Deboys in at the Deep End

Jack & Irene (our pals up in Scotland) will be livid with me for not writing a blog for the last couple of weeks. Helene’s brother Philip, his wife Caroline and her aunt Muriel have arrived from Scotland to travel with us for a month and I haven’t even put a note up to say they’ve arrive safely.

So, in a (probably vain) attempt to stop Jack grumbling about what a bloody inconsiderate and lazy Englishman I am, here’s a quick update for Jack & Irene.

The week before the family arrived was spent finalising accommodation and travel plans. Pretty calm really, other than one brief encounter with the local Female Stormtrooper manning the police roadblock up the road from Maramba Lodge in Livingstone. She confiscated my Road Tax (that we eventually bought coming in from Zimbabwe) saying that it is only valid for a month and had expired. What a mirthless, aggressive, woman. A scowl on her face like a wave on a slop bucket.To cut a long story short, for 45 minutes we had words. 
Not very polite words actually (that really is out of character for me) but she and the other 3 cops she was with were pretty aggressive and I was certain were looking to do no more that ‘fine’ the naive Mzungu (me) $50 and pocket the money to buy some lunch. 
I refused to pay and they threatened to take me to Court. She took my driving licence details and wrote out a ‘Confession & Fine Statement’ on a sheet of pLain paper which she demanded I sign. I wrote on it that I objected, that I declined to pay, and signed it. I explained that even if the tax had expired the previous day (as she claimed) then I was entitled to go and buy new tax today. After a few more heated exchanges, Helene and I drove back to the Zimbabwe border and bought a new Road Tax / Toll Certificate.
I then drove back to the police roadblock and demanded that ‘Atilla’ give me back my original certificate as I was taking it to check it out with the RTSA Highways Office. Somehow she managed to become even more unhappy, but eventually handed it over. It probably didn’t help her mood that by this time I was writing down everything she and her gang said. She certainly wasn’t in a good enough mood to give me her name and her badge number.
We then went into the Road Tax HQ in Livingstone and the (very helpful) Director there told me that I was right and the Police Officer was wrong. The Road Tax / Toll last for the duration of your stay in Zambia, not just 1 month. Every time I pass the road block now, Cruella DeVille seems to be looking the other way.
Anyway, a couple of days later, Helene’s family arrived for their first African Safari experience. It started with a couple of days of relative luxury at Maramba to get over the stress of flying all the way to Africa in Club Class on BA. The bar and the restaurant took a bit of a pounding, but that was possibly justified by the fact that we had elephants in the camp again and they were not behaving well (the elephants that is, not the family). 
Muriel was in a Safari Tent (a large, comfortable, heavy duty tent on a platform, with formal bed and an en-suite shower room) but I think she was still pretty spooked.

The following day Philip & Caroline picked up their hire car and the two of them transferred to their rooftent. Again, a bit of a culture shock but I think they found it pretty comfortable. 
It does take a bit of practice to get out and down the ladder though… 

To familiarise them with the car we took a drive into Mosi Oa Tunya National Park for the afternoon, not expecting to see much on their first day. Couldn’t have been more wrong. Within 30 minutes of driving along the track on the bank of the Zambezi River, we were halted by a group of about 30 elephants that blocked the path. 

We waited for them to move on, but after another 40 minutes there was still no way through, so we had to backtrack and go through one of the inland trails. Even that was bristling with wildlife. Over the next couple of hours, amongst others, they saw warthog, wildebeest, bushbuck, zebra, fish eagle, Impala, kudu and giraffe. 

Not bad for a first safari drive.

The following day was a little more relaxed. A walk around the Victoria Falls Gorge on the Zambian side. Blistering hot and (although hugely powerful in the central & western section) amazingly dried up on the Eastern Cataract due to the lack of rainfall this year. 
Still beautiful though, despite the low water levels. 

Even the water level under the Livingstone Bridge was low. 

After that, there’s few better ways to round off a day that a sundowner at the Royal Livingstone Hotel at the top of The Falls.  

Very fancy. 

They make a pretty good Mohito, and know how to lay on a good sunset as well. 

Right, fun over for a while, it was time to bring Philip, Caroline & Muriel back to earth and get them on the road. We headed out for a 240km drive up to Kafue National Park. Although half of that distance is on tar, the state of the gravel and sand roads leading to the park at the Dundumwedzi Gate would mean that it would take 6-7 hours to get to our camp. 

The further into the park area we drove, the more remote the environment got. People here live simply and have to be self sufficient. There’s little water around and villagers will often walk 4-6 km each way to collect it in a Jerry Can on their head. A pretty remote area and even more of a culture shock for our guests. 

Fortunately, once in the park The Plains road was open. This meant we would avoid the Cordon Road where we had snapped our axle a month earlier with Judith & Tamsin. It’s still not an easy track (Tsetse Flies, plains scorched by bush fires, rutted gravel, cotton-soil and deep sandy patches) but it would cut an hour off our journey to Nanzhila Lodge. 

Nanzhila Lodge is really lovely. The safari tents (where Muriel was staying) are beautifully set up with great ensuite accommodation and overlooking a Water-Lilly strewn waterhole.

The campsite where we would be with Philip & Caroline was equally beautiful, peaceful and had the same wonderful views. The facilities are a little more rustic though.  

Let’s see how they cope without a bit of room-service for a while.