After the usual wake up at 6:00, we piled into safari vehicles to drive for 45 minutes to the edge of the park where we transferred to a small bus for the two hour ride to the border.
In the town of Victoria Falls, we stopped for a discussion of education in Zimbabwe, which, to no one’s surprise, is a disaster. A public school teacher and a private school teacher droned at us for about 45 minutes. Just like school, I was able to keep my eyes on the face of whoever was speaking (whomever? I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention in school), blur my eyes and doze lightly.
Next, to a hotel that we will be staying in at the end of our tour, where we left some luggage that we won’t need out in the bush. Here we enjoyed 20 minutes of WiFi after three days offline.
Then, off to the border. We exited Zimbabwe, then walked across the Zambezi bridge, an engineering marvel for its time (1905). This is was pretty spectacular, 420 feet below us was the Zambezi, one of the great rivers of Africa, flowing through its vertical gorge. From the center of the bridge, we could almost see Victoria Falls around a sharp bend in the river. It’s late in the dry season, so the famous roar of the falls wasn’t there, nor was the mist that rises into the sky.
We entered Zambia and everything felt lighter, cleaner, happier. The two countries share a lot more than their position at the bottom of alphabetical lists. They were formerly Northern and Southern Rhodesia, both had an apartheid past. However, unlike Zimbabwe, Zambia has a thriving economy. Their new president hired 15 thousand new teachers and 30 thousand new health care workers his first year in office.
We stopped in a open air market to look around while Berv bought a chitenge for each woman in our group. A chitenge is the wide piece of colorful fabric that most women in sub Saharan Africa wear, like a long skirt.
In the market, a group was dancing. They are a social group for boys and young men from the Luvale people.
Then to the airport, where we boarded two bush planes, single engine Cessnas each carrying 7 of us plus the pilot. We flew an hour and a half at 10,000 feet then landed on a gravel air strip in the middle of Kafue National Park, about the size of New Jersey.
We were met by two safari vehicles for the 10 minute drive to our beautiful camp at the confluence of two rivers. After being shown to our tents we reconvened for our first night game drive.
The big cats are nocturnal, so the best time to see them is at night when they are hunting. We drove along narrow dirt tracks with the driver shining a spotlight into the trees and bushes looking for pairs of eyes looking back. The other vehicle radioed that they had seen a leopard, so our driver took off at 35mph where our usual top speed is more like 10. At night, quite the thrill.
Alas, by the time we got there, the elusive leopard was gone. The search continued, and again the other driver reported a sighting, this time of lions. Again we raced the miles over to them and this time, there were three lions, a female and two males, brothers. Mullah, our guide, told us they were a mating couple plus the third wheel little brother. They were laying sleepily at the side of the track. It was dark, they were illuminated by our spotlights. Suddenly, they got up, walked into the woods out of sight and we heard some rumbling and a low roar while they mated.
Back at camp, dinner and bed at the end of a long, arduous, adventure-filled day.