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Expat wanderer

Nsefu, Day One, Parting Ways

Friday, June 8
The sun rises on our first morning in Nsefu, we eat our porridge, and we head off on a game drive with our old friend Daudi.

Our friends are off to visit Kawazaa village, warning us NOT to find lion without them, and we take off – of course, we are looking for lion! We are always looking for lion! We don’t find lion, but we find lots of raptors, the biggest eagle, cranes and herons, we watch hippos, and once back in camp, we spend hours watching the elephant families crossing the Luangwa.

As you might guess, it feels like we are eating all the time, but when we get back, we haven’t gained an ounce. I think it is because we are doing a lot of active riding; the roads are bumpy and you have to steady yourself, you are climbing in and out of the game vehicles, and there are a lot of crossings where the guide says “Hold on!” Here is Daudi, taking us across one of those river crossings:

As you can see, not every game drive stars lion, or leopard, but there are thrilling moments with birds, elephant, hippo – or crossing the river.

This is a Lillian’s Lovebird, one of my favorite birds in the world. The camps are full of them, but they are fleeting and flitting, and very difficult to capture in photos.

Morning tea at a hippo pond – you know how I love hippo:

Back at camp, it seems to be elephant river crossing day. One group will gather, and cross, while another group waits across the river. They meet and greet, and then head on their way, while another group crosses.

This group has a baby. The baby can actually walk most of the way, but when it is too deep, there is always a barrier of larger elephants on the downstream side of the baby elephant, who is holding on to Mama’s tail, and is supported from behind by another elephant.

At one point, something spooks the elephants crossing close to the dozing hippo, they start running and splashing, maybe an elephant accidentally steps on a hippo, and a loud ruckus breaks out. Elephants trumpet, hippos scold loudly. Fortunately, it is all show and no go, no real fight and no bloodshed, the elephants continue on and the hippos go back to slumber.

Our friends came back just in time for tea, and begged off the afternoon drive, saying the mating lions they had seen on the way to the village would have to be enough. They’ve been to the Kawazaa school, and to the village for lunch, visiting the clinic and even helping kill the chicken for lunch. It’s been so much fun, but also very stimulating, and they want to take a break.

Mating lions?! You saw mating lions? Let’s go see the mating lions!

Jonah found the mating lions in no time, which was a thrill, except that they had mated with such great vigor that now they were lying in sated stupor. We took some photos, but how many photos can you take of exhausted sleeping lions?

Nsefu Sunset:

We started back, but on the river road, saw an unusual sight – lions on the river banks across the river, and a lion climbing up the bank we were on.

He wasn’t wet, but he was calling to the lion damsels across the river, and had clearly made them some promises he intended to keep.

We tracked him for a while at a distance as he gauged his chances for a safe crossing here and there, and finally, we left him with our best wishes for a safe passage to lion nirvana.

At dinner we finalized plans with Jonah for an early departure for another trip to the Chichele hot springs with hopes of finding that dark maned (older) lion Madolyn was able to photograph with her iPhone, with breakfast at the hot springs and back at Nsefu Camp noonish.

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June 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, iPhone, Photos, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel, Zambia | , , , , | 4 Comments

Nkwali Camp, Day 2

We’ve booked three nights at each camp, so we get at least two full days at each, and additional drives or hikes for the transfer days – there is never a dull moment.

The drums, the drums, and we are ready and out the door in no time. Today, as we are walking down to catch the boat, my toe catches on a root and I almost fall into the river. Even though the Luangwa is shallow, it would still be humiliating, and I would have to go back and change clothes, and then (gulp) there are those crocodiles . . . . The path is rough and I am a little unbalanced by my backpack, and by the grace of God, the guide, Keyala, steels himself, I hit him and he doesn’t fall in the water when I hit. He holds steady. Thanks be to God! (By evening, there was a new set of stairs, and no roots.)

Our day starts with leopard. We are once again at a green lagoon, watching ducks and cranes, when Keyala says “look, there is a leopard!” and about two hundred yards back, he is at a pond, drinking, then quietly, slowly, turns and walks back into the forest. What a great way to start!

Sorry, the leopard is in the distance and you learn to shoot fast. It doesn’t always make for the sharpest shot, but by the time you get all the settings right and the focus set, the leopard is gone and you have a photo of the lagoon where the leopard was, who wants to see that?

We have a lively morning, full of birds and more elephant and giraffe:

These giraffe are young males, and they are fighting with their necks, sort of comical to watch, but they can seriously hurt one another. I think these ones are more playing at fighting:

This hippo has gotten tired of the fighting for a spot in the river and has found a lovely isolated spot in the lagoon. You can tell he is a weathered old soul by the scars on his body.

We also get a chance to photograph that glorious fish eagle in a tree – this is how you usually see them; the one I shot in the previous post on Nkwali was actually catching a fish. You don’t get that shot often:

Many stops later, we are driving along and we smell sausages. Keyala says it must be a nearby lodge, but there is no lodge near by. . . We turn a corner and there is a crew, with a fire, and camp chairs all set up, and we realize we are about to experience one of the infamous Nkwali BBQ cook-outs, oh what fun. We are overlooking another great lagoon, full of hippo, Cape Buffalo, baboons, and all kinds of wildlife. Robert, the stellar camp cook, is there asking us how we like our eggs, and with our eggs are sausage, bacon, corn fritters, fried onion, baked beans and toast from loaves of bread made in camp, big thick slices. 

On our way back to camp, we will cross the river again:

And here is one of many of the crocodiles sunning on the river sand:

Just before we get back to camp, we see a Zambian local, fishing in the river. Look closely at the canoe – we used to see canoes like this in Alaska, too, dugouts. Imagine the hours it takes to hollow out a tree so that you can use it as a boat, and imagine that if you have very little, the man who has created for himself a boat can be a man with an enhanced opportunity to feed his family . . .

Once again, we arrive back at camp, and snooze a little until dinner. Bumping around in the Toyota trucks wears us out, and we are still jet lagging, some times we think we’ve beat it, and then when we least expect it, it beats us. I really need to wash my hair, it gets so dusty from the trails, but I really really need a nap and a nap almost always trumps washing hair.

As we head out on our last Nkwali game drive, there is an air of excitement. We find the noble-looking kudu, so shy, and he astonishes us by walking across the road so we can get a clear shot of those amazing curled antlers.

You’d think there would come a time when we might think “Oh, it’s just another elephant family,” but for us, that time never comes. We always watch them with fascination, thinking how very smart they are, how far they range, how they communicate, and how they mourn the deaths of their group. Elephant are huge, and they have their own agenda, they are not there for our entertainment but for their own survival, so we watch them with great respect.

Keyala takes us across the river and we head up to the highest hill for sundowners, half-searching for lion and leopard on the way. The highest hill has a 180 degree view of the land all the way to the escarpment, and the sun sets at just about 90 degrees – right in front of us. Behind us, about the same time, the full moon rises. It is awesome.

This is Keyala and Keyfus. Keyfus (Kay-fus), on the left, is the same as Cephus in Greek, meaning rock – Saint Peter’s name. Keyala is our guide, and recently marketed for Robin Pope Safaris in Seattle. 🙂

On this high hill I spot a tree, Sterculia quinqueloba, a tree I have never seen before, and Keyala tells us the name. It is such an unusual tree:

Sunset from the high hill in the Chongwe Game Park:

Moonrise in the east, magical:

Dinner conversation is fast and furious back at camp, and we excuse ourselves to make sure we are packed up and ready for departure the next day for Tena Tena. We say a sad farewell to Chris, and Tina, and Keyala, who have taken such good care of us and gotten our Zambia safari off to such a great and happy start.

June 20, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Hotels, Sunsets, Travel, Zambia | , , , | 2 Comments