Our first ever family camping trip! The rains have ended, our camping equipment is ready, and we have a 4-day weekend. Not that we really had a choice in the matter, but what better place than Africa to get started??
All the ex-pats in Zambia camp. Not being on the backpacker circuit means Zambia is more “preserved” than a lot of southern Africa, but it also means it is expensive! No budget lodging in this country, which means nothing less than $600/night for a family of four. The bush camps are all-inclusive resorts for the wealthy, or at least people wealthier than us. The only budget travel option is our own tent! Thus, we are embracing the tent.
And the Commissary. Okay, I know this is not embracing local culture or the African experience at all! But the local people don’t “camp,” and why should my kids miss out on the fun just because their first camping trip is in Africa? We are still Americans after all, and we all know that no country in the world makes snack food like America!
Anyway, what culture am I responsible for giving my kids? When Americans go camping, at least in my childhood, we eat Cheetos, S’mores, and powdered hot cocoa. As far as commissary shame, bring it on! And while you’re at it, have a Pop Tart :).
And some hot dogs!
And a beer! Camping is no excuse for leaving out any of the food groups, you know…
We arrived our first night just before sundown, with barely enough time to pitch the tent and get our fire started. The campsite was lovely, situated at the top of a bank that sloped down to the river. There were fire pits with free firewood, and someone wandering around to start your fire if you needed help. There was also a central areas with toilets, sinks for washing dishes, and hot showers. So we weren’t ENTIRELY roughing it. Having the lodge nearby also meant we could still enjoy happy hour the last day after all the ice in our cooler melted.
Each campsite also had its own little cabana.
Eli and Jake really like camping. Eli noticed how the green color of the trees changed throughout the day, as the sun moved across the sky, and busily built “traps” in the sand for whatever insects or animals or vehicles drove by.
Jake was the Worker Dog and the Light Dog. He carried the flashlight to light the path when we walked to wash dishes in the dark, did some drawing by the fire, and was the first across the bridge to be on the lookout for crocodiles.
They also really like sitting by the fire and playing with sticks!
Campfire cooking was something we weren’t sure about, but it actually worked out great. We grilled chicken and vegetables one night, made tacos the next, and had marinated cucumbers, camembert with fig paste, as well as corn salad and several bags of jalapeno Cheetos. And of course s’mores! Mike is an expert griller, even when camping.
I’m particularly proud of our cooking pot. We almost bought a new pot, but then read online about how you can just use a can, so we took the label off our can of Virginia peanuts and attached a coat hanger. It worked perfect! We had hot coffee and hot milk for the cocoa, and used the axe to move it on and off the flames.
For breakfast, Eli and Jake had a special treat.
During the day, we walked through the bird trails, took a hike across the river, and wandered around the farm grounds that supported the lodge. They grew everything, all their own vegetables and herbs, even their own pigs!
Like the Herbfarm. In Zambia. Well, not really. We loved our experience and it was great for camping, but we were glad we weren’t eating every meal at the lodge. White Zambian cuisine follows the British tradition, which probably says it all, but the roast pork with crackling we had on our final night was delicious! The rest of the farm was rustically haphazard, a little rundown but obviously being used by real farmers. Dad, here is a picture of the fences for you:
On our final morning, we woke up early to get the tent packed and be on the road. We boiled our last can of water and pulled the tent down as the rain started to fall, a good sign that it was time for our adventure to end. We checked out of the campsite and picked up our four “packed lunches,” also in true British form: a hard-boiled egg, a sausage, and a buttered, bacon sandwich. A little salty but it turned out perfect for the ride home. We had fun! And we can’t wait to go camping again!