Bit cooler this morning with clear skies greeting us. We did not have much sleep last night as a nearby church thought it is OK for the parishioners to sing very loudly until three in the morning. I am sure God was not happy either with the loud singing, maybe that is why he swept away all the clouds and made it cooler. We were not going into the park today, which is a shame, but we have to go into the nearby town of Saselamani to go to the police station to collect our accident report. Poor Rhino quivered as we crossed the bridge where she had her accident, but she bravely continued on. We easily found the police station, thanks to the detailed directions Justice had given us the evening before. But the police report was not ready, now why was I not surprised by that? We would have to return on Monday, two days away, so it is just as well that the police station is not too far away.
It is now quite warm in the mornings, with the temperature hovering around sixteen degrees. We were greeted with overcast skies and even a few sprinkles of rain danced over us as we got ready to go into the park. We were having no luck with spotting lions, or any other cats for that matter, so we decided to have an early day. We had to re-stock, so we decided to drive into town to go to the supermarket. We passed through several villages, teeming with life, but left them in our dust. We wanted to visit the enormous shopping mall we had seen on our way to Copacopa to if it was real or just a mirage. Eventually we found it and still I cannot believe how huge this place is. It would rival any shopping mall back home. We did our shopping at Pick N Pay then wandered the vast corridors peeping into all the shops, before deciding to head for home. We turned left at the corner into our tiny village, driving passed the locals, chickens, car-wash stalls and churches before turning left again onto the road where Copacopa was. There was a slight dip in the road before it crossed the river. Then the road swept up towards a police check point before levelling out to where our campsite was. Peter was driving and we noticed a blue car on the other side of the road. It was facing the same way as we were. We did not take much notice as we edged Rhino down towards the bridge. We had just crawled onto the bridge when the blue car sped up. He was driving backwards, erratically. He bounced over the kerb then without warning careened towards us only stopping when he crashed into the drivers side door of poor Rhino. The nasty vehicle then scrapped its way down the side of Rhino before coming to a stop some distance away. Peter jumped out of the vehicle, surveyed the damage and then immediately went to the nasty, blue car to see what the matter with the driver was. I also jumped out of the car and went around to look at the damage. With tears in my eyes I surveyed the damage. We had already drawn a small crowd and an elderly lady came up to me. ‘Bad, bad’ she said, shaking her head. ‘He is just a schoolboy. He is in his uncle’s vehicle. Bad, bad. Such a shame. The police up there will help you.’ She said as she tut, tuttered her way up the road. Peter could not get much out of the boy, so we went up to the police. There were two officers there who had seen the whole thing. They were in another district, so could not help us, but had already phoned the police in the right district and they were on their way. Not long after that a police car pulled up. Two officers got out and approached us. Justice (a great name for a policeman) was a burly man and started asking us questions. Mavis his gorgeous assistant was busy with paper and pencil, writing everything down. Justice kept asking how we were and that it was indeed a bad business. He spoke to the kid and arrested him on the spot. Regardless of age, driving without a licence is a criminal offence. By this time a crowd of about twenty had surrounded us and we were the ‘talk of the village’ for days afterward. We slowly limped poor Rhino home. Her rear wheel guard is now in the rubbish and the flap over her wheel is now held in place with cable ties. Her sidestep is now broken and hanging at a curious angle and her rear bumper is out of kilter, skewing at an awkward angle. Both door on the drivers side are bowing in the middle and scratches are festering along the side. Poor Rhino is putting on a valiant face, but we feel her pain and are a little sad also.
We were up late our first morning after the big day yesterday and the fact that it is now a lot warmer here. It was a balmy ten degrees in our tent and just as we were getting used to the cooler mornings. It is only eleven kilometres to the Punda Maria Gate into Kruger. Punda Maria is the most northern of the camping grounds in Kruger. It is usually quieter than the more frequented southern camping sites. We spent both days driving around exploring Punda Maria and looking for cats. It never ceases to amaze me how spectacular Africa is. Where else can you go for a drive and see, impalas, giraffes, nyalas, kudus, zebras and elephants all within the space of a few hours. I will always be awed by the time we spend driving around game reserves. We visited the Park Shop at Punda Maria and also could not help having breakfast there one day as a special treat from the breakfast biscuits we normally eat. As we left our amazing animals behind the gates, we drove west towards Mhinga and home. We stopped by the side to the road to by firewood off some very enthusiastic guy who wanted us to by all the wood he had left, which we gracefully declined.
We were, as usual, up early this morning. Not only did we have another border crossing to contend with, but we knew we had a long drive to Mhinga. Copacopa Lodge and Campsite is situated on the outskirts of the tiny village of Mhinga. We chose it because it is close to the Punda Maria Gate into Kruger National Park. We had tried to book campsites in Kruger but left it a bit late and found out that all the campsites are booked out as it is now the peak season. But we did not mind camping just outside the gate as the campsite at Copacopa was a lot cheaper than the ones in Kruger. We had planned our trip by studying our maps and consulting with ‘The Lady’ (our GPS). We had no problems at the border and after skirting all the trucks we were in South Africa by nine in the morning. We followed our closely planned route, but after several kilometres the secondary main road tumbled into disrepair. Potholes appeared out of nowhere almost swallowing Baby and giving Rhino a giant headache. After we realised, we were spending more time in the gravel at the side of the road than on the horrific road we turned around and made our way back almost to Groblersbrug (the border crossing town on the South African side) nudging Martins Drift. We then turned left on the main highway towards Potgietersrus, then turned north through Louis Trichardt. We then turned east off the N1 (highway) onto the secondary road R524 towards the village of Mhinga and the Copacopa Lodge. The long road into Mhinga was lined on either side of the road by tiny villages that merged seamlessly into each other. Tiny markets, full of fresh produce, rubbed shoulders with giant modern shopping malls. Each village was full of people, cars, cattle, goats and the never ending stream of school children wandering home, along the side of the road, after a busy day at school. We lost count of the number of speed bumps we had to negotiate that were there mainly to slow you down and annoy Rhino as she bounced heavily over each one, with Baby swaying after her. We finally arrived at Copacopa after five in the afternoon. It looked deserted as we drove through the once impressive main gates and was. We were the only ones in the camping ground so had the pick of the spots. We backed Baby into a sheltered spot and in the dark, we tried to unpack and set up camp. It was late by the time we finished so we decided to have a meal at the restaurant at the Lodge. I do not know why they called it a restaurant. I mean it had tables and chairs, like a restaurant, but that was the extent of it. All there was, was a glass cabinet with various types of meat in it, and that’s it. The friendly girl behind the counter asked which piece of meat we would like her to cook, and when I enquired about vegetables, she looked at me as if I was crazy. The only type of vegetable she served was chips. Peter picked out a gruesome piece of meat, while I opted for just the chips. The only saving grace was there was a bar attached so we brought a bottle of red wine to savour with our ‘meal’.
With no packing up to do today we were out on the tar road early, which was just as well as it was about four hundred and fifty kilometres to Martins Drift. We were heading south-east through the large city of Francistown. Then we turned south towards Palapye and there we turned east again to Martins Drift. Martins Drift is the border town on the Botswana side into South Africa. We arrived at the lodge after three in the afternoon. Kwa Nokeng was a beautiful lodge perched on the Limpopo River. The only down-side was there were at least fifty enormous trucks out on the main road waiting to cross into South Africa. There was also a steady stream of trucks criss-crossing the border and the noise filtered towards us at the lodge. We had our sundowners by the huge fire in the main lounge area, overlooking the pool. We even had a TV in our room, something we rarely see these days and something we definitely do no miss.
Packing up day today and we are not as sad as we normally are at leaving a place, which is a shame and we had been to Hwange many, many years ago and loved the time we had back then. We packed up and drove for the last time out of our electric fence enclosure. We were going to go back into Botswana the same way we arrived, so we were not put out by having to repeat the process on the Zimbabwe side at the Pandamatenga Border. We entered into Botswana and again had to tell our friendly guy at immigration how to fill out our carnet forms for Rhino and Baby Rhino. Baby was then inspected to see if she was carrying anything illegal and sure enough, she was. We had forgotten to remove a frozen packet of two of Peter’s sausages and a carton with one egg in it. The funny part was that we had taken the sausages with us from Botswana into Zimbabwe and were returning them into Botswana, but alas we could not keep them. Once we were clear of customs, we continued on the tar road for the 200 kilometre trip to the town of Nata. We arrived at Nata Lodge, a smidge outside of Nata, just in time for lunch and as we were only stay one night, we had booked into one of their safari tents. After lunch we drove back into town to go to Choppies to re-stock up on a few things, especially eggs and sausages for Peter.
All of our days neatly stacked on top of the other like a pack of cards. They mornings were freezing and the days warm. We were still having no luck with animal (or lion sightings). I was still having trouble trying to get toilet paper in the amenities block. Maybe it is just me, but I think that if you are running a camping ground, you should make sure that the amenities block is stocked with toilet paper and the soap dispensers are full and some sort of facility for drying your hands is a necessity. But not at Robins Camp, I lost count of the times I had to go to reception to ask for toilet paper and don’t get me started on the bins around camp. There were several bins dotted around the camping ground and not one had a lid. Normally this is not a problem but with a troop of baboons raiding them each day and scattering the rubbish all over the camp I would have thought that the management would invest in a few lids to keep the baboons out. But I guess they thought that the staff had nothing else to do but pick up after the messy baboons. Peter knew that Tony Park (the author) was building a lodge in the area so one day we decided to visit to see what it was like. We knew that it would be opening soon and just wanted to have a peek. It was only a short distance from Robins Camp, set high on a hill overlooking the savannah and an enormous waterhole. We met up with the foreman, Mario, who graciously showed us around. It will be truly stunning when it is all finished, so I hope Tony and the other part-owner Brett Martin do well with it. Apart from swishing around Nantwich (Tony and Brett’s new Lodge) we doggedly continued to search for animals. We were only rewarded on one early morning drive to Little Toms. We had just settled in the hide when we spied eight lions. There were two males, five females and three gorgeous cubs. They were on the other side of the waterhole, some distance from us, but at least I was with my lions again. After another freezing night they were making the most of the first rays of warming sunshine. The cubs were playful, chasing each other and dancing away from their watchful Mama and Papa. Eventually they scampered up a slight rise and disappeared down the other side. I don’t mean to be sounding like we are having no fun here, because apart from the lions we have seen briefly we have also seen lots of buffalo and elephants. And not to forget the zebras, kudus, impalas and jackals we have seen frolicking in their place here in Hwange.
We are not having as much fun here at Robins Camp as we usually do at other places, but still we are in Africa and in the bush so we should not complain. As it is so cold in the morning that we decided to get up a bit later. We were out of our electric fence enclosure at six-forty. We drove to a place called Big Toms (and yes, they do have a place called Little Toms). Big (and Little) Toms have a waterhole and a hide where you can sit in peace to watch what animals come and go to drink water. When we arrived at Big Toms, we saw nine lions, of various ages, leaving the waterhole to return into the thickets. We met another couple there, who had been watching them for some time. They said they counted fifteen lions, so I guess Peter and I should have got up earlier. Because we had had a glimpse of the lions we decided to see if we could find them again, but that only led us to do a lot of driving back and forth between Big and Little Toms. We did manage to see a huge herd of buffalo, moving like a black river, around the trees as they munched on the long grass. Just before we decided to return home, we made one more sweep of Big Toms and were rewarded, at last. A lioness and three cubs were drinking at the waterhole, but the noise Rhino made as she approached the waterhole startled the lioness. She quickly called to her cubs and they trotted obediently after her into the long grass. I wish the animals here were more used to the vehicles, but if hunting is still allowed, I guess it is better that they are wary of us.
We had to drag out our sleeping bags again, as it is freezing in Zimbabwe with the temperature plummeting to zero degrees on most mornings. We were not having any luck with our game viewing as we stoically ventured out of our electric enclosure twice a day to explore the park. We only caught fleeting glimpses of kudus, impala and a few skitty zebras as we bounced over the rough tracks. We did spy some elephants one day, but they voiced their disapproval at us very loudly as we drove passed them. We were not the only ones having difficulty spotting game and were told that the reason was because of hunting. Apparently, the animals are all skittish of vehicles and keep out of their way as much as possible. Hunting is still allowed in certain areas, which I find appalling, no wonder the animals hide when we approach them. We could here lions every night. They sounded close, but we were having trouble finding them. We were later told that in the tiny village, just outside of camp the villagers had killed an elephant and after cutting it up had hung some of the meat out to dry. The lions naturally wanted some of the kill and were voicing their disapproval each night. How sad.
Our last full day in Kasane and we were feeling a bit down. We went to Choppies and Spar to re-stock our dwindling supplies. As we were going into Zimbabwe and not close to the towns, we had to make sure we had enough food and fuel for our ten night stay at Robins Camp in Hwange. As it was our last full day and we do not know when we will be back, we had our last pizza at the Old House. We are getting so good at packing up now that we were ready to leave Chobe Safari Lodge at eight-thirty. We drove the one hundred kilometres to the Pandamatenga Border Crossing into Zimbabwe. We did not know what to expect after the hassle at Kazungula Ferry Crossing but this one was a breeze. Only one counter on the Botswana side, where the friendly guy did both immigration and customs. We even had to help him with our carnets. He then opened the gate for us and waved as we drove through into Zimbabwe. On the Zimbabwe side their was only one building but this one had two cubby-holes we had to go to. One for immigration $60.00USD and one for customs $60.00USD. After we paid and had our passports and carnets stamped, we drove to the gate, where another guy (with a worn-out foolscap book) repeated everything we had just done in the office. He scratched our names, passport numbers, registration details, reasons for visit, etc, etc into his book then waved us through. It was then another fifty-seven kilometres to Robins Camp. We arrived a little after one in the afternoon. Robins Camp is huge. They have the lodge section and camping grounds. It is all behind an electric fence, which I think is a shame. The camping area is enormous but with only another two campers settled in we had no difficulty in finding a shady place next to the fence and not too far from the amenities building.
We had another quiet day in Kasane, going shopping and luncheoning at the Chobe Safari Lodge. Now that our cat ‘Seven Spot’ has invited her sister ‘Dishes’ over, we had to buy some cat food from Choppies (the supermarket) to keep them happy. The mornings are still chilly with a mist hovering over the river. We went again into the park. We are still not used to the madness of signing in and not being allowed to drive through the gate, but this will be our last day, so we put on a brave face ready for all the red-tape you have to go through. We saw another two hyenas on the tar road as we drove the seventeen kilometres to the Nantanga track. As we surged through the sandy tracks towards Serondela Picnic Spot we noticed a lot of fresh lion tracks in the sand and they were going our way, so we were on the watch for my favourite cat. As we negotiated the tight bends around the picnic area, we stumbled onto the four cubs. They got as much of a fright as we did. They were playing in the early morning sunshine making the most of the quiet time before the safari vehicles find them. Peter and I also made the most of this precious time with them as we had them all to ourselves. We watched them as they played and chased each other. They have really grown since we last saw them, but we knew that the rest of the pride would be close. When about five safari vehicles joined us the cubs cheekily disappeared from sight. Perhaps they too are sick of the intrusion of the safari vehicles. We left the cubs to explore some more of this beautiful part of Botswana. We caught up with one of the safari vehicles and he told us about a leopard sighting. He gave us directions but when we looked at him blankly, he said we could follow him. So, with Rhino now in second gear we sped after him, trying not to lose him on the twisty tracks. Eventually he drove down the steep bank towards the river, turned left to follow the curve of the river. Then we saw about five safari vehicles huddled around a tree. I guess we have found our leopard. She was high in the foliage munching on the remains of an impala carcass. We jostled with the safari vehicles for prime position, thankful that in Botswana the guides are more friendly than in Kruger and actually help the private vehicles get the best view. We stayed with our beautiful leopard until she jumped down from the tree. We followed her as she trailed along a well-remembered path in her territory until she jumped gracefully into the thick branches of a small bush. We drove slowly back towards Kabulabula and had our last lunch on the island. It is so sad to think that we will be leaving here. I have loved every minute of our time spent with ‘my’ lions and will truly miss them. After lunch we drove slowly back to the Sedudu Gate passing huge herds of buffalo and elephants that were slowly making their way to the river. As we drove through the gate, I thought that today we had seen four out of the ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo), not too shabby four our last game drive in Botswana.
We had decided to only drive into Chobe National Park every other day as it is very expensive paying the park fees for entry into the park. We spent the days not in the park catching up with washing, shopping and of course the occasional meal at either Chobe Safari Lodge or the Old House. We always had company on the days we spent in our camp with the monkeys, warthogs, mongoose and bush buck. All have become accustomed to the campers and except for the monkeys and warthogs they are pretty friendly and tame. You can even feed the bush buck if you want to. The mornings were chilly with the temperature dropping to six degrees through the dark of night. We still could not get over the rigmarole of entering the park. We would arrive at the gate by five-thirty to sign in at six then drive back along tar road passing through another gate where we had to show our papers before continuing onto the unmarked Nantanga Track to gain entry into the park. On the tar road we did see four hyenas loping through the grass so that made the trip bearable. We had learnt our lesson about not eating at the picnic spot, so have decided to have morning tea and lunch out on the island at Kabulabula. We saw lots of animals but alas, for me, no cats until we were driving backing into the park on a gravel road. This time we were after the first rush of safari vehicles and allowed to use the Sedudu Gate. The beautiful male lion was resting beside a waterhole, but as we settled down to take our photos a guard approached us. He leant his muscled arms on the window of Rhino and promptly told us we were going the wrong way. Apparently, the track was one-way. How stupid is that, in a National Park to have a sandy, bumpy track one-way. We told him we only wanted to photograph the lion, but he did not care, so we had to do a U-turn and drive back to the main gate so we could turn onto another track before heading down to the river. How weird is that. Still we were in the Chobe National Park and looking at heaps of animals.
We were up super early this morning as we are going into Chobe National Park. It was a bit chilly with the temperature hovering around ten degrees. We packed up a picnic lunch, boiled some water for our cup of tea and drove out of a still sleeping Kasane. It was only four kilometres to the Sedudu Gate which is the entrance to the beautiful Chobe National Park. We were there at six-thirty, but so were several other safari vehicles. We dashed into the office to pay our park fees and then were told we could not enter the park through the gates. The gates were only open for the ‘precious’ safari vehicles in the morning, so we had to travel a further seventeen kilometres on the tar road to the Nantanga Track. There was no signpost telling us where to turn just the beginnings of a rough sandy track on the right. We turned off, then had to bounce through a thick, sandy track for another ten kilometres before we reached the river and the Serondela Picnic Area. We saw hundreds of buffalo as we threaded a path through the picnic spot. They were making their way down to the river for an early morning drink. As we sat watching them a safari vehicle sped passed us, tossing the guests in the back around like corks bobbing on the water. We knew he had heard something on his radio, so we left the buffalo to follow him. He drove quickly but expertly over the rough tracks down towards Kabulabula Island stopping beside a thicket of trees nestled against the track and facing the island towards a flat expanse of reeds. We were rewarded immediately for following the safari vehicle, our beautiful pride of seven lions were greeting the warmth of the early morning sunshine after a chilly night. It was the same pride we had been following when we were here not that long ago. The cubs were bigger and obviously thriving. They were frolicking with each other in the trees, jumping over branches and grabbing each other playfully while the two lionesses looked on. My handsome male was turned to face the sun, his old bones welcoming the warmth to ease his pain. We sat watching them, me with tears in my eyes as I gazed at my lion. I had seen him way back in 2015 on a camping trip we did with Seagal and then he was magnificent, although I still think he is, even now as he looks across to his growing brood. As more vehicles arrived the pride moved deeper into the thickets out of sight. This was the queue for everyone to drive around on another track to see if they could find the lions again. We did the same but decided to return to the spot we had first seen them and sure enough they were just emerging from the thickets to walk towards the island. The cubs jumped and chased each other passed our vehicle with the females slowly following. My gorgeous male sauntered close to us, more slowly than the others. He stopped at a puddle of water for a drink and with water dripping from his mouth he followed the females deep into the reeds out of our sight. We had morning tea at the picnic ground before driving along the flow of the Chobe River towards Ihaha Camping Ground. We felt these tracks like a familiar, cosy jumper we had been over them so many times. But no matter how many times you bounce over the well-worn tracks you see something different. We saw herds of buffalo and giraffe as well as zebras and a large family of over twenty kudus tiptoeing towards the river for a drink, but mindful of the predators that could be lurking close by. We drove back to the picnic ground for lunch, but that was a mistake because of the vervet monkeys. We did not see any when we first arrived, but as we were just about to eat several appeared from nowhere to try to steal our meal. They were too quick for us and not at all afraid as they grabbed some of our salad before scampering away. Naturally we finished our lunch in the car before turning towards home. We drove slowly out of the park, not only because of the animals but also because of the horrendous track up to the Sedudu Gate. I cannot understand how they expect you to visit this beautiful park when there is absolutely no maintenance whatsoever done to the main track in and out of the park. Poor Rhino was almost swallowed up several times as she tried to negotiate the deep ruts. We also had to stop for the herds of elephants that wandered in front of us. They allowed us to pass before voicing there disapproval as we covered them in the dust from the tracks. We arrived back home at two after another amazing day in Chobe. As we sat gazing across the Chobe River lots of elephants came down for a drink and a last look at the sun as it slowly melted into the river.
It is a balmy 15 degrees in the tent this morning, so much warmer than freezing Zambia. To take full advantage of the warmer weather we did some washing. After we had pegged our clothes like flags around Baby’s awning Peter went to enquire if there were any other sights available. He was told we could move immediately into sight number thirteen, which was great as that meant we could now stay for ten nights. Sight thirteen was a great spot also with sweeping views of the Chobe River and the Caprivi Strip beyond. It was also closer to the amenities building which I appreciated. After we packed up Baby and carried a lot of our gear to our new home, Peter hitched up Baby and Rhino dragged her a couple of metres into our new sight. After we were set up, we decided to go to our favourite restaurant for lunch. We ambled into the Old House, order a pizza and couple of beers. We breathed in, soaking up our surroundings and almost felt like a local. We had thought that the pizzas here were cheap, but we had really been spoilt in Livingstone. A pizza in Zambia only cost us $8.00AUD but in pricey Bots we had to pay $14.00AUD. Still a lot cheaper than Australia and we think a lot tastier also, but maybe that is because we are in Africa and not at home in Redcliffe. After we returned to our campsite our favourite cat ‘Seven Spot’ wandered by to welcome us, so naturally we had to open up a can of tuna for her.
It was freezing in the tent this morning, only 6 degrees, but it was even colder outside. It was another sad day as we are leaving beautiful Zambia today to return to Botswana. We have had such an amazing time here and met so many wonderful people that it is really hard to turn our backs on this amazing country. But we have to move on, so with heavy heart we packed up Baby, at least doing some physical work warmed us up. We knew we were in for a fun time at the border crossing into Bots. We thought we were seasoned travellers now and would not get fleeced from the smiling Zambian guys, but we did. There were hundreds of trucks lined up, but we skirted them and nudged into the front of the queue. Five different buildings and counters spread like a spider around us over the rough ground. We got our passports stamped, Rhino and Baby had their carnets stamped and signed and after we purchased our tickets for the Kazangula ferry we were now ready to enter Bots. Easy we thought we were so clever until some guy approached us and said we had to give him 150 Kwachas ($15.00AUD). He said that the wait for the ferry was several hours but if we gave him the money he would help us ‘jump the queue’. Stupidly we gave him the Kwachas then discovered that there was no waiting to get onto the Zambian Ferry, ah such is fun of border crossings, especially the Kazangula crossing. After a ten minute ride on the ferry we approached the Bots side to get our passports and carnets stamped. All went well until we had to pay the insurance before we could enter the country. There were only two people ahead of us but we had to wait over thirty minutes for the guy behind the counter to get off the phone so he could attend to the customers. So after two hours at the border crossing we finally jumped into Rhino and headed to the Chobe Safari Lodge. We could only get a sight for three nights and would have to keep checking to see if any other sights become available.
It is chilly in the mornings here on the banks of the river. We greet each morning with a cool six degrees, and it takes us awhile to warm up. We spent most of the days driving into Livingstone and eating out at a cute café next to the supermarket. The food was great and the prices cheap. Their local beer Mosi is only 15 kwacha which translates to $1.50 Australian. One day we drove down stream to the Royal Livingstone Hotel. We had been there on several occasions and love the opulence of the place. It is right on the banks of the Zambezi River and if you look downstream you can see the spray from the Victoria Falls. Perfect. We decided to visit the Falls even though we have been several times before, just to see beauty of it. We walked from the Royal Livingstone Hotel through lush grounds where impala and zebra gracefully nibbled on the sweet, verdant grasses around us. We paid our $20.00US at the ticket office then wandered around the many tracks that follow the flow of the Falls. The Victoria Falls are spectacular and even though there was less water flowing over the edge than we had seen on previous occasions the Falls really take your breath away. Nature truly is amazing. We wandered back to the Royal Livingstone Hotel and after a brief stop in the curio shop, we returned home. We had done some washing before our trip to the Falls and, as usual, hung up our clothes around the awning of our tent. When we arrived home, our clothes were scattered around on the ground and dirty once more. The monkeys had paid us a visit while we were out and apparently had a party with our washing. They broke several pegs, stole a bottle of mosquito repellent and ate their way through our strip lights. Naughty monkeys and not a one visible now that we are home. We will have to be more careful in the future. Mariska, Steven and Jason had also visited the Falls and dropped by at about four-thirty for a visit. We took them to the bar, overlooking the river, and had a few drinks while we chatted about our day. It was great to catch up with them. After they left several elephants decided to visit us also. They wandered close to our camp but had the good manners to stay behind the fence and not get too close to us.
After leaving Gina’s we had a two hundred and seventy-five kilometre almost due west to Livingstone. We had stayed at the Maramba Lodge before and loved it so that is where we were heading on this chilly, clear morning. We drove into the Lodge at ten- thirty and after debating which sight, we would camp in we finally chose a lovely spot high above the river. After setting up we ambled over to the bar for lunch and a beer. As it is now getting cold again at night, we have decided to light a fire to sit around while we have our sundowners.
We were up and out early this morning as we had grand plans about driving to Lake Kariba and camping there for one night. We were making our way to Livingstone but because of the long distance decided we would break our journey. This sounded all right on paper, but we failed to notice that the camping grounds on Lake Kariba were all in Zimbabwe and not in Zambia. After realising our mistake, we had to drive for ages back tracking and along long, forgotten tar roads that we seemed to be the only ones using. We saw no sign of life and rarely passed another vehicle on those lonely stretches of road. We climbed mountains and Rhino started over-heating with the effort of having to pull Baby Rhino up the steep roads. Eventually we found our way back to the main road and started heading in the right direction. Naturally ‘The Lady’ (our Garmin) got us lost again and if it wasn’t for a beautiful lady who came out of her house to see if we needed help, we would still be driving around in circles looking for Gina’s Lodge. We wearily nosed Rhino into the front yard of Gina’s Lodge in the bustling town of Pemba at four in the afternoon. Gina’s Lodge is really just a large house with some rooms allocated for guests. Our room had an en-suite but when we woke for our showers, we realised that the water was cold and with the temperature in our room frosty we decided to remain dirty for a little while longer.
So sad to be leaving Baines today. We have had such a wonderful time here and not only with the amazing animal sightings but also the new friends we have made here. Weston and Moses took us for one last drive in the Game Management Area. This is an area set aside for game but is not in the Park. It is in the same area we were camping in at Mvuu and also staying at Baines. Peter and I had dabbled around some of the tracks here, but Weston showed us so much more when he drove us around. Even though we saw no cats we were not disappointed with our drive. When we got back from our drive Debbie graciously invited us to stay for lunch. An offer we quickly accepted as the food here has been outstanding. This meant though that we did not leave this beautiful place until almost two in the afternoon. Rhino was patiently waiting for us in the carpark anxious to show us that she had been cleaned. She glistened in the afternoon sunshine and I hope that she is not going to pick up any dust on the gravel tracks out of here. It only took us one and a half hours to drive to Gwabie River Lodge for our one night’s stay. The lodge is only a short distance from Chirundu so after we had settled into our room, we drove into town to do some shopping at the supermarket. Gwabie Lodge hangs high above the Kafue River and the restaurant takes full advantage of the river views. After dinner we went back to our room for an early night as we would be having a full day of driving tomorrow.
With the chill of the early morning wrapping around us we climbed aboard our boat for the short ride into the National Park. The sun had peeped up from the horizon, winking in the cool air as it sent shivers of rays to swirl in a misty dance on the still sleeping Zambezi River. We knew it was going to be another perfect day as we huddled in our blankets and pulled our beanies down low and tightened our scarves. We skimmed passed pods of hippos who voiced their disapproval at us for disturbing their early morning as the sun kissed their hides. We had decided to spend the day in the National Park which would optimise our time there and also would allow us to have a picnic lunch in the park. Moses expertly glided us around the hippos and through channels of reed islands that waved at us as we sped by. We were on our way to meet up with Weston, who had left the lodge earlier in the morning with the vehicle. Once Moses nosed the boat on the sandy shore we clambered out and staggered up the small bank towards the waiting vehicle and a smiling Weston. We had all day, so Weston took his time threading a path through the stunning countryside. He wove through mahogany forests that covered the sunlight like a parasol, only letting in slivers of light to show the way. We had seen the lion called Stranger only yesterday so we were full of hope that we might catch up with him again, also Weston was on the lookout for leopards, as he said they love hiding in the thick foliage of the mahogany trees. From their vantage point in the trees they wait patiently for impala to wander close before diving onto them like eagles darting for food. We stopped at a waterhole for morning tea and watched as elephants wandered by and baboons frolicked near the water’s edge. Back on the vehicle and weaving around ancient baobabs growing like sentinels in the fertile russet sand Moses finally spotted Stranger. He was lying under a scatty bush, that had sweeping views of a large waterhole, but he was curled up like a cat on a rug, seemingly not appreciating the view. He barely raised his head at us as he slumbered in the mid-morning. We only stayed for a heartbeat with him as Weston was sure we would catch up with a lioness and her cub. After we skirted around the waterhole and drove towards a small thicket of trees Weston spotted a leopard up a leadwood tree. Half an impala carcass was draped in the fork of the tree and he was not so quietly munching on his meal. A movement from the nearby impalas and baboons startled him, so he quickly left his meal and dashed down the tree to disappear under a thick bush. As we continued bouncing of the rough terrain Moses again spotted Stranger. He had left his sleep behind and decided to also look for the lioness and her cub. He strode passed us and found them before we did, but the female growled deeply at him. Stranger knew he was not wanted so he ambled off to see if he could perhaps steal a meal from the leopard. We drove around the thicket and the cub full of curiosity snuck out from under the bush for a closer look at us. His big eyes full of wonder as he looked at us. As lunch-time was drawing close Weston left the little guy to return to his Mama. As we were driving out, we spotted another leopard up another leadwood tree, so we were certainly having a great day, full of cat sightings. Weston picked a perfect place for us to have lunch, overlooking a waterhole that stretched towards the majestic Zambezi Escarpment. After a delicious lunch we naturally returned to where we had seen the cats. Stranger was still sleeping a short distance away from the lioness and her cub. We watched the cub suckling from his Mama and peeping at us from behind her protective body. Weston then drove back around the stand of trees to see if we could find the leopard and we were blown away by what we saw. Another lioness (the sister of the one with the cub) had climbed a tree. She was still trying to reach the higher branches when a small section of the branch gave way and she had to hang on tightly so as not to fall. In the tree beside where the lioness was struggling to gain her composure and wondering why she had climbed the tree in the first place the leopard had returned and was feasting once more on his impala. We could not believe it, two trees, side by side and a lion in one and a leopard in the other. I really think that it does not get any better. The lioness, after her scare with the falling branch, decided to climb back down to terra firma. She was not as graceful as the leopard but managed to scratch her way down without losing too much dignity. As she sauntered off to look for her sister and the cub she walked under the tree where the leopard was startling him to snatch up his meal and skim higher up. We had to strain our necks to continue watching him finish off his lunch, then with legs draped over the branch he settled in for his afternoon sleep. That meant it was also time for us to slowly make our way back to the boat and another amazing spin on the beautiful Zambezi River. We watched as the sun dipped below the Zambezi Escarpment covering us in the diffused light of dusk. A chill wind also whipped up off the river making us reach for our blankets and fleeces. We arrived back at the lodge full of awe at the day we had just had. It will certainly be one of the best days we have ever had in Africa and one that is now firmly etched on my soul. We had seen two leopards and four lions all within reach of each other, not to mention the countless other animals we had seen. We watched elephants munching through the forests and buffalos wallowing in the water-hyacinth filled waterholes as well as hippos grunting in the shallows. A day I will never forget. Thank you to Baines River Camp for making it possible.