We had a wonderful trip to Zambia this past weekend, with only a few travel delays. We took an express coach from Blantyre to Lilongwe (about 5 hours). It cost about $20, but they did gove us snacks and soda on the bus. There was supposed to be a video, but the video player was broken so we had “soft music” instead, so we heard the same tape 5 or 6 times (I still have a song stuck in my head!) About halfway there, the bus “boiled” and then when they fixed that, they found that an air pipe had burst (probably all related), so we sat on the side of the road for about an hour and half. But, if you had to pick a spot to break down, we had a nice one. It was right next to a village, so there were lots of women getting water from the borehole and lots of children playing. If I’d had more language, I would have gone to talk to the women, but I felt silly not being able to say anything besides hi, how are you in their language. I did talk to several other passengers and found a 2 year old friend.
We met our guide, Mick, in Lilongwe and he took us to his house for lunch before setting off. It was another 5 hours to the park in Zambia. When we were about 10km from the camp, we realized the right reat tire was completely flat. We (we being Mick, of course, but the rest of held flashlights for him) tried to remove the tire, but he someone else had taken the right tool out of the car, so he improvised to get all the lugnuts off. One was completely stuck and he bent a metal tool in half trying to get it off. He finally poured brake fluid over it which gave it just enough lubrication to get it off. When we got to the camp, he realized that the left rear tire was flat too. The next day, as we were driving in the park, there was another puncture to the left rear tire. So that made 3 flats in less than 12 hours! But, Mick said that it still wasn’t up to his record in one trip.
Mick is a British Malawian, I guess. He and both his parents were born in Malawi and grew up there, but they are originally from Britain. He has lived in Malawi all of his life, except for the 6 years he spent in Britain in school (which he hated). So I guess I would call him Malawian, except a white Malawian and not a black Malawian, which is very different. He has dual citizenship, I believe. He was an amazing guide. He knows the park, he knows so much about the animals and he really loves the animals. He knows them almost personally. We had an amazing time and saw so many different kinds of animals: baboons, hippos, monkeys, mongoose, impala, bushbucks, waterbucks, zebra, elephants, monitor lizards, buffalo, giraffe, warthogs, lions, hyenas, crocodiles and even a leopard! The leopard just walked right across the road in front of us, twice! On the last evening, we stayed in the park after dark to do a night drive and saw two female lions out hunting. I’ve been on safari before, several times, and each time has been amazing. On the first day, we were headed from the park back to the camp and just outside the entrance to the camp, there were about 14 elephants on and around the road. One young curious elephant came right up to the front of our Land Rover and started wrapping his trunk around the front fender. Unfortunately, the only on who thought to take a picture of it was Liam in the front seat with a powerful zoom lens on his camera, so he was too close. The memory was great, though, even without a picture.
On the way home, we didn’t have any mechanical delays, but when we arrived at the bus station at 3:30 for our 4:30 bus, they told us that the bus schedule had changed and it wouldn’t actually leave until 6:00. She said they were supposed to tell us that in Blantyre when we bought the tickets. They must not have known. Anyway, we made it home safely and Dr. Taylor met us all at the bus station to bring us home.
So, overall we had a WONDERFUL weekend and if anyone ever happens to be in Malawi and wants to go on safari to Zambia (we went to South Luangwa National Park), let me know and I’ll get Mick’s contact info to you.