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Doodles Adventures in Zambia-Trip Report

This is an account of our 3 week journey through Zambia from 24 August through to 13 September 2013. We’ve limited the amount of narrative, letting photos do most of the talking. We travelled from Livingstone through Kafue National Park and onto South Lunagwa National Park in a self-drive Hilux hired from Hemingways. Advice on the trip was kindly given by Bertie (Mfuwefarmer), Robbie (Luangwablondes), Mike (Mike AG), Tony Weaver, Alison (Cheetah80), Peter Moss, Darrel Watt and Tom Heinecken. To acclimatise and overcome jet lag from our long flight from Scotland, we spent a leisurely weekend in Livingstone, the highlight of which was a visit to Victoria Falls. Given the water levels were low, we were advised to see the falls from the Zimbabwe side. The United Nations International Tourism Organisation (UNITO) conference was in full swing, with calvalcades of VIPs to-ing and fro-ing between the various UNITO venues on both sides of the border. Signs of the Zimbabwean Presidential election were everywhere on the road up to Victoria Falls town. Zimbabwe Before visiting the Falls we had our photo taken with our fellow countryman Dr Livingstone. Livingstone The circular path around the Falls uses viewpoints to allow you to see at close hand the grandeur and beauty of the falls. vic falls The only annoyance was the raiding vervet monkeys and Chacma baboons. vervet monkey BaboonThe large Chacma males were very aggressive if you had food or drink in view and we saw an incident where a person crossing the Vic. Falls bridge was singled out because he was drinking from a bottle of Coke. The man quickly gave up the plastic bottle which the baboon drank by unscrewing the top & decanting the Coke onto the ground! We tried to have lunch at the Victoria Falls hotel but it was given over entirely to UNITO so we made do with a lunch at at a neighbouring hotel which itself was entertaining visiting delegates. dancers That evening we went on a leisurely sunset (booze) cruise on the Lady Livingstone. image (5) image (6) The air was warm and we enjoyed the riverine wildlife which included lots of hippos, Ellie’s, crocs, impala, cormorants, darters, fish eagles etc. and of course the fantastic sunset. image (8) Next day we were off to Kafue National Park (NP) but before we did so we visited Twabuka primary school near Livingstone where we donated a set of Celtic Football club jerseys. schools school kids From there we travelled on the main Lusaka road as far as Kalomo where we cut across country to the Dundumwezi entrance gate to Kafue NP. Morag had an impromptu game of netball with the families of ZAWA staff and then we set off along the Nanzhila river route to Nanzhilla camp. netball fun goal What surprised us was the large scale burning of vegetation which left extensive swathes of mopani woodland without any ground cover and the skittishness of the little game that was present. warthogs Having said that we saw 2 small herds of roan antelope and two beautiful sable bulls. Closer to Nanzhilla camp wildlife numbers increased with reedbuck, zebra and waterbuck being the commonest antelopes but the herds were small, usually between 10-20 animals. reed buck We arrived at Nanzhila in the late afternoon at the very well appointed and serviced campsite. scotland flag Next morning we went on a walk with David the camp manager and observed a pair honey badgers cavorting in the grassland beside a dambo. No big cats or wild dogs but we knew they had been seen the week before! Bird life was abundant with birds of prey/vultures a constant in the landscape. image (15) Next stop was Kaingu Lodge via Itezhi-Tezhi where we received a warm welcome from Directors Gil and Julia who we’d met previously while shopping at Shoprite in Livingstone (we were both buying cans of Doom for battle against the dreaded Kafue tsetses!). The facilities available at the self catering camp site were the most luxurious on our entire 3 week trip. DSC_1886 DSC_1889 DSC_1914 However, what makes Kaingu so special is its location beside the beautiful Kafue river. The boat trips are a must-do, not only to see the wildlife but to experience the ever changing vistas and subtle hues in the riverscapes as the Kafue river meanders its way south. DSC_2065 DSC_2000 image (21) We joined Lodge owners Tom and Vivienne Heinecken, on an early morning walk within Kafue NP where they are establishing a new business venture to cater for visitors experiencing Kafue by canoe. While we were there a new bushcamp was under construction on the west side of the river (within the National Park) and it looked as if the same high standard of accommodation was being maintained. The principal benefit of the new camp is that you are within the National Park with more accessible game yet you’re only a 10 minute boat or canoe ride from the main camp on the east side of the river. After 2 full days at Kaingu we set off for Mushingashi which turned out to be an adventure all by itself. Stopping off in Mumbwa for supplies, we gave a lift to a local who claimed he could take us on a shortcut. As it turned out he was giving himself a free ride to his home village and taking us way out of our way. We ended up straveighing (good Scottish word for wandering all about the place!) across several Game Management Areas (GMAs), along ever smaller tracks and eventually getting a game guard from one of the neighbouring GMAs to show us the way to the main camp at Mushingashi. We arrived at nightfall just as the Mushingashi staff at their abattoir were taking the head off a bull sable that had been shot earlier in the day. That was the last straw for my daughter and she let me know her feelings about how the day had panned out!

The staff at Mushingashi were incredibly helpful and put us up in a nearby lodge within the main camp which looked over the Kafue river across to the NP . DSC_2106 DSC_2132 We were supposed to be accommodated at a more distant campsite but Adam Buske and Darrell Watt allowed us to stay the 3 days in the lodge where we were looked after by their staff. I cannot speak highly enough about the hospitality shown to us at Mushingashi.

During our 3 days we saw lots of game including large numbers of puku, hartebeest, kudu and distant views of female sable which illustrates the potential of Kafue NP if poaching and inappropriate vegetation burning is controlled, the 2 principal factors which we think are preventing the Park from reaching it’s potential for game.

The highlights were seeing our first lions (a mother and her 2 half grown cubs and seeing the secretive situangwa (mother and calf) but alas it was too distant to capture in a photogragh so you’ll have to take my word!

During one night we had the most amazing thunderstorm and the next morning the vegetation had responded with lots of new fresh grass shoots. According to the staff, rain in August is extremely rare and for most this was the first time they had experienced it.

We sadly took our leave of Mushingashi and headed to South Luangwa via Lusaka and a stop over at Pioneer camp where we met Paul Barnes, the owner and his dogs. DSC_2187From Lusaka we drove to Petauke  and then took the old Mfuwe road which had recently been regraded. It’s a far more interesting and shorter journey (5+ hours) than taking the longer and mostly tarred Great East Road (photos). road I love this home We passed through several small villages and at one we stopped after seeing a wee boy playing with a football made of grass and reeds. 20130906-211337.jpg We gave him a Celtic FC strip and a football!.

We arrived at The Wildlife Camp in time to see the beautiful sunset over the Lunagwa river and to compete with the thieving yellow baboons over our supper. We won minus a couple of onions but it took the shine off our stay so next day we moved to Zikomo camp in the northern Nsefu sector of South Luangwa National Park. However on our way we had a day in the southern sector of South Luangwa NP where we saw lots of game. zebra  image (33) Of all the camps we stayed at Zikomo was the best value and most friendly. The owners, Demien and Victoria Wallace and their staff led by managers Zick and Beauty welcome self drivers like us with fantastic camp sites overlooking the Luangwa river at a very reasonable cost which for us Scots is a major thumbs-up! The facilities at the lodge includes a swimming pool, an open air fitness centre and lounge/dining areas are available to all, whether you are staying in one of their 5 their chalets or at the campsite. The Wallace’s have a passion to do what’s best for safeguarding wildlife and have endured a long and ultimately successful campaign to establish their camp, against stiff competition from previous leaseholders in the neighbouring GMA. zikomo 2 image (41) Over the next 3 days we made daily visits into the Nsefu sector including the mineral springs to the north of Nsefu.hot springs where we encountered a very full male lion , lion lion walking a further sighting of a mixed pride of females with fully grown young, a large herd of buffalo and various bird species, including lots of lilac breasted rollers and many flocks of crowned cranes. On one night we went lamping with Zick, following a pride of lions hunting puku. roller crown cranes image (47) image (42) The Nsefu sector is much quieter than the area around Mfuwe but we returned here for our last 3 days in South Luangwa, staying at Flatdogs in their luxury riverside tents! flatdogs doodles We called it glamping as it was definitely upmarket after spending the best part of 3 weeks in our Hilux roof top tents. The customer service was fantastic, led by Jess, Ade and Paolo and the guiding was first rate (thanks Geoffrey!). The highlight of our game drives was sighting a pack of wild dogs and a leopard at the same waterhole and this and other photos are included below. wild dogs leopard walking leopard leopard sitting Without Geoffrey we would not have located a fraction of the game we managed to enjoy so I do think it’s worth spending the money to go on guided game drives. If your wallet survives the onslaught of so much spending, it’s also worth visiting Tribal Textiles in Mfuwe. tribal textiles kidsOur return trip took us back to Lusaka via Chipata and the Great East Road, overnighting at Eureka camp, Lusaka before heading to Livingstone where we stayed 1 night at Taita falcon campsite. DSC_3432 DSC_3434 In the afternoon of our last full day our Calum did his bungi jump off Vic Falls bridge and lived to tell the tale! DSC_3387 DSC_3407 The highlights of our Zambia adventure were:

– the smiling faces of the Zambian people which radiated happiness even though most were poor

– the beauty of the Kafue river – the diversity of wildlife, particularly in South Luangwa NP

– the service and support provided at the camps we visited

– the brand new Hemingways Hilux which was entirely reliabl

The downsides were few:

– long road journeys on some very pot-holed gravel tracks. Those in the back bore the worst of being thrown about.

– giving a lift to the shister from Mumbwa

– arguing with Air France who tried to tell me that I hadn’t paid for extra leg room on the Paris return trip. They relented after I refused to sit down in the cheap seats

– eating too much freeze dried food!

We’re already planning our next African adventure in 2015 which will be longer and take in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Macdonald Clan of Ron, Morag and Calum. 9 January 2014

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The boy with the battered football

Again dad chose an adventurous route for us to take from Zambia’s capital Lusaka to South Luanga, the old Petauke road. It’s a bumpy road rumoured to take up to 10 hours. We see traditional villages, houses made from wood, mud and straw spotted along the route. All filled with smiley faced children running to wave and cheer! Clearly not many vehicles take this route to South Luanga! The road is better than we expect though and has been recently improved so we’re making good progress.

Passing through a village we see a boy of maybe seven or eight run out clutching a battered football made of reeds. As he smiles and waves we’re all struck by him and stop the car.

We’ve brought footballs and football jerseys to spread some football fun across Zambia and right now there seems to be a pretty good candidate standing right in front of us for a new football!

“Get a football”‘ dad says and Calum gets to work pumping one up. The whole village starts to gather around us, curious as to what the strangers in town are up to! The little boy tells us he wants to play for Zambia so we give him a celtic top, if he’s that good perhaps he should play for us too!

I notice the children with their beautiful smiley faces and big brown eyes have torn clothes barely covering their swollen stomachs. We have no food to cure their hunger but jerseys to cover the holes.

I can’t help but feel so sad that I’m powerless to help. Even when their bellies are empty and money is scarce, they can share smiles with strangers. I’m amazed at the Zambian people’s spirit and ability to find happiness and laughter in any situation. It makes me think perhaps I’ve got the ingredients all mixed up. Seeing their smiley faces I think, I definitely need their recipe!

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Lions at last!

We were promised we’d see lions at Mushingashi. But after three nights our hopes faded as we packed up and headed for Lusaka. But after taking a wrong turn we stumbled upon a lioness and her two cubs.

They were so calm around the car and just breezed on by. We did get a little close at one point and mum stayed behind a bush, eying us up and seeing if we were a threat to her and her cubs, meanwhile the cubs stood right in front of the car, clearly not as clued up as mum just yet. They waited for her to walk first to show it was safe and then all three disappeared into the grass, an amazing encounter!

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Mushingashi lights up

In the morning last nights stress quickly evaporates as we awake to the beauty of Musingashi. The sun shines over the river where lilly trotters dance from lilly to lilly, crocs patrol the river banks and herds of impala and puku graze on the flood plain. This place is a little slice of paradise.

We’re put up in the hunters lodge where people pay over $ 65,000 to get their shooting permit and that’s even before thy shoot anything. Thankfully the accommodation itself is cheap, but we get our own chef and maid included. It was a nice change from our roof top tents where we’ve been sleeping.

We do a game drive during the day, looking to capture as many animals as possible, thankfully only in our photos! At night we decide to put dad’s super powerful, super expensive lamp to the test and go lamping.

We set off with Moses, the game guard, in search of lions and leopards. We’re full of excitement and anticipation, lions were spotted near the camp early this morning, no doubt smelling the freshly shot and butchered sabel. The tension is palpable as we drive ever deeper into the bush. We see bush pigs, a side stripped jackel (like a fox) and a civet but no lions…

As we drive I start to notice little flashes of light and I think that maybe we’re triggering night cameras but slowly the flashes intensify and the wind begins to rise. Soon we find ourselves in the middle of a full blown thunderstorm.

I’ve been in tropical thunderstorms before but this was something else. Normally dry at this time of year rain begins to lash down turning the dirt roads to mud and flooding the way ahead, orange and yellow forks light up the the savannah. Lighting strikes close by and we feel the thunder vibrate through our bodies.

It’s time to turn back, it’s not safe, not in these conditions. We manage to slip and slide our way back to the lodge. Inside the lightning has knocked off the electricity and the rain batters the tin roof. We run to get candles on so we can see. The candles struggle to stay alight as the wind whips through the building. We sit down to eat dinner the thunderstorm in full force, shouting as we try and make conversation, a huge buffalo head glowering at us from the wall above as we tuck into last nights sable, which actually proves to be quite delicious!

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Beers, brothels and beheadings

The fourth leg of our trip took us further up the Kafue river to Mushingashi. It was a long drive on a gravel road to reach the town of Mumbwa. We’d heard that Mumbwa had a bit of a reputation so we took down the Scotland and Ireland car flags we’d we sporting as we pulled into the town for supplies. The place was heaving with people making deals, cycling with huge loads on their bikes and others just watching the day go by outside the shops.

We pulled up outside the wholesalers ready to buy more water, matches and beer. Like many wholesalers in Zambia the shop was run by Asians so although we could buy matches and water we were told we’d have to go across the road for beer. After all, Muslims can’t stock beer.

With Calum guarding our car, which might I say stood out in Mumbwa as cash on wheels, dad and I crossed the road, me heaving the water as I ran to catch up with him whilst dodging donkeys and crazy cyclists! The first store had no beer but this man who I can only describe as ‘gangsta’ appeared from the shop, toothpick in mouth swaggering down the street with dad in close pursuit. Curious I followed, moving deeper into Mumbwa. Dad followed the gangsta inside a dirty bar, hip hop music blaring and drunk people swaying from side to side. I went to follow but dad held up his hand signalling me to stop. So there I stood surrounded by all the men outside the bar. “Hi, how are you?” Came from left right and centre, I answered politely but kept my eyes fixed on dad. The people in the bar were eying his every move, his wallet and me. All I could think of was, “We’re going to get robbed, we’re going to get robbed!”

After what seemed like forever dad appeared outside, again following the gangsta who was heaving a crate of beers. After loading them into our car he trotted off into a haze of people. Locks on, dad announced I think that was a brothel there were prostitutes everywhere! Well I never imagined I’d visit a brothel, never mind with my dad!

We started driving, expecting a further three or four hours in the car but our relief was short lived when dad (before checking the map or instructions) jumped put of the car to ask directions only to reappear with a random man who he announced was a game guard at Mushingashi and would lead us there. He said I should move over which I have to say I was less than amused about, the car is packed and we’re letting an absolute stranger in a rough town into our car.

After 17km, then oh another 20km, perhaps another hour, you’ll be there by six, believe me this is the direct way, we started to smell a very big rat. The rat essentially got us to drop him home, about 3 hours out of Mumbwa and way off course. After “dropping him off” we started our search for Mushingashi.

We were essentially in the middle of nowhere and the light was fading fast. We were now ambling down a track barely passable even in our 4×4. We reached a gate as darkness fell only to be told by the gate keeper that we had another 15 km to travel. We struck out determined to reach the safety of Mushingashi HQ but soon the tracks disappeared and after surprising some elephants, something you should never do, we turned back.

Back at the gate we persuaded the gate keeper to show us the way but even he got lost as we trundled from scout camp to scout camp getting advice on our route. Finally we reached a building, lights beaming and men with knives covered in blood staring at us. Already shaken after being lost in the bush at night, this was the final straw.

We had ended up at the hunting lodge’s “Skinning Shed” just in time to see a sable’s (large antelope’s) head being pulled off like something from a horror film.

Not exactly a day in paradise but we’re very thankful to the folks at Mushingashi for “saving OUR bacon!”, if not the sable’s…

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Wow a hippo just hit our car!

We’re at Kaingu Lodge, hours from the nearest village and bordering the Kafue National Park. This is a very special place. It overlooks a beautiful river with rapids close by. Our campsite is the best we’ve been to with an outdoor shower with privacy screens and our own bathroom facilities. We even set up our fire on the banks of the river as the sun goes down and eat our freeze dried food which is surprisingly delicious!

As lovely as the campsite is we decide to go to the lodge which is a two minute walk away for drinks and wifi! When we get to the lodge we start hearing snorts and splashes close by. HIPPOS!

Soon it’s time to head back to the campsite. The guys at the lodge offer us a lift back, I don’t fancy walking back in the dark when theirs hippos on the loose especially as we’ve been told they like eating the grass in our camp site, but no, dad says we’ll be fine! It’s pitch black and we rely on Calum to guide us through the dark. I hear rustling everywhere and I expect a hippo to charge at any moment. I breath a sigh of relief when we finally reach the tents. Inside the safety of our tents we hear the splashing and snorting intensify. It’s an incredible experience to hear them so close by but before long I fall asleep, I’m zonked!

When I wake up in the morning Calum says, “did you feel the hippo hit our car last night?”

“What? No!”

“Me and dad felt the whole car shake when it whacked into the bumper!”

Oh well, I must of slept through it! Who sleeps through a hippo hitting their car?!

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Netball in Zambia

Scared I was missing out on my Monday netball practise I was keen to get stuck in on Monday when a football we gave to some kids was promptly stolen by the women at the village who started playing netball. Not to miss an opportunity I quickly accepted the offer to play. They were fantastic players, even if the rules didn’t quite apply!

Meanwhile Calum entertained the kids who’d had their new football pinched by their mums. They loved seeing their own photos but enjoyed seeing pictures of our dog, Mac, the most!

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