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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: -19.1504, 26.5759
We left Zambia yesterday, and travelled most of the day to reach Zimbabwe, to arrive at our last camp on this trip. Two flights, two vans -- one in each country, two different jeep rides, and there we were at Kashawe Camp. It's another lovely camp, but we are in hills now instead of flat land. Sadly, we saw the first litter we've seen on this trip on the sides of the road after crossing into Zimbabwe, unexpected and as ugly as litter anywhere.
At camp it was almost too quiet last night, so I didn't sleep well; I missed hearing the sound of the hippos snorting and splashing, and walking right by my tent, plus I missed the sounds of the river too, the gentle, beautiful Kafue River. Here we are also remote, isolated, surrounded by green hills and stunning views. Elephants walk in the valley far below, and I did hear a lion in the night. My tent cabin is as luxurious as at Lufupa Camp in Zambia, just a bit smaller, and the cabins are again all located exceptionally well, each one down a curving path off the main trail, offering everyone almost total privacy. It is a joy for us pampered travellers to live in the African bush.
On this morning's game drive our luck spying wild animals continued, and we were privileged to see a male cheetah. Learning that this is also a relatively rare occurrence on game drives, both jeeps excitedly watched him walk, stretch, and lie down under a tree. Half of our group wanted to just sit there watching this marvelous animal, but he finally went to sleep, so we continued our explorations threading through Hwange National Park. There were more sightings of wildebeests, elephants, giraffes, warthogs, many species of birds, one large and stately male lion, and, of course, the ubiquitous impala.
Lunch was to be on the high ridge above the valley, and as we bumped along our guide Sku suddenly said, "I smell rain." Handing out ponchos took very little time; we had just struggled into them when torrential rains pelted down, soaking our feet, faces, pants, everything. Riding in open jeeps in driving rainstorms offers little protection from the elements; almost every part of us quickly became sopping wet. But spirits remained high, and not one of us melted. And, as usual at all four camps, lunch was another delicious feast, packed so well that it was not even slightly damp. From our aerial viewpoint we ate and watched hippos and crocodiles in the river below as the storm abated and finally stopped, and then, still thoroughly soaked, we climbed back into the jeeps and continued on our way.
The afternoon cleared beautifully; we were drying out, evening was approaching, and yet our greedy hunger to see even more animals on our last few days in the bush was still strong. But except for the rhinocerous, which did not live here, hadn't we seen them all? Today we had seen our first hyrax. Just in case you aren't familiar with this animal, according to my dictionary a hyrax is "a small gregarious plant-eating mammal that resembles a rabbit with short ears and has toenails resembling hooves." They are indeed very cute, but we couldn't get close enough to see how gregarious this one was.
One woman on our trip wanted to see the painted wild dogs of Africa, but had been told that was very unlikely, that even the guides had not seen any in years. She had purchased several wooden carvings of wild dogs to take home with her, probably the closest she would get to seeing any at all. But then, at a curving in the track on our way back to Kashawe Camp, a blur ran past our jeep. And then another. And another! A pack of at least five or seven painted dogs was racing in front of and behind our jeep, hunting their dinner. Our luck was holding; our group was one of the very few who had ever seen the African painted wild dogs! We drove around following them as best we could, but they were so fast it was impossible, so the driver just parked and we watched them come and go, racing helter skelter in and out of the bushes and trees. We were inside a tornado of wild dog activity! When it began getting dark and we finally arrived back at camp, the staff told us the pack had come almost into Kashawe Camp. We saw their tracks, but better yet, we had seen and experienced the activity of the African painted wild dogs live and up close. We had enjoyed --and survived-- another surprising and unexpectedly astonishing day in the bush.
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