Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

First Full Day at Chongwe River Camp

Have you ever thought you might like to be a safari guide in Africa? It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? What a great life, you take people on drives a couple times a day, tell them about the wildlife, eat meals with them, it’s all fun . . . right?

These guides work hard. First, in order to qualify as a guide, you have to take – and pass – a national exam, an exam in three parts. If you don’t pass any one section, you have to take it again. You have to know the common name for animals, birds, trees, bushes and flowers, and you also have to know the Latin names.

If you are a guide, people will ask you the craziest questions, and expect you to answer. If someone gets sick on the drive, you have to know basic First Aid. If something goes wrong with the car, as a guide, it is your responsibility to fix it, or to get the people you are responsible for back to camp.

If you are a guide, you can go back to where the leopard ALWAYS hangs out, or to where another guide spotted mating lions, and today, with your guests, they won’t be there, and you won’t see any sign of them. If you show them two prides of lion, they will be elated until they hear that the other guests saw mating leopard, and they will be mad at YOU, the guide, because they didn’t see them. If the day is too hot or too cold, you have to find a way to make your guests comfortable.

At the end of a long day driving and trying to make people happy, you have to sit with the same people at dinner, making polite conversation, answering their questions, and you’d be surprised how often it is the same question.

We really admire the guides. They work hard. They can make or break a guest’s perception of a camp. It’s hard work.

Our guide at Chongwe River Camp, Victor, knocks himself out. Although we didn’t show up until after four the day we arrived, he had us out on the river by five 🙂

Early the next morning, we have a campfire by the river, with a pot of porridge, home made hot muffins and a glorious sunrise:

We head out on a game drive, passing the waterbuck once again, and spot a stork fishing for his breakfast:

The morning light is achingly beautiful; we can’t stop taking pictures:

Victor is leaning over the side of the car; that is always good news. He’s spotted a lion print:

The Cape Buffalo are still sleepy and a little slow, so we get some good photos:

We get to the entrance to the Lower Zambezi National Park:

And we see a jackal! The only other jackal we saw as at the salt pan, and that at a distance!

We are driving around looking for lion when suddenly Victor stops the car and backs up. There, on the grass, under a tree, is a leopard, just waiting for us!

Now here’s the thing – I probably took about fifty shots of this leopard, but I am not happy, and this is normal for trying to shoot leopard, or lion – many times they are in grass. Sometimes it can confuse your camera, you think you are shooting the leopard, but your camera focused on the shoot of grass just in front. Or you think you’ve taken the perfect shot, and there is this leaf, or grass, just marring the perfection of your shot. Or the leopard is facing away from you. Or the leopard is walking into the brush! Oh no!

This nice little female leopard put up with us for about half an hour, then leisurely walked away, all of us still snapping, snapping, snapping . . .

I love this elephant, I love this elephant’s ear. We’ve taken a lot of elephant photos, but I really love this elephant:

We can’t believe what a wonderful morning we are having, and just as we are feeling life can’t get much better, Victor spots two young lions. He says they are part of a larger group, but the larger lions have gone off hunting and these have been left tagging behind:

Just after the young lions have wandered off stage, we see this big boy coming down the road, and he is terrifying. He has one thought on his mind, find that lady elephant, and we do NOT want to get in his way:

I know, I know, this is a family blog . . .

It’s been quite a morning, and we head back to camp, but we are all too excited to sleep after lunch. I intended to wash my hair, but there is a cold breeze blowing in off the river, and our wonderful open air shower is just a little too shivery for me today.

We take a walk into the main camp – here is the main camp lounge:

And the dining table overlooking the Chongwe River:

And overlooking a huge pod of sunning hippo:

We run into Chris, one of the Chongwe River Camp owners, with whom we flew from Lusaka to Royal, the airstrip for Chongwe River camp. He talked about the new direct flight from Dubai to Lusaka and how he wants to market to expats in Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, etc. to get them to come down to Chongwe for their holidays. We tell him we did most of our Africa travel from Kuwait and Qatar, that it was a piece of cake with a time zone change of only an hour, not 8 hours, and travel time usually just overnight, and the price is a lot cheaper from there, too. It’s a great trip out of the Middle East, and we think he has the right idea, to market the camp to expats and locals there.

After tea, we head back out on the river, three of us, while one goes fishing. What we love about Chongwe is that there are so many things to do, and so much fun!

Victor finds a spot near the White Fronted Bee Eaters for sundowners, and we meet up with the fishermen, who, alas, did not catch anything:

Back at the AlBida Suite (the Family Suite) Steve-the-Butler has laid out a beautiful campfire to welcome us back.

It has been a perfect day. Victor joins us for an early dinner, and as we finish up a chilly breeze starts blowing and we all say goodnight, knowing morning will be coming early once again.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Sunsets, Tunisia, Zambia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies

While it is unusual for me to comment on two books at the same time, Bring Up the Bodies follows so seamlessly the preceding book, Wolf Hall, as to be one book. It is also unusual that I would choose to read a book about Thomas Cromwell, whose great-grandson brings into dictionaries the adjective Cromwellian, and whose morals and values drift so far from my own. Most unusual of all is that I would find myself liking – and understanding – Thomas Cromwell as described and defined by Hilary Mantel.

While reading, if forced away from the book, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I felt totally immersed in the 1500’s, I felt like I was there. Hilary Mantel uses the senses to bring an immediacy to the story that makes you feel you are there, participating, perhaps one of Cromwell’s clerks.

Thomas Cromwell has a rough beginning, son of a blacksmith and sometimes moonshiner, often beaten to within an inch of his life by his father, Walter, who seems to hate him. He leaves home and the next few years of his life are murky – he fights for the French, he becomes a servant and later a clerk in a high ranking Italian household, he learns the wool trade, and the silk trade, he spends some years in Antwerp and then he finds himself as chief clerk and messenger to Cardinal Wolsey, advisor to Henry VIII.

We experience losing our loved one to the plague. In these two books, through Cromwell’s eyes, we watch that spoiled, self-centered King Henry VIII rationalize his divorce of Katherine, and then the beheading of Anne Boleyn.

Here is something I hate about Thomas Cromwell, no matter how human and humane and lovable Hilary Mantel made him, that his primary value throughout was that whatever Henry wanted, he would work to make it so.

We learn early in Wolf Hall how very dangerous it is to go up against King Henry, we watch Cardinal Wolsey stripped of his honors, his luxuries, humiliated and defeated. We see Thomas More badgered to execution. So we can understand, a little, Thomas Cromwell’s motivation to keep his hard-earned money, honors, position, etc.

What I don’t understand is how a really, very smart man like Cromwell doesn’t see that he needs to be hiding his wealth away, investing in places where Henry can never find it, so that he can leave the King’s service, withdraw from public life and from the dangers that go with it. By the end of Bring Up the Bodies, Cromwell has made a lot of enemies. Such a nice man, such a benign man, but he relentlessly prosecutes the four men who may – or may not – have slept with Queen Anne Boleyn. It’s what the king wants. He does it.

This is a protrait of Thomas Cromwell painted by the famous Hans Holbein:

Wolf Hall won the Man Booker Prize in 2009. Bring Up the Bodies is sometimes referred to as Wolf Hall #2. These are books you can’t stop thinking about, and I am hoping there will be one more.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Biography, Books, Fiction, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Mating Behavior, Relationships | , | 3 Comments

Another Broken Egg in Pensacola

AdventureMan and I often discuss why one restaurant succeeds and another fails. One restaurant with a high quality food was very successful, moved to a larger location, and soon after a popular Chinese buffet moved in close by and now, he complains the competition is killing him.

These are killing times, highly competitive times, when people have less money to spend on eating out. While we prefer non-chain, local owned places which prepare their own food, many of the success stories are parts of chains where they can maximize standardization and gain benefits from ordering supplies in large quantities.

Another Broken Egg is somewhere in between. It is part of a chain, but a very small, very high quality and successful local chain. The Pensacola owners visited a Broken Egg in Destin multiple times, loved its product, and decided to bring the chain to Pensacola.

We’re glad they did. First, they serve a really, noticeably GOOD cup of coffee.

Then, they have a menu with a lot of variety. My first time there, I ordered the Popeye, which had lots of spinach, and it was yummy. This time, I tried the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benny, another hit.

Umm . . . err . .. yes, it is half eaten. Sorry. One funny thing, I thought “oooh, that is too much whipped cream cheese” and scraped it off, only to realize that the fluffy white thing was the egg, beautifully and artistically poached. What is not to love, a beautiful poached egg, smoked salmon, an English muffin (hardly any fat)?

AdventureMan had the Greek Wrap; he loved it.

The wait-staff is well trained; they make easy conversation, pay attention to what you need, and the owners/managers come around to make sure you enjoyed your meal.

Another Broken Egg
721 East Gregory Street
(850) 912-8347

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Cooking, Eating Out, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant | Leave a comment