September 2010

10 September

It is always with a sense of anticipation that I come back to camp, and trundling along in our friends truck, loaded with a whole lot of second hand kutundu for the Fly camp, we drove into a beautiful brilliantly coloured setting sun. All the Brachistigia Bohmii is blood red, a dramatic colour along the sides of the road, mingling with the reds and pinks of the sunset.

Driving along we saw a small family of francolin, snuggling into dust baths on the side of the road, followed by a beautiful blue duiker, then 9 bush pigs who were totally relaxed, rootling around a big anthill. Tey only ran away when we reversed. After that we saw a magnificent sable bull, who was also very relaxed, just grazing in the beautiful miombo forest.

Unbelievably we then came across two little baby honey badgers which were trotting along the road. We slowed right down for me to try and get a picture, which I did, but very poor quality unfortunately. They were so sweet, trotting along, tails up in unison with little white tufts at the end of their tails. One turned around and looked at us as if to say “Stop chasing us. We are little chaps out for a nightly stroll”. It was the cutest little frowning baby honey badger face, so funny to see a miniature face. I’ve watched honey badgers before, but have never seen a baby. It was a real thrill. I did wonder where the mother was? Eventually we stopped and switched the lights off, in case they were getting tired lolloping along in front of us. When we switched the lights on again, they were gone, hopefully back to Mama.

Just before we reached camp we saw two really big hyenas. One disappeared fast into the long grass, but the other stood and gave us a very penetrating stare. (i was glad I was in the vehicle…) before lolloping after his chum.

We had a lovely day getting bak to camp. A typically Zambian day. No hurry-no rush. We started off when we had finished repacking the truck and trundled off to Mumbwa, stopping to buy some huge cabbages on the side of the road as well as some ‘ready cooked’ green mealies / corn (like the ones we used to have as children), boiled in a half 44 gallon drum over an open fire. We peeled the mealie leaves off and with great delight started eating them. There is nothing nicer or tastier. Later we stopped for some pumpkins and sweet potatoes. On arriving at Mumbwa we stopped at the old Hacienda Hotel, where we had Village Chicken and Nshima… tough, tasty and delicious. We bought some Dettol, in case of tsetse flies, some candles and bread flour and then picked up Rogers. As we left we trundled off through the scruffy little market and on our way. I love days where there is no hurry or rush or shouting and everything gets done anyway, in time, but with fun.

We arrived at camp in the dark, with a big hippo standing in the road, glaring at us. Lions were roaring nearby, as we tumbled out of the truck,  and they continued to roar for the rest of the night. What a lovely welcome home. At dawn the bird chorus started. We got up early and sat around the fire in front of the ‘dining’ sipping lovely Malawi Leaf tea, and watched the rising sun turn the opposite bank to molten gold. Hippos dotted the placid, stiil Kafue river, kingfishers calling…. and the day starts.

13 September

I went on a short walk this morning with Chris and some guests, but had to get back to sort out a driver who was leaving camp. Having my rifle with me, I left the others and walked back  my own. it always heightens ones senses when walking alone, and is very exciting. I sort of ambled along the river bank, and found some very fresh leopard spoor, which I followed for a while, expecting to see a big cat at any moment,  but instead nearly tripped over an exquisite female bushbuck who had not seen me while eating some sausage tree flowers. She was not unduly perturbed, and moved a few paces away. I watched two yellowbilled kites, chatting to each other from branches a few metres apart. There was a lot of fussing from birds in a nearby tree, so, looking with my trusty binos, I saw a beautiful sight…six metallic, brilliantly green sunbirds, presumably having an argument were flitting and fluttering amongst the dry branches, honestly looking like jewelled leaves dancing in the wind.

This afternoon I heard the first plum coloured starlings call whilst on another walk. I was pleased as I had mentioned to Chris that we had not heard them so far this year, so that was nice, although I have not heard it in camp yet.. There were three elephants browsing along the waters edge as I listened to the black headed oriole calling his territorial liquid call. A family of busy francolin ambled along. There was always at least one keeping a beady eye on the sky while all scratching and scrabbling for tasty bits and pieces. Some were quite young birds as their beaks were not bright red yet.

I am off to the Fly Camp a bit later. This is always a highlight for me. I love the adventure of going down the river, seeing what is on the banks and in the trees and hearing what has happened down there in our absence. However, before we go, we are going to see if we can find two male lions who were roaring so close by that the noise kept us awake. It will be interesting to see which two they are. We think it may be Max and Felix.

18 September

t’s that time of the year again, when the bush is redolent with lovely scents from all the new blossoms on the trees. One could be walking through a perfume department, the bouquets are so varied and heady. The first plum coloured starlings rather haunting call is heard. I saw a brief glimpse of his plum coloured wings as he flew. Today I heard the broad billed roller for the first time as well, with his rather harsh, guttural call. The grass is all golden, but the trees and blossoms and bushes are wonderfully coloured – an artists dream. One could quite easily use every colour in the paintbox and still need more colours. The sunsets are spectacular, with colours that take your breath away. It is so dramatic and almost hectically brilliant. The metallic colours on the sunbirds as they dart about the sausage tree flowers, which then fall to the ground and attract the camp bushbuck family, who come and enjoy the fallen blossoms as soon as the camp and guests are at rest in the middle of the day. The bats appear in the evening with their high pitched squeaks as they also embrace the sausage tree blooms.

One receives such a splendid greeting in the dawn with the hueglins robin singing with such joy and pleasure. It makes one happy just to listen to it. Again, the colours as the sun rises,  the now slightly sluggish Kafue River turns to pale silver and the sun touches the opposite bank with fingers of gold. The hippos, rock like, start their dawn chats, hahahaing to each other and competing with the fish eagles strident, evocative calls. The young fish eagle is still around. He is really beautiful with his dark pearl-drop spotted chest and speckled wings,. He sits sentinel-like in a tree, watching his beautiful parents, and waiting to see what success they may have fishing. I’ve seen other juveniles who still behave like tiny nestlings when the parent catches a big fish. They make baby noises and flap their wings like little baby eaglets.

We got some lovely photos of Samuel, our resident giant rat (See Chris’ photographs for September), who loves cut up pumpkin. We occasionally do this as a treat for him! He fills his cheek pouches with them and looks like a receding chinned chipmunk (or as Chris says “rather a nerd”). He is not at all shy, and very relaxed in our company. He and his friend live near the kitchen, I’ve seen the two of them walking together in the torchlight.

There was some excitement when we saw our ‘resident’ lionesses lying under a tree about 60-70 metres from the dining room, who then, as the sun set, walked through the camp chatting with their low, honey voices. One of them roared, which was amazing to listen to in the camp as we were sitting in the lounge, sipping a glass of red wine. Our guests were delayed going to bed for an hour, by the lionesses golden presence in and through the camp.

Walking in the bush is such a joy. We sometimes just amble along, enjoying small things. The longer walks too are so interesting. Just sitting, watching the river is also wonderful. Today about six hippo are lying in the shallows, hahahaing at each other, whilst a territorial fight goes on in mid river-with great pink jaws exposed, and massive tusks/teeth gleaming in the sunlight…….


I must tell you what has just happened. I heard puku alarm calls while writing the logs, so decided not to bother to have a look. However, the calls were pretty insistent, so I got up, grabbed my binocs and went out of the veranda door to look straight into the eyes of a lion looking at me! Whew! I stooped down and called Big Bwana (Chris) who got up and grabbed his camera. In the meantime the lion lay down and watched me, whilst another came up behind him and also lay down. A third lion was walking through the dambo towards me not 45 metres away! What a lovely sight! Everything is so touched with gold at this time of the year, the lions, the grass, the leaves, the puku in the background and the play of sunlight on the lions muscles as they walk All is very beautiful. They have walked through the camp, alarming our resident camp bushbuck, who has run barking away, and they are heading towards the river, probably to get a drink.