October 15th – Day Twenty One
Our proposed sleep in was rudely spoilt by the other truck leaving before 7am. They started getting up around 5am so most of us were awake long before our breakfast time, also 7am. Tents were packed and all cleaned up well in time to leave at 8. Jacques had arranged a washing service so we could leave clothes to be washed and pick them up on our return in a few days so there were a number of labelled bags organised and collected. We also paid our bar bills, beer being almost twice as expensive as any previous location this meant a few larger bills than had been expected. The dog we had befriended yesterday visited during breakfast and afterwards amused people by chasing and claiming a small log almost half the size of his body. He would fetch it when it was thrown and them would hold on for dear life, refusing to give it up even if that meant he was suspended in mid air, jaw clamped and grows emanating from his chest. Sharon and Kathy found a rather large spider under their tent, something like a skinny but large and hairy tarantula. All equipment packed, stowed and ready we left on time and headed into town for a bit of shopping and some money changing.
The money changing was conducted at a shop recommended by the camp owners. The man of western Asian decent conducted business in a large shop that was mostly empty other than a desk and some fertiliser dispensing equipment. We changed our money and were all soon holding wads of money, $1 US equals around 4500 Zambian Kwacha. It turned out that a better rate could have been had at the post office but in the long run we weren’t changing that much so it wasn’t a big deal. This was followed by another shopping effort again at the local Shoprite. Shopping done we were finally on our way to the National Park.
We had been warned that the road would be the worst we would have in our whole Africa trip and it was easily the worst we had come across so far. We were tossed around for about two and a half hours, becoming airborne a number of times. Many people managed to sleep through parts of the trip, something I couldn’t manage. We passed a short tarmac stretch and then were back on the dirt road again. The whole trip took about three hours which was actually very good, the road being almost as good as Charles had ever seen it. Jacques said it almost wasn’t worth bothering with the trip in the rainy season, the road more like a giant mud slide. The off-road track returned as we started seeing signs for the Wildlife Campsite, we were on roads getting narrower and there was an increase in the number of trees around us. The trees were divided into two sizes, small ones stripped of any leaves and in many cases bark and larger ones with the odd leaf visible in the higher branches. Tracks were visible from the truck as well as lots of dung and we saw a elephant in the distance, hiding in the shade. The camp eventually revealed itself, an open area with some grassy places, a few covered dining areas and a bar with a small swimming pool overlooking the river that forms the border to the National Park.
Jacques had told us that hippos and elephants sometimes walk through the campsite at night and it was easy to see how this was possible. There are no walls, gates or fences around the campsite, on one side is the river and the other sides simply lead into the trees. Being near the end of the dry season the river was very low when we arrived and this reduces the likelihood of any nocturnal visitors. As we unpacked tents and set up for lunch we saw a few baboon and monkeys in the camp. The monkey in particular took a great interest in what was going on. Lunch was had in the shade, the outside temperature increasing all the time.
Lyn did some washing after lunch and had left herself a banana on one of the picnic tables in our shady dining area. One of the monkeys spotted this and became quite bold as it plotted to liberate the banana from our table. We took photos of the monkey, it was practically jumpy about flash and would get quite agitated every time a flash went off. Jacques had the banana in hand and the monkey charged a couple of times, only running off once threatened. Later on Keryn and I were at the table when the monkey made a break for the banana, reaching the table before running off once I stood up and threatened it. The rest of the afternoon was spent either swimming, relaxing of watching wildlife from the bar – we could see gazelle, lots of different birds, hippos in the distance and as the afternoon progressed a number of elephants coming across the river plain to drink.
Elephants drinking near the Wildlife Camp
Around 4pm the four elephants we had been watching were joined by the rest of their family group and they made their way across the river plain (the river comes around in a large loop in front of the campsite, the bar providing a panoramic view of this near-circle of water and the plain contained within the loop) towards the river on the left hand side. We followed them from the camp and were treated to the family group crossing the river, stopping for a drink and then climbing up the bank beside the camp and then walking off through the trees. To follow this procession we walked along the upper river bank and through some of the nicer areas of the camp site. Once the elephants had all gone a number of people booked the very nice permanent tents (with twin beds and ensuite) instead of their usual tents. The rest of the evening passed with dinner being consumed and more swimming. Keryn and I revisited Kiwi childhood memories by creating a whirlpool in the swimming pool with the assistance of Roger and Tina. Fun had for the day it was then off to bed, another early start beginning with a morning game drive the following morning.