family started the settlement a generation previously and it is now populated by hard working families sharing wells for water and trying to keep the elephants out of their homes. Like in the Three Little Pigs story, it seems houses built with mud and straw are not elephant proof…they come for food particularly in mango season. Elephants are a real problem for the villagers.

On the morning of our departure, Wonky the 60 year old matriach elephant with a broken tusk, and her family came into the garden of Marula Lodge to see us off. When elephants approach there is nothing you can do but sit tight and wait for them to move on. They peacefully rip up tree shoots and new growth, oblivous to the fact that Olivia and I needed to get from the dining room to our chalets to retrieve our cases and be on our way to the airport! Jenny phoned ahead ‘delayed by elephants’ is commonly heard at Mfuwe airport! Then she put her foot down and we flew along potholed roads, making it to the tiny airport as the pilot was starting the engines…eager hands threw our cases on board and we were hastily away….

The second part of our Zambian adventure took us to Livingstone and we were met at the airport by Alan, owner of  Bush Buck River House, found on Trip Advisor. A pleasant ride out of town to the banks of the Zambezi and a warm welcome from Oriel whose cooking is magnificent. Rooms are in the main house and quite compact but the gardens are superb and the view from the Look out over the river, breathtaking. Meals are taken with our hosts in their beautiful thatched outdoor dining room (with crocodile pond beyond) and conversation very interesting – both have great local knowledge and love the wildlife. They too are troubled by elephants, and the next morning we were invited to see the damage by a rogue elephant who couldn’t breach the wall of the garden but lent over and pulled up all the young papaya trees.

Victoria Falls are breathtaking in their size and the sheer volume of water. Before you see the falls you are tantalised by the spray, visible from the air and by road. We were there at the right time as the water flow was at its peak (twice the drop of Niagara) and white water rafting suspended (phew!) We disdained the plastic ponchos everyone else seemed to be wearing and opted for shorts and t-shirts and waterproof walking boots. Hahahahaha! I took advise and put my small digital camera in a plastic bag. My mistake was taking it out to take a photo of a double rainbow….and then the heavens opened – we were hit by a deluge…we were soaked through on the Knife Edge footbridge and laughing uncontrollably. Not so funny – the camera was ruined (thank goodness the memory card was intact so the photos were saved!) It is an awesome experience. Leave your mobile, and expensive cameras behind – take a waterproof one! My boots it seemed were not deluge-proof, hence for the elephant safari, yes I was wearing socks (to keep the insects off) and sandals…my only other footwear. Terribly British!

The Elephant Safari was a marvellous experience – a wonderful hours stroll along the banks of the Zambezi…well worth doing, and the place itself has a charming story to tell of orphaned elephants, and a runaway elephant who came  back (of her own chosing) pregnant and the baby now accompanies the safari. A cameraman films the whole trek and the dvd with edited highlights, African music and scenes from Niagara makes an irresistable souvenir.

A sunset cruise on the Zambezi ended our stay and we opted for a small boat rather than the large ‘booze cruises’ which seem rather international. We still had a well stocked cold box for the duration and canapes thoughtfully laid out on an island for our comfort stop (with outdoor facilities!) which belongs to Zimbabwe and as we’d come to expect, once more the sunset was spectacular.

Our flight from Livingstone took us directly to Johannesburg and Emirates brought us home. A wonderful adventure. What I love about Zambia is the feeling of happiness and safety and a welcome escape from commercialism. Everyone is smiling!

http://marulalodgezambia.com/

http://www.nomadafricantravel.co.uk/house.html

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Debi Evans

Debi Evans

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