31.08.2009 - 03.09.2009
It was good to be back in Zambia. Ignoring hotels in Mongu, it is generally a very friendly, relaxed kind of place, where they don't worry about pretty much anything:
Originally I had intended to head to Zambia on a visa run and visit some people in Chipata, the town just over the border. But with stunning inevitability, my friends in Chipata were then away, and the trip i had planned to take got canceled. Thus my options degenerated to either going to Chipata alone and spending 4days there by myself, or extending my visa for a couple of days (or overstaying and trying to talk/bribe my way out, and back in the same way a few days later). I ended up paying, was given – for the normal fee, naturally - an extra month, and left 2 days later. Yay.
I had decided to come back so as to visit South Luangwa national park, home to lots of animals, not so many tourists (allegedly) and one of the largest hippo populations in the world. And i like hippos. Though I didn't realise at the time that I would come to like them in a very different way...
And I did actually enjoy it. The campsite was brilliant, in that it was on the river front where we could watch the crocs and hippos playing, but better than that we were regularly visited by both monkeys and elephants. And elephants wandering around the campsite is very cool (unless you happened to be the South African woman who came out of the shower block oblivious, suddenly saw an elephant; screamed and ran until being persuaded by our desperate shouts to stay still, and thus narrowly avoided being skewered to death by a tusk).
For reasons now lost in the midsts of time, a longstanding dream on this trip has been the introduction of something utterly implausible – and just a single animal, not a whole herd/group etc – to one of Africa's big game parks, just to utterly confuse the tourists. I have visions of hundreds of people enjoying the wildebeest migration and then seeing one random kangaroo bounce past. Thinking about it, kangaroo's would probably prosper wildly, so perhaps that isn't a great idea. A whale or dolphin would be very hard to fix, but a polar bear is another favourite, although i'm sure a Tiger would cause limited extra excitement in places as it is 'close enough' that it wouldn't raise the same suspicions. Somewhere down the line, and at a local South Luangwa level, this translated into Hippos balancing on beach balls. Possibly whilst attacking monkeys on elephants. Whilst all avoiding the ants with nukes, naturally. It's best not to ask.
To the boring stuff (yup, animals), we did ok. A couple of leopards were spotted (one in the day in a tree, the other at night stalking two lots of dinner: the impala were one thing, but the Kudu was too big to be attempted), plus two prides of lions, one of which was 16strong and the other which we saw twice including once on the hunt. There were several elephant families including a couple of small babies, a small number of giraffe (but including what looked to be twin youngsters), a hippo fight, a hippo running – feck me, they can move -, Impala sex (out of mating season and with a baby – also out of season – looking on: That was one randy Impala), an Impala with only one antler and assorted other antelopes including Kudu; civet cats, a mongoose, some owls, many sorts of bird, a small number of zebra, some buffalo's and a hyena. It as a pretty good selection, although the other vehicle of our group - who had struggled a bit – saw a lion kill on the final night. Danged it.
Animals like Impala are often so omnipresent that it is easy to get bored of them, but if you pay attention, every now and then you still mange to see something a little different. This poor one antlered guy (top) will have to work extra hard to find a mate, whereas the guy below didn't seem to be having any such problems, despite it not being mating season
I am now completely animaled out, and have no intention of visiting any large game park – unless it's very cheap or for a very special reason – for a long time to come, as i'm sure you will all be happy to hear.
As to the different way of enjoying hippos, I must admit that it was not intentional and not even entirely confirmed, though I have very strong suspicions. On arrival, we had been asked if we all ate 'red meat', although our attempts to find out what red meat were studiously ignored. For the next 2 days we were then served a selection of dishes all using the same red mince meat – Versions of spaghetti bolognese, chili con-carne and shepherds pie all made an appearance. All using this strange red meat, which actually tasted pretty good whilst being a taste not entirely like any meat I eat with any regularity. So we were served unidentified red meat at just the same time as the annual hippo cull (to keep numbers in check) occurred.
I think putting 2 and 2 together in this instance is entirely justifiable...
Top: This Hippo wandering into his small pond quickly led to this hippo fight (below), which the incumbent won. That evening, the interloper could be seen standing about 20 away from the pool, looking hot and a bit sheepish and with some bloody wounds from the encounter
Actually, ignoring the hippo meat (if, indeed, it was hippo meat), the food was universally pathetic. Portions were small, and some of the stuff was just wrong, or at least very odd. Being woken up at 5am before a safari is one thing – but then offering solely decaf chicory (instead of coffee) and rubbery 'toast' without topping for breakfast is something else. Similar things, obviously recycled food or just rubbish continued throughout (a single stale lettuce sandwich was our lunch on the journey over), but the brilliant finale was lunch on the journey back to Malawi which included Shoprite-value Rusks.
To take a quick straw poll, has anybody here had a rusk since they were about 5years old???
South Luangwa is a great place for Sunrise's (if you aren't a lazy ******) and Sunset's (unless you are already drunk), though these photos really don't do it justice. I really need to learn how to actually use a camera properly