Friday, September 4, 2009

Jo'burg to Lusaka and on to the Busanga Plains

The Lufupa River in the Kafue National Park, Zambia

On Tuesday August 4 we were finally on our way to Zambia, a land-locked country in south-central Africa, bordered by Namibia and Botswana, Zimbabwe to the south, Mozambique and Malawi on the east, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the north, and Angola to the west. The capital Lusaka is some 1,194 km (742 miles) almost exactly due north of Johannesburg. We got there in well under two hours on an SAA Boeing 737.

Shortly after landing at
Lusaka International Airport we were met by Sefofane Air representatives Grace and Clever who ably assisted us with luggage retrieval and passport and visa formalities – US$50 per person for the privilege to enter Zambia – one time only. We were then advised that our flight to the Busanga area would be delayed by about 2 hours due to travel plans by the President of Zambia, which resulted in some airports being temporarily closed. I can’t say that we were thrilled with this development, which put paid to any thoughts of an afternoon activity at our first camp. However this was not a first for Kathleen and I; we once spent a couple of hours cooling our heels in the lounge of Tananarivo Airport in Madagascar, which was closed due to the imminent return of the Malagasy President and his wife from a shopping trip to Paris.

We were treated to lunch at a restaurant inside Lusaka Airport terminal. Even for omnivores, the choices were limited; the vegan amongst us had to settle for nshima (known as sadza or pap – a staple food in many parts of Africa – essentially the African version of grits or polenta) with baked beans, and some veggies which tasted like kale or mustard plant. We were by then rather hungry so quite frankly everything tasted like foie gras.

Eventually we were escorted across the runway to our Cessna 210 for a flight of about 1 hr 15 minutes to the Busanga Plains, where we dropped off a couple of guests (co-incidentally also from the Houston area) and then continued on for an additional 15 minutes to Lufupa Tented Camp, on the Kafue River. I was immediately taken with the beautiful setting of this low-key camp, which struck me as peaceful and relaxed. A member of the Camp management staff took us through the usual do’s and don’t – no walkabouts at night, emergency horns only to be used for real – such as medical – emergencies, etc. before we were escorted to our cozy yet unassuming tent in a perfect spot overlooking the water. I was looking forward to spending some time just sitting on the little porch staring at the beautiful body of water making its way slowly from left to right, all the way from the interior of Zambia eventually to link up with the Zambezi and finally to spill out into the Indian Ocean, almost 1,000 miles further east in Mozambique.

Interior of our tent at Lufupa

Part of the bathroom and shower

Dinner at Lufupa Tented Camp was simply excellent. Kathleen and I had a delicious plate of couscous with a Curried Chickpea Tagine and some fresh green beans. A soft, almost biscuit-like bread roll was served on the side. The regular menu main course was chicken. Dessert for the vegetarians was a delectable pear in a red wine syrup, one of the best versions of the dessert I have ever enjoyed.

I did not expect much from the evening night drive, and after more than an hour we had spotted little more than a few white tailed mongoose and some nightjars. But then the evening was turned around in a hurry when our guide Brian and his spotter located 3 cheetah brothers on a termite mound. They were lolling about, alternatively lying down, yawning and looking quite contented after what must have been a good meal earlier that day. It was a great ending to a day that started out not so well, with the flight delays.

The front door to our room at Lufupa Tented Camp

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