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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: -15.1305, 25.7849
Today was a day of travel, using many different modes of transportation. Starting in our now very familiar jeeps, we rode to the dirt airstrip, a single line of dirt road in the middle of the grassy bush, to await our planes --a 12 seater and a 4 seater-- to fly us to Kasane. The first pilot had to circle the airstrip twice because a large parade of elephants was crossing. This is Africa! We wait for elephants to cross the road. Ten of our group plus most of the luggage all crammed into this larger plane; I was sorely disappointed not to fly in the smaller airplane. But it was a lovely flight, 7500 - 8000 feet in altitude for most of the way. It's an hour's flight to Kasane from the northern reaches of the Okavango Delta; we arrived around 10AM and began our wait for the second plane's arrival. This took much longer than expected, but finally they arrived, and we all boarded a van to drive to the border of Botswana. I was sad to leave that lovely country. Next came a short ferry ride across the Zambezi River, and we stepped out into Zambia.
Sku collected our passports and visa money, and dealt with all that single-handedly, which was very good as we all sat in another van, being accosted by tens of vendors selling their wares. Even after all these years, since 2007, I guess I am still affected by a form of psychological traumatic stress syndrome, begun in Egypt and magnified and exacerbated in Morocco, from ubiquitous vendors yelling and following my daughter and me even as we tried to escape by repeatedly telling them no, and then resorting to running away. But that didn't even work! Sometimes we were surrounded as they followed us, and we couldn't see a way out of these extreme selling situations; I certainly felt threatened at those times. (From those episodes I learned that it is better for western women not to travel alone in Egypt or Morroco.) This situation, in Zambia, now on the other side of the Zambezi River, across from peaceful Botswana, felt very similar. The result was that I bought nothing from these sellers, even though some of their wares were attractive.
Another hour's ride in this van took us to the beautiful Livingstone Airport, and this time I rode in the smaller plane! The pilot and only three of us flew another hour to Kafue National Park, Zambia's oldest and largest, the second largest national park in the world. But here the plane had to also circle the airstrip, this time twice before landing, as an implausibility (group) of wildebeests was resting on the muddy airstrip. They finally moved, but when we landed we could not immediately leave the plane as lions were sighted nearby. So we waited until the pilot was notified that the lions had moved off, then he carefully opened the airplane's door, looked around, and finally let down the steps. It was raining in Kafue, our first rain of the trip --even though this was the rainy season-- plus it was chilly. I wanted the sun, and heat, but our guides said this was typical summer weather. It was not what I had expected.
Lufupa Camp is about a five to ten minute ride --in jeeps-- from the runway, but we took a short game drive on the way to the camp. The staff greeted us as at both former camps, with singing and dancing, this time offering warm washcloths instead of the usual chilled cloths. Lufupa is a marvel! Situated on the confluence of two rivers, the Kafue and the Lufupa Rivers, the cabins are luxurious, spacious, bright and beautiful, plus they have doors rather than zippers. (True luxury!) I look out at the river and hear and see hippos, and as I was setting up I heard distressing thumps on the roof. We are again in the bush, with lions and other wild animals all around, so always have to be aware, respectful and careful wherever we are. But these thumps didn't sound big enough to be lions, nor did I expect lions to be climbing on roofs of cabins, although I think they do sometimes lounge in trees. Sure enough, on a tree much too close to my cabin, I saw a Vervet monkey sitting there, looking at me, regarding me rather intently. His pal was on the roof, running back and forth, cavorting between the trees and roof. I wonder if I'll sleep much tonight.
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