A change of plan has led us to miss out Mozambique or Malawi and cross into Zambia.
We crossed the border late on a Sunday afternoon. This was probably a mistake as the ‘Fixers’ only had us to hassle and half the admin staff weren’t at their posts. We had to run back and forth to get various stamps and signatures to clear the border. We entered the country in a very hassled state. Once we drove away from the border however the smiles and waves of the locals revived our spirits. Even the police check-points have been polite, friendly and hassle free.
We arrived at this magical place late in the afternoon. It is 25 kilometres along a straight red earthern track from the Great Northern Road in Northern Zambia. Either side of the track is thick miomba forest which forms a low, dense coverage of small deciduous trees. We were met by Brian, a local Zambian who was very welcoming. We asked for coffee before being shown to the campgrounds and he led us up to the bar which was under a banda roof and overlooked an amazing view over the surrounding forest floor some 300 feet below us. You could see a break in the trees stretching out in front of us which was a swampy drainage area known locally as a danbo. We sat two director’s chairs directly on the edge of the view and enjoyed a local coffee in cups that had been made locally by a craft venture and were decorated with the Southern Ground Hornbill. This is the symbol of the Mutinondo Conservancy and as I looked around the bar I could see that this motif was everywhere on cushions and seat covers and even the bottle opener was an enormous carved Hornbill with an opener held in its beak. The view out front was wonderful but then Brian led us out on a smooth black rock island to the left which overlooked the whole area which was made up of huge granite extrusion mountains called inselbergs, surrounded by forest and bisected by a river.
Already Mutinondo was making its impression and I was falling in love, I later joked that the winds in the trees whispered “Mutinondo, Mutinondo” and you were entranced by the beauty surrounding you.
Brian led us down many woodland paths showing us camping pitches along the way but I kept on saying about a view and eventually he led us to a lookout camp called Nyasu. It looked out over a distant inselberg and formed part of another to the North. There was another banda here with a living space and fireplace. We moved in here and set up camp as the sun fell over the landscape around us. We built a fire as we cooked but found that the chimney smoked heavily. We got the shovel and moved the hot coals of the fire to a fire ring that was placed outside the trees overlooking the lower ground. It felt like a beacon site and true to form we built a huge fire that could be seen for miles I am sure. There was something wonderful and primitive about that fire as we built it up and looked out at the huge night sky full of southern stars. It was such a fire that it was difficult to leave when it came time to sleep, I opened the tent window to watch it from a distance as I fell asleep.
Next morning began with threatening clouds which soon turned into a sparkling bright day. We headed out on the tracks into the wilderness area and soon found Chosa Falls where the Musamfushi River flows downwards over huge basalt boulders. We travelled onwards to the Njambaro Falls, where the water called out for testing and I enjoyed a refreshing swim in the cool, clear waters below the waterfall cascading down from the dark rocks above the pools.
While Mike tested his climbing ability scrambling on the rocky faces I found a warm sloping rock to dry off naturally in the sun on the sloping rocks. We hiked onward and climbed up Charlie’s Rock, another granite inselberg to look for the rock art that was to be found there. The more distant granite mountains rose up in roundness all about.
We came back to the main camp, repeated the magical experience of coffee overlooking the conservancy to extend out trip a little longer, sadly got in Cobar to drive away back to the world outside Mutinondo. The wind is still calling to me as I write this: “Mutinondo, Mutinondo”.
Itezhi Itezhi, Kufue, Zambia 25th May 2017
Consciousness: – An abstract concept of an awareness of your surroundings. Consciousness often doesn’t land suddenly but by degrees as your brain processes each new piece of information and slots it into your mental jigsaw of the World.
First the immediate sensations, in this case cold (We are travelling south from the equator now, into a Southern African Winter & the temperature in the tent was about 8 Degrees).
Second the nearby sounds, Sally breathing gently next to me, the tent rustling in the slight breeze coming across the lake & the sounds of a Baboon troop enjoying a leisurely breakfast and grooming session.
Then Finally the wider noise of your surroundings…
We awoke suddenly to a cacophony of pain, to the cries of desperation, to the sounds of war.
Not a human war fortunately but a war of the apes. Another troop had moved into the territory of the home troop and a battle for supremacy was taking place.
Baboons tend to communicate with a bark, when they fight it becomes a cross between a growl and a roar & when they are injured, they scream. It sounded something like this:
Suddenly the apes’ normal communication is disrupted by an alarm call.
The invading troop announce their presence with a single bark from its dominant male.
The alarm call is taken up by the rest of the home troop.
Kwe, Kwe, Kwe!
The apes swing from branch to branch deliberately bending them with their weight to shake the foliage violently and increase their displays of strength.
Buoyed by the support of his troops, the Dominant Male from the home troop attempts to scare off the invading male…
Kwo! Kwo! Gwahoo
…But gets rebuffed by the more aggressive Male invader.
Gwahoo, Kwo! Gwahoo!
They vie vocally for superiority.
Kwo, Kwo, Gwahoo
Gwahoo, Gwahoo! GWAHOO!
Then they clash physically.
GWAHOO! GWAHOO! GWAHOO!
Gwaho…SCREE, SCREE! SCREEEEAAH!
Finally, the vanquished male retreats to ignominy.
Kwo, mee, mee…
Later we saw a lone ape, ostracised from the troop, moving stiffly along the ground. It had a lump on its back and as we walked past we could see that it had been bitten viciously, its lower back open almost to the spine. Presumably the injury prevented it from climbing into the safety of the trees. Nature is indeed red in tooth and claw. It put some of my recent reading, about man’s transgressions against man on this continent, into a different perspective.
Livingstone, Zambia 30/05/17
Mosi-Oa-Tunya translates from the Lozi language of the local Kololo tribe as “The Smoke That Thunders”. Having seen the plumes of spray projected 400 m into the sky, this seemed a far more fitting name than Livingston’s uninspired ‘Victoria falls’.
We parked at the entrance to the national park feeling excited that we were about to see this famous spectacle for ourselves, one which we could hear the distant roar (or Thunder) of from our campsite 4Km away!
I was unloading some bags from the Cobar to collect our raincoats, waterproof trousers and waterproof camera cover. The sun was blazing and was expected to continue so all day, but where we were going these would still be needed. We intended to cross the Knife-Edge bridge where there is a continual downpour from below (up-pour)? Suddenly Sally called out from the other side of The Cobar “Watch out – some massive monkeys are coming”.
I turned around and came face to face with a very large Male Baboon. I expect his strategy was to approach ‘danger close’ and to intimidate people to back off leaving him free to take his pick of the bags. As I considered this it occurred to me that his teeth were just about the same height as my throat. Tucking in my chin like a boxer, I growled, from low down in the throat almost from the depth of my lungs – a growl that said “Don’t”! He didn’t budge but stared back at me, his Reddish Brown eyes unreadable. I scowled fiercely, flared my nostrils, growled again and stepped forwards the 10 centimetres that separated us. My next step would be treading on his claws. I swear I detected a momentary raise of his eyebrows in surprise and he looked away lowered himself and, not looking particularly perturbed, ambled to the nearby edge of the car park and sat down – now sporting an erection that resembled a pink peperami sausage.
Before my heartrate had quite settled down to a sustainable rhythm following this encounter, two Zambian locals appeared cautiously around the corner of the car. One was carrying an i-Pad and asked “Is it safe, how close can we approach”?
“Well” I said “These are wild animals so I wouldn’t say it is safe. I just went toe-to-toe with that one trying to scare him off but I think instead I turned him on”! One guy stared at me for a second and silently handed me the i-Pad. I approached the big male again, took some close up photos and then returned to the locals and handed back their i-pad. I hope they like peperami.