Nanzhila seemed to be a hit with Philip, Caroline & Muriel, but the fairly gruelling trip to get there, the remote wilderness environment, the principle of being ‘far from help’ and the game wandering around the camp at all hours have been a bit of a culture shock for our guests.
I guess we take these things for granted now and perhaps forget how long it took us to get comfortable with wild game wandering around our camps when we first arrived.
We decided that rather than go much deeper into the park, we would head up to Lake Itezhi Tezhi for a couple of days to redress the ‘wilderness / civilisation’ balance. Water levels are still exceptionally low, due to the poor rains last Christmas. The lake here is a major Hydro-Electric scheme and the last time we were here, the water level covered most of the rocks surrounding the bar.
The Plains Road out of the park was pretty rough for 70km (2-3 hours) with a lot of deep sand, confusingly alternate tracks (Top Tip: ALWAYS take the higher of any two alternates) and some real axel-twisting sections.
After a couple of nights at Musungwa Lodge on the lake, and a pretty poor track 100km up to Hook Bridge, the axel-twisting, bouncing, sand & gravel took its toll on the Land Rover. It’s axel twisted – or rather the rear A-Frame did. It’s likely that one of the 3 main bolts dropped out and the lack of tension in the frame sheared 2 other bolts clean off the chassis.
By this time we had also lost one of the front spotlights (presumably crushed into the deep sand somewhere as Philip’s air-conditioned, dust-free, hermetically sealed rental Toyota followed us) and the speedometer had rattled itself to a complete standstill. It took us 7 hours to limp the car to Lusaka (through the insane rush-hour traffic) and checked into Eureka camp about 20km south of the City.
Fortunately Caroline and Muriel loved Eureka. There can’t be many places in Scotland where you can watch Giraffes while you wash up the breakfast dishes. It may even make up for the lack of a dishwasher.
From being a bit spooked by elephants, buck & hippos in the camp only a few days earlier, Muriel seems to be getting bolder by the day.
While the rest of the guys went off to the David Shepherd Elephant Sanctuary and then a very civilised lunch at Lilayi Lodge, Chef John & I went off into the backstreets of Lusaka looking for a welding workshop. Even that was made more difficult than necessary as the constant power-shortages around each district in the city make finding anyone who can work very difficult.
The workshop we finally found had come up with a pretty basic transformer / power distribution board hooked up to a diesel generator, and set to work.
Needless to say, none of the guys had any tools to speak of, and Health & Safety obviously wasn’t going to be an issue. They burnt off the old bolts using the welding rods…
… and burnt holes in it for the bolts to go through (I’m reliably informed there are no power drills within 10km and that an oval hole made by a welding rod is just as good as anything done with machine-precision!).
Once the plate was welded into place, I managed to find 8 nuts and bolts in my tool bag (very fortunate, since there were none available in the workshop) and they stripped 5 of the bolts before finally getting 3 into place. Three hours later I was back on the road. Total bill $30 and a free education regarding what a flexible tool a welding rod actually is.
I guess I must have looked pretty stressed and heat-fatigued by the time I got back to Eureka because Philip decided that dinner that evening would be on him at Lilaye (a beautiful, contemporary, local lodge) that evening. Result!
The following day we had a pretty easy 200km drive to Kiambi Lodge at Lower Zambezi National Park. Two thirds of it was on tar behind slow trucks climbing the constant uphill gradient and struggling with the hairpin bends.
The remainder was poor gravel – with the exception of one 500 meter stretch of wonderful tar on a brand spanking new bridge across the Kafue River, built with European Union money. Surreal, out here in the bush. The tar lasted as long as the bridge and then reverted back to a rutted marram track. The trip was worth it though. At Kiambi we had a private cottage on the banks of the Lower Zambezi and a private sunset show.
View from The Penthouse…
Just what the doctor ordered: 3 days of sunset boat cruises, lazing around the lodge and a spot of world-class Tiger Fishing. Great value too – a half day’s fishing at Livingstone is $150 a head, on a boat with up to 8 people (most of whom we would have upset with our incompetence). At Lower Zambezi we had a private boat (with driver / guide) for 5 hours at $140 for 4 people including rod hire, bait, etc.
The fishing is on a catch and release basis. We took the principle to a new level by managing to release each fish that we had on the line, before we landed it on the boat. Caroline got closest and had a great fish on the line but none of us could master the technique of the 2nd ‘Power Strike’ that’s required to fully engage the hook when they jump out of the water.
In this part of the world a good day needs celebrating with an evening boat ride…