Hiking With Robin Pope in Zambia (2)
The days pass too quickly. Our bags catch up with us on the third day – one day to get from J-burg to Lusaka, one day to get from Lusaka to Mfuwe, and one day to get to the camp at Nkwali. We never had a moment’s concern; they kept us informed every step along the way.
Here is what the day looks like – early early you hear a knock on the door and someone says “Good morning!” and you struggle out of bed. It is still the middle of winter below the equator, so it is cold. You jump into your clothing and head for the campfire, where breakfast is served. Toast is being heated on the grill, there is hot cereal and cold cereal, and some mornings there is even bacon. There is always hot coffee and hot tea. You can socialize or not, as your morning nature indicates, then grab your gear and load up. Usually it is you and your traveling partner, maybe another couple, and the guide. Every day you take off to a new area, sometimes for the whole day so you can see outlying areas, and sometimes just for three to five hours.
There is never a game drive where you don’t see something. Most of the people who show up at the Robin Pope camps are good safari travelers – good at spotting movement, as excited to see a bat eared fox as another lion, people who will sit and watch giraffe, or hippos, or storks . . . people who know when not to talk, and people who are considerate of one another when shooting photos or movies.
We move on to Nsefu, where the cabins are round! There is a big outdoor BBQ that night, lots of fun, down by the marsh where there is always something happening. We saw a huge Pell’s Fishing Owl, a great thrill, and several varieties of eagle. Watching the raptors is a huge thrill.
And then – our favorite camp – Tena Tena. They put us in the very end cabin, and oh, we like that very much. Tena Tena is rebuilt every year – you get there by boat. Tent-cabins are rebuilt once the rains stop and the floodwaters recede. The cabins are fabulous – during the day, they are totally open to the outdoors. Big huge king sized beds, flat woven carpeting with pile carpet accents, a large dressing area with shelves so you can really unpack and move in, and a huge outdoor shower and toilet and sink area to be shared with the stars and moon shining down on you. At night, the tents are closed, and an electrified fence prevents too much chance of invasion. The marsh area in front of the camp teems with life – after dinner one night, we have to wait until the leopard leaves before the guide will take us to our tent.
On our very favorite game drive at Tena Tena, we were out on the night of a full moon, and came across a pride of lions hunting. We spent nearly an hour just watching breathlessly as the lions tracked their victims, spreading out, sharing the responsibilities in the pack. There is no ambient light at all, so the sky is black as ink, and the stars are sparkling brighter than the finest diamonds. The moon casts a ghostly glow on the surroundings – enough light I can shoot photos without a flash. It is magical, and unforgettable.
My husband tells this story of Tena Tena:
“One night, I heard a loud sound and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I opened the tent flap and not two feet away was a hippo, eating a bush, and it was the loud chewing that I heard. What a thrill! The hippo was huge! I watched spellbound; I woke my wife. . .it was awesome. Two feet away! And then, the second night, he was back. What a thrill – he chews so loudly! The third night he was back again – ‘that damn hippo! I can’t sleep!’”
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