Compiled By: Working Class Wanderer-Kathryn Mann
“Zambia with its dreamy landscape and astonishing density of wildlife fits perfectly into a trip to Southern Africa. Its unique appeal is its rough edge: known as the “real Africa” Zambia is not set up for independent tourism and travel here is challenging – a crumbling infrastructure, little signage and long distance between major towns makes it one big adventure” -Lonely Planet
It would be near impossible to travel on public transport through Zambia and not pass through the capitol of Lusaka. That is a good thing because, although there are no major museums or historical sites, it is a great place to spend time in an authentic African atmosphere.
Personal Highlight: First is Town Center Market. This is a labyrinth of pathways leading through stalls, blankets, and warehouses. Some might term the aroma as malodorous but I loved it. There were hawkers selling their wares, the fish mongers slicing and scaling their catch (many fish coming from Zimbabwe) the butcher piling front and center pieces of animal that we would turn our nose at. The recent rain added to the flavor and aroma. What could you buy there? What do you want? Looking for clothes? Literally bales of clothes were dumped out on tarps and people picked through them as we would explore sizes and designs in a Fred Meyer or upscale Macy’s. It was organized chaos. Product transporters pushed one-wheeled carts in a sea of people, puddles, and potholes with the same ease a New York City taxi driver negotiates the streets of Manhattan. There was even a positive absence of people calling me over to buy this or that. This was not a souvenir market; but was for the day to day business to supply people’s homes or enterprise. Literally and figuratively I got lost in the music of life.
Marula Lodge: After two days in Lusaka and a few trips via bus and taxi, I walk into the paradise of Marula Lodge and the kindness of Jenny and Mike Waterhouse, and their staff. Jenny greeted and let me know that the dorms were under repair and as such I would be sleeping in a chalet at dorm prices. “Are you hungry?” “I could use something to eat, yes” Fact was my sandals were looking, if not smelling, pretty good for a dinner. I was directed to put my luggage away and return to the reception/dining area, where a dinner of stew and veggies would be waiting for me.
My chalet was beyond comfortable with two beds, overhead fan, and shower. Could not ask for more. The grounds, as I discovered the next day, were large with a swimming pool, chairs set under trees along the river, and a slew of monkeys that were entertaining as they chased around and played like third graders in the school yard. That first night I woke to what I thought was a dripping shower. No, dry as a bone. Then I heard what sounded like someone walking across crushed gravel. I look out the window and not 10 meters away is a hippo, just mowing the grass. It was the munching that had brought me out of my slumber.
Jenny and Mike would join us for lunch and dinner. They are delightful people and shared various stories, like elephants coming into the dining area while guests were eating. Mike showed us a video of an elephant that used its’ trunk to open some cupboards to get the dinner that was ready to be served. In the process it ate a pack of cigarettes, broke dishes and created havoc. There is not time enough to say just how wonderful it was to stay at Marula Lodge.
Game Drives: The mix of our guide and driver, David, my new friend Lucas, and the South Luangwa National Park resulted in eye-popping sights, an education, and much good humor. I participated in various drives, morning and evening, lasting anywhere from two to five hours. David was nothing short of amazing. The process of becoming a licensed guide means extensive knowledge and skill behind the wheel. We saw so many animals in scintillating and peaceful scenery, vast and compressed. Elephants, impala, hippos, crocodiles, monkeys, zebra, giraffes, warthogs, baboons, waterbuck, puku, and more came into view. But the best, the very best were the leopards.
On our first night drive I see an impala, and David stops the Land Rover. As I picked up my binoculars David says “leopard up ahead on the right”. My eyes popped out of their sockets as I focus and the leopard comes into view. We drive forward, Lucas and I worried the cat would be scared off by the noise and size of the vehicle. Hardly.
To our delight she eased across the road right in front of us then walked along side us for abit before going into the brush.David drives a bit, knowing right where the cat was headed. Close again. At one point we park and watch her as she lies down, studying some impala close by. Slowly she rises, moves toward us, (I am not making this up), and uses our vehicle as a screen to get closer to her prey.Walking right in front of the Land Rover she was not 3 meters away from us. The impala was on full alert and the leopard’s dash for dinner was futile. David said the leopard was both hungry and had cubs otherwise she would not be hunting that early in the day. “What were her chances for later in the evening?” “Hands down 100% as there are so many impala or other animals with so many young” She would not go hungry another night.
I can say I have finally arrived. My foot has been planted in a few countries around the world including a trip across the Sahara, but until now I have not been to that elusive Africa…. the REAL Africa. Soon To Come: My adventures in Malawi! Until then,
Live, Laugh, Love in Peace -Neil