Hiking with Robin Pope in Zambia (One)
Today it is rainy and cold, and I have “miles to go before I sleep.” In my mind, I fly back to a happier time, and today I choose to be back in Zambia.
We fell in love with Zambia our first time there. We flew in to Lusaka, and our bags didn’t make it. We called frantically from the Holiday Inn and got a different answer every time we called. First we heard that our bags would be in on a later flight that day – which was what we wanted to hear, as we were leaving early the next morning. Later, the harried British Air office told us with clear annoyance in her voice that there were no more flights from Johannesburg, and our bags would catch up with us . . . Catch up with us? We were off to the bush for two weeks!
I was in a skirt. It was cold in the bush, and we had nothing with us but our camera equipment (Thank God!) and a change of underwear. We looked at each other and said “Holy smokes. We’re screwed. What do we do now?”
It was five o’clock at night. We grabbed a taxi and asked him to take us to a place with stores with clothing. He took us to a small strip mall, and waited for us while we ran in and searched desperately for socks, pants, sweatshirts and spare underwear. It was . . .fun! Almost everything we found was from China, but we managed to find it all pretty much in green. The underwear was really cheap stuff and wouldn’t wear well, but it just had to last until our bags caught up with us. Part of what was fun was that we had read Lusaka was dangerous at night, but at least here in the shops area there seemed to be plenty of security and the shops took Visa cards. Within an hour, we had jeans, sweatshirts, socks and enough to live on until the bags came.
At five the next morning we headed back to the airport and out to Nkwali, the first stop in the Robin Pope series of camps. Our large cabin at Nkwali overlooked a huge pod of hippos, and all night we could hear them talking to one another, and occasionally having a huge, very noisy family argument. The food at Nkwali was delicious, and we loved getting to see the kitchen and meet the people who prepared the foods. They grow a lot of their own produce, and have agreements with local farmers to supply much of what they cook up for the guests.
At Nkwali, they provided beautiful linen bathrobes for us to wear after our showers in our enclosed outdoor shower, and kikoy, a multi-purpose shawl/wrap thing in wonderful colors that you can use as headgear, neck gear, wet down to keep cool in the heat of the afternoon, as a wrap – they are both big – maybe 150 cm long by 110 cm wide – and lightweight, very flexible.
Nkwali is such a cool camp. Every detail is managed. The camp manager visited us and assured us they were in contact with British Air, and our bags would reach us the next day. Relieved of that worry, we went out on our first game drive, saw leopard and lion and a million gorgeous birds, and had drinks at sundown overlooking a field full of wildlife action. After dinner, we went to bed to the sound of the soft grunting sounds of the hippo. Paradise, here on earth.
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