We got out early on a Saturday morning, we were on the road at 6 AM. We headed due west with the rising sun behind us and had the goal of seeing part of Zambia's famous Kafue National Park.
I am very happy to not wear a tie. It really doesn't matter where I am headed, as the culture here is so different from what I am familiar with that any road trip brings amazement to me. This is along the main highway west and there are small family complexes all along the way.
I really do love trees and when the baobab trees start to show up along the road I have to stop and get a closer look.
Most homes are "whitewashed" with a lighter earth color on the top 80% of the walls but decorated with a darker color up a foot or two from the base, I suppose because the rain will splash the mud that high in a month or two. This is the time of year the thatched roofs look pretty shabby and they are being replaced and readied for the rainy season.
This highway is called the Mumbwa Road as it goes to the town of Mumbwa. We planned on topping off there so there wouldn't be an issue of petrol the rest of the day. Well, these guys had the last diesel in town in five gallon "lelly cans". Those J's, L's, and R's can be tricky.
We arrived at the gate after about three hours driving.
Below is the gate across the highway, the entrance to the fifth largest national park in the world. That is Kristi standing off to the side by the sign.
The park supplies you with a guide for free and he is required to accompany you, but you are told that he will be missing his lunch, so if you compensated him for that it would all work out well. The ranger suggested that 50 kwacha would cover "lunch".
Regan our guide was found and he headed for home where he changed into his uniform and flung his AK-47 over his shoulder. Here he is coming out of his house ready to get in the back seat and make us feel safe and secure. His main occupation is keeping his eye out for poachers.
Inside the park looked a lot like the outside but very few people.
Regan had us turn off the pavement and we were off on our hunt for wildlife.
Ah, my main wish was to see an elephant in the wild and viola' there in front of us is fresh elephant poop and I am all camera, steering wheel, and eyeballs.
My first glimpse was about 10 minutes later as Regan pointed to these huge black shapes moving through the trees. No camera shot, but a thrill to see five or six huge shapes quietly moving through the dry, thick stands of trees. I wanted to follow but Regan said we would see many more.
The Kafue River runs through the park and it is much larger than I expected at this dry time of year.
Regan and Kristi posed for a photo at a camp where you can spend some time.
These yellow and green trees are prominent in the dry season.
The yellow ones are called Mutendo trees.
I have always been fascinated with the termite mounds. Some are as high as 10 or 12 feet but there are thousands of these smaller ones up to 3 feet high. I asked if I could kick one over and stir them up.
The termites didn't swarm like I expected. The mud is made up of the dirt and termite poop. It is extremely hard and the inside is very neat and clean like a beehive would be. These termites were very small. They are smaller than our California house ants.
At one point, Regan had me stop and had us walk over a berm and behold the river was right there. It was absolutely beautiful. If we had been in California I would have been in the water. It looked so invitingly cool and slow moving. Lots of big smooth rocks to jump from and swim around.
What a surprise to find that a third of the "rocks" were hippos.
We clearly made them nervous and they made great bassoon-like noises.
I had heard that hippos kill more people than any other wildlife in Africa. Regan said he was more afraid of elephants.
We couldn't get close enough to my thinking and Regan was getting very nervous when we wanted our photo taken near the water. He kept warning us about crocodiles and was ready with his gun when Kristi wanted to test the water.
I could have spent the rest of the day there just watching hippos.
And maybe letting them watch me.
Lots of big birds around.
A few vultures.
And finally, my first real, wild elephants!
They just go wherever they want, eat leaves and bark and tree fibre.
More water bucks.
We looked around.
Below is a tree that an elephant had been chewing on recently.
Some sort of grouse.
I found out this little guy is an African wattled plover.
We disturbed storks.
Found a small flock of Grey Crowned Cranes about 4 feet tall.
A hornbill of some sort.
Small water buffalo skull and salt and peppered crested chick.
Monkey with child. (below)
We also did see many baboons inside and outside the park.
More zebras. I am always surprised how hard these animals are to pick up visually at first but eventually you get the hang of it.
Warthogs, apparently not pronounced with a hard "t" here. Regan kept insisting "warth-og".
This bird was so colorful he really caught my attention
When flying, it is a truly Blue Bird.
He is called a Lilac Breasted Roller.
Some sort of black horn-bill
This guy had a red face like me when caught by someone with a camera.
There are a few folks who still live in the park and the government is slowly moving them out.
This gal has come to the road with her friends to sell fish to those who pass through.
Our guide, Regan, was happy to buy four bream for dinner that night. They were a little ripe in the car.
Outside the park these women were firing the mud bricks. They were slapping mud on the outside of the pile to keep the heat in while the fire burned inside. They were almost done as we were heading home. Mud pies and slap, another handful and slap. We watched a while and it takes a bit of time to cover something with an inch of mud just using your hands.
This Mom was just watching the others work.
This Mom and son were crossing the main highway.
I showed this photo with the water info earlier but it fascinates me seeing the clothes washed and dried on the bushes. I am a man, because clean clothes are not that important to me. Maybe that is the essence of being male. Do you think women really like clean clothes or do they like the process and community of washing? (or maybe the solitude, since men are not drawn to this task?)
I didn't see any men here either at bath time.
Ah, the men are out with the cows - just the quiet of hooves and new discoveries around the corner.
Yup, here are more men or boys happy to be on their way with a job to do.
We were hurrying home so to not drive in the dark, as it truly is dangerous.
However, as I passed these baobab trees I had to stop again and take photos.
I just need some African animal silhouettes in the shot.
I guess I will have to go again and look for those along with lions, leopards, crocodiles and rhinos.