“If the elephant comes around to the left, hide behind that car. If it comes around to the right, hide behind this one closest to us,” suggested Giani. We’d been having a lovely chat around the campfire with a group of Italians when Giani, the group leader heard the feint rustlings of an elephant slowly climbing the banks of the river and into our campsite.
We had already seen an elephant wandering around the campsite the previous day, but at night they’re actually quite tricky to see and very quiet as they move around. Fortunately we were able to creep slowly back to the safe haven of our roof tent before the elephant reached us. However, we did hear the hilarious chomping sound of a hippo under our tent during the night, clearly enjoying the lush green grass that he can’t find on the other side of the river.
All in all, I think we managed to see as much interesting wildlife outside South Luangwa National Park as inside it! This included the elusive leopard just a few hundred metres from our camp trying to defend a puku that it had killed in the night, as well as some beautiful brightly coloured birds that are in total contrast to the various shades of brown in the landscape.
Border crossings and police checkpoints always yield some memorable moments. At one of the border crossings, the woman from the Zambia Revenue Authority had its tag line embroidered onto her T-shirt – “Pay taxes not bribes”!
Just outside Lusaka, what we thought was a police check was actually a tsetse fly control point. Tsetse flies are vicious. They land undetected and are difficult to shake off. When you least expect they unleash a stinging bite that makes grown men yelp in pain. An Eddie Murphy lookalike in sunglasses and a fluorescent yellow safety vest came up our car and shook our hands enthusiastically. He was carrying a butterfly net with which he tapped the outside of our car as he walked around it. Ten seconds later he was back, beaming with joy. “Mr Tsetse not here” he declared, then shook our hands again and waved us on our way!
The capital, Lusaka, really surprised us. It was the most modern city we had come to since Nairobi and people were well dressed and well spoken. With our smart outfits buried in the back of the car awaiting an appearance in Cape Town, we felt somewhat scruffy in our hand washed clothes that have started to take on the colour of the African earth!
At the shopping mall, Curry in a Hurry didn’t sound promising, but ended up being a great place for Indian food. The supermarket wasn’t cheap though, and a few packets of cereal, some fake cheese, and a few bits of fruit and veg didn’t leave us with much change from $100! Still, we had heard there wasn’t much on the shelves in Zimbabwe, so best to stock up before heading to the border.