Malawian Rice Vendor

Monday, 6 June 2011


Having traveled so far for so long one would think we would have had a relaxing sleep.  However, we were awoken throughout the night by the sounds of laughing hippos, roaring lions, and occasional chainsaw like sound of a distant leopard.  We woke up and got out of bed at the crack of dawn and walked down through the camp to discover that we were situated only meters from the banks of the river, Luangwa.  We gazed in wonderment at the hippos sunning themselves along the banks of the river while many more were wading in the shallow water.  Across the river, lies the South Luangwa National Park, a huge spanse of African landscape whose topography includes dozens of different animal species and hundreds and hundreds of bird species.  After a brilliant breakfast we moved out of our safari tent and pitched our little two person tent under a beautiful sausage tree aptly named for the dense fruit that hangs precariously from it's branches.  This was to be our home for the next week or so.  Our first full night at Flatdogs we went out on a game drive which took us deep into the verdant park.  We were fortunate enough to encounter several groups of animals including zebras, giraffes, along with the odd hippo. We watched the hippos in the nearby swamp filled with Nile Cabbage, they were like kids in a candy store, floating from side to side with their mouths open just devouring cabbage.  It was a true hippo buffet!   After a brief stop to enjoy the setting sun, we followed the trail of a wayward impala whom our guide thought was acting quite suspiciously.  Sure enough as we ventured deeper into the park following the path of this lonely animal, we stumbled upon a leopard about 10 ft. up in a tree with what we can only assume to be the lonely impala's young child in it's grasp.  We sat in awe of this magnificent animal as it slowly ripped the flesh and bone from it's prey.  While sitting watch this magnicifent spotted creature, a couple of spotted hyenas appeared hoping for a couple of scraps to fall from the tree.  The hyena can smell blood for up to 3 miles away so it was no wonder they were quick to appear by the leopard's side.  After watching the leopard devour the impala we moved on and were quickly able to spot a mother lion sneaking thru the bush along with 3 cubs in tow.  Our guide, Malama was quite skilled at telling us where the lions were looking to hunt and we were able to follow their movements until they disappeared into the thick african bush.  By then it was time to return to camp for a quick dinner and an early night sleep as we were to wake up the next morning for an early morning drive.  We loaded into the safari truck around 6 am and headed once again into the glorious national park.  As we drove, we watched the hippos slowly move back into the river, spending the day hydrating their skin in the Luangwa river.  We were able to spot herds of impalas, water bucks and wilderbeast.  After a quick drive along the river bank we stumbled upon a huge herd of cape buffalo... over 300 head stood placidly and grazed on the African savannah.  Again, Malama had a hunch and he drove a little further into the bush where we spotted a small pride of female lions as they slowly stalked the huge herd of buffalo.  We sat still in amazement as the lions crept ever slowly towards the huge buffalos.  Eventually, as they drew near, we could see from their body language they were ready to attack.  The buffalos sensed this also as the huge dominant males moved to the front of the pack.  Suddenly one of the lions made a move into the herd trying desperately to attach itself to the hind quarters of one of the buffalo.  It almost succeeded until one of the angry males chased it away with its horns poking forward.  The lions quickly retreated and tried to regroup.  Again, they made a plan of attack and tried to flank the buffalo sending one of the female lions off to the side trying to distract these massive black animals.  But again, the buffalo were wise to their ways as they repeatedly chased off the female lions.  By this time, the sun was getting high in the sky and we could see that the lions were quickly getting fatigued.  They finally retreated without being able to capture their breakfast and the buffalo slowly moved on to greener pastures.  We spent the next few days at the camp which was quite pleasant as most of the other tourists would go out on the game drives which left us and the local Zambians to enjoy the serenity of the camp alone.  This actually turned out to be almost as good as going on the game drives as most of the animals ventured into our camp.  One morning as Jeff started to stumble out of the tent he noticed a huge male elephant only feet from the tent opening.  He slowly backed his way into the tent and we both watched as the elephant stared directly towards us.  All of a sudden, through the thick grasses beyond, there appeared 6 more elephants and then five more including a little baby.  We were stunned!  We could not move out of our tent as everytime we opened the zipper, the sound would catch their attention and they would peer directly towards us.  After being stuck in our tent for a couple of hours, the elephants moved on to the kitchen area and we were able to get out and stretch our now sleeping legs.  Suddenly, they appeared on the other side of our campsite opening coming right for us.  Luckily we were able to climb up a small platform in a tree which gave us a better and more safe view of these massive creatures.  This became an almost daily routine and since most others were out on game drives, we got to enjoy it ourselves.  At nighttime, while the elephants were away sleeping, the camp was inundated with hungry hippos.  More than once we awoke in the middle of the night to hear a massive hippo munching on the grass directly outside our tent.  For those who have not experienced the sound of a hippo with the munchies, it can be quite startling.  The ultimate experience came when at 4am, one of the night watchman walked by our tent and told us to be VERY quiet and not move!  We were not quite sure why but through the thin nylon of our tent, we could hear rustling of a huge animal.  Neither of us said a word to one another and neither of us dared move because we were not certain what creature was out there.  Both of us having thoughts of a lion suddenly pouncing thru the thin plastic tearing us from limb to limb.  After a couple of hours of hardly breathing, we finally were able to get up and asked the night watchman what animal was there and he told us it was a huge bull elephant standing directly above our tent using it's trunk in a circular motion trying to decipher if we had any food.  Luckily, reception had warned us on our first day not to have any type of food product in our tent for this exact reason.  We immensely enjoyed our time at south luangwa and Flatdogs and we were sad to have to go but we knew if we stayed any longer, we might never leave.... So, we decided to hitch a ride the following day and made our way back to where humans roamed....................

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