By Barbara Hunting
Our 26-seater coaster bus gives us freedom to travel great distances and explore Africa. You notice in rural Malawi, that many people walk, very few can afford cars, or transportation. This past week, we took our weekend in the middle of the week in order to get a better deal at Zikomo Safari Lodge (in Zambia). Victoria and her son Damien planned a few unforgettable days in Zambia; thanks go to Dr. C. Stonebanks for negotiating this experience (as well as bringing Praxis Malawi into being). We went to South Luangwa Game Park and had several jeep (photo) Safari tours in the park. I cannot express in words the awe at being a short distance away from wild animals and the care and valuable knowledge that the guides provided to us during these excursions. You simply need to experience it for yourselves!
Our adventures are sometimes produced by getting lost. Yes, well—we have also discovered that when roads are under construction sometimes what we would call a detour is referred to as a road deviation; yet parts of the road redirection may be incomplete. It all adds to the spice of the day. One more thing, going into a small village with a 26-seater coaster bus is not the wisest thing either, yes, we did get stuck; sand is similar to snow (tires need a stable surface), in that respect, the sun goes down at 5:45 p.m. and then it is dark; yet everyone from the small village was more than helpful…some planks, some student and village strength to PUSH out of the soft sand to the path or road that is hard-packed and we were on our way.
I enclose a few pictures this time—and I cannot repeat enough the awesome feeling of seeing an elephant size you up while you are in an open jeep. Let me explain the jeeps, they are special touring jeeps with three tiers of seats added; one was covered, with a tarp, the other was open. Lucky me, my party got to ride in the covered jeep! The guides were very knowledgeable and explained how we should behave around the animals (the animals see us as one large object, unless someone does something to change that). We saw wart hogs, baboons, Thornicroft giraffes (indigenous to Zambia), different types of colourful birds, pods of hippos, a few different prides of lions, one pride of lions had killed a water buffalo during the night and we saw the younger lions gorging themselves on the carcass; it was like we were in a wild-life documentary. On the second day we encountered a group of seven elephants of various sizes walking across the road not far from us; the guide stopped the jeep and we sat quietly as instructed, took pictures and watched the reactions of the elephants, they smelled us, and stopped and looked at us, and one of the mid-size ones walked to the left of us and turned and waved her ears at us—really amazing—it was like she was saying goodbye as they walked off into the bush. At one point that same day, we saw nearly every animal at the watering hole; the most amazing were the group of fifteen giraffes and a herd of buffaloes who ran behind them—it was like being part of a National Geographic documentary! Amy leaned over at one point and said, “Pinch me; I don’t believe that I am seeing all of these animals together!”
Victoria and Damien fed us well with a bar-b-q on the second evening—what a treat! We slept in tents and the second night we could hear lions and hippos calling to each other across the water. We were snug in our tents and there were night watchman; no worries. Presently it is the dry season in Zambia and it was noticeable how few mosquitoes there were.
That is the touristy stuff that we allowed ourselves to do; we came out of our mosquito netted beds in Makupo Village and stayed in eight person tents, roomy and snug—and appointed a tent watch person to be sure the tents were closed up snuggly. Although we travel outside of Makupo Village, we are always happy to return to Makupo Village, as our second home. All of our excursions are complete now, one group has left today to return home—yes, it has been a month since we arrived—hard to imagine. Yet, we have all come out of our comfort zones moving through various experiences. Fear of insects, and we discovered white frogs in the women’s showers in Zambia; they harmonize with the colour of their surroundings (really cool). I was concerned about tenting—we took a few of the mattresses with us strapped to the roof of the bus and this was a great comfort; others had air mattresses. Once again, the wonder of a shower on weekend excursions was experienced—it is the little things that make the difference (we have bucket showers in Makupo Village, check out other blogs).
One more event that we experienced that was truly exceptional was a local company of people came to the lodge in Zambia and put on a play entitled “The Bush” that was a collection of vignettes of local actions, animals, a parody of tourists (picture taking safari tourists) and a young girls’ struggle to understand her developing identity. This type of theatre is ‘action theatre’ and this troupe is very good at making and using props to enact short scenes and narratives. It was very impressive and they perform plays about the prevention of HIV and AIDS, Malaria prevention and alcohol abuse. We hope to see them again and invite them to the new school in Malawi!
Our freedom to travel and experience new places has not been overlooked by this member of Praxis Malawi.
Stay tuned for more adventures!
Baablah (Barbara Hunting)