Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Hiking with Robin Pope in Zambia (3)

There’s a lot of world to see, and we never intended to repeat a trip. The Robin Pope camps are so exceptional that – we made an exception. The very next year, we are back in Zambia, and eager – we are going hiking with Robin Pope himself.

Who is Robin Pope? He is a native African, and a staunch Zambian. He knows so much about wildlife that he probably doesn’t even know how much he knows. He is quietly and dryly funny. He started guiding as a very young man, and then, together with his wife Jo, began building a very particular kind of tourist experience. When you reach the Robin Pope camps, Nkwali, Nsefu and Tena Tena, you become like family. Well, family who live very luxuriously – the cabins are large and spacious, and beautifully appointed, with fine linens, mosquito netting, shelves, toiletries, all the comforts – a million miles from anywhere.

Each camp holds only a very limited number of campers, supported by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff. They grow their own vegetables, or buy from local farmers. They employ people from the nearby villages. Black and white people work together equally.

One of the things we were able to do was to visit Kawazaa village, to visit the schools re-built and supplied by Robin Pope Safaris, to visit the local clinic, to visit with local villagers. We can’t wait to go back. The second trip, we bring one big suitcase full of school supplies – calculators, books, paper, pens, pencils . . . it was fun for us to find these things, having met the students who would use them, and the teachers who would benefit by having resources. Everywhere we go, we have to sign a book – the villagers get specific monetary credits for every visitor they entertain.

There are six of us who will trek with Robin Pope, and we meet in the Land Rover that picks us up at Mfuwe International Airport. I love that name – don’t you just see big jets flying in and out? In reality, it is a tiny little airport, handling only small planes. There is one small arrivals gate and one equally small departures gate. Because it also gets an occasional flight from Malawi, it can call itself “international.” We arrive at Nkwali, enchanted once again to find the hippo pod right under our window.

Lunch – how do they do it? Fish cakes with lemon mayonnaise, leek quiche, potato salad, avocado salad, green salad, cheesy corn rolls and butter, finishing with coffee and tea.

On our game drive the next morning, Jacob takes us out to see Thornicroft giraffe, and we see lots of elephants and baby elephants, and a herd of over 300 buffalo. After lunch, it is hot and we fall into a dead sleep, awakening in time for our afternoon game drive which starts with a boat ride across the river.

And what a boat ride! The hippos have spread out, and we THINK we are safely past when one of them lunges at the boat, missing us by a thread.

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Thank God, it is hot for another hour, as we are all totally soaked, but also energized by the huge jolt of adreneline shooting through our veins at escaping unhurt from that lunging hippo. On our drive, we see leopard, genet cats, civet cats and a great big lumbering porcupine.

We have dinner down by the river, under the stars, with napkins folded like guinea fowl. It starts with spinach soup, and then there is pork tenderloin, pumpkin, mange-tout peas, cauliflower with a cheese sauce, lentils and for dessert, butterscotch pie. Somehow, we manage not to gain weight – we can’t figure out how.

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October 23, 2006 - Posted by | Adventure, Africa, ExPat Life, Lumix, Travel, Zambia |

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