The Land Rover has been bumping down the road for the past hour, through villages of thatched huts, kids playing tag, and streets lined with shops selling greens and tomatoes. Women are crouched in dry riverbeds digging for water, while men heave by on bicycles pulling towering loads of charcoal. Their tires wobble and I imagine their knees creaking beneath all that heavy coal.
Everyone is smiling. The villages in Africa I’ve seen have always been full of busy, hard-working people, doing harder tasks than anything I have ever done. Their homes are tidy with floors swept by grass brooms, the children neatly dressed and pressed in school uniforms. There is a pulse of industrious self-sufficiency. I can’t help but think our Land Rovers and shoes and schedules are out of place. I’ve spent most of my days in Zambia feeling very out of place. After 3 years, I still suspect they know something that we don’t.
Like, who would spend thousands of dollars driving around for a few days looking at wild animals that could eat you?
We decided to stay at Mfuwe Lodge after hearing glowing reviews from friends. It was inside the Park, a little more fancy with set dinner times, and we liked the idea of white tablecloths, afternoon tea, and little thatched huts overlooking the water.
We stayed in a Family Chalet with a sitting area, balcony, loft bedroom, and porch swing where Jake liked to read.
Eli spent his time looking for birds and watching the impalas and warthogs play.
Baboons are funny. They graze just like cows and deer and sheep, except they reach down with their hands and pull up grass to stuff into their mouths, rather than bending down and biting it off with their teeth the way other animals do. Their human-like movements can be so eery.
Mfuwe Lodge was beautiful. They had the friendliest staff I could ever imagine, who greeted us daily with warm towels after our game drives, eager to hear stories of what we saw in the Bush. There was a nice pool, lovely dining area outside under the trees, a library, and a small outdoor gym that Jake and Eli treated like a playground.
The boys were all brave enough to go swimming in the cold water, but I wasn’t brave enough for that! Yoga back on the deck with the birds sounded like a much better idea.
After we returned from our game drives at night, the lodge was full of lights and tablecloths glowing white with candles.
During our four days there, they kept us very busy! Dinner was at 8. Breakfast was at 6. Early morning game drives to get out and see the animals before they looked for shade in the trees, and later drives after the sun went down so we could see the leopards, hyenas, owls, and other night creatures. We came back to the lodge each day around 10:30, had an early lunch/brunch, then relaxed, swam, napped, or played UNO until Tea Time at 3. Tea was usually fruit and cake, followed by another game drive starting at 4. We drove for a few hours through clusters of giraffes, elephants, and hippos, then stopped for sun downers when the sun started slipping below the horizon.
Look twins! Giraffes just love to pose.
This hippo pod was in the pond right outside our chalets. One of them had died the day before we arrived, which meant there was a fight going on between the lions and the crocodiles. I caught this picture of a lion pulling the hippo up out of the water.
All night the lions were roaring and roaring, right outside our windows. Pretty weird! In the morning, we saw a mommy lion with four lion cubs playing around in the trees. The air smelled pretty bad around the pond. Nature is a little gross.
The kids kept a checklist of all the animals that lived inside the park.
They also liked riding around in the Land Rovers.
Our guide let them sit up front a few times. Peter was great. He wore this beautiful hat full of blue and yellow feathers, and told us so many stories!
At around 9:30 each day, he would stop and pull out a thermos of hot water and a tiffin with tea, coffee, sugar, and cookies.
There were a lot of interesting things to explore during our tea breaks, although we could never go too far from the car in case there were lions or crocodiles nearby. Seriously!
Back in the vehicle, some of us rode in the front seat while others relaxed and put our feet up.
The grass was waving golden in the sunlight, taller than our heads. Our Land Rover crept alongside impalas, wildebeasts, warthogs, and a dazzling herd of zebras.
This is also the home of monstrous Baobab trees, sometimes with choruses of bees and honey hives dripping from the branches. We got out of the truck to knock the thick bark, hard as cement, as big around as a small house. No wonder the lemurs in Madagascar built entire cities in the branches of baobab trees! These things are glorious in both size and shape, there is nothing else like them on earth.
Our trip to South Luangwa couldn’t have been more perfect.
I’m still not quite sold on the whole idea of safari drives and villages and parallel universes, but I guess when in Rome there are not a whole lot of other options. This is a once-in-a lifetime thing, living here in Southern Africa, and we are leaving no stone unturned.