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Trip 1, post 7: Hwange, still

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In the morning on our next day in Hwange we have finally found the lions. Shepherd was doing the driving, suddenly we have heard jackals warning each other about something – he turned the vehicle and we have found impalas very excited about something, watching into the bush. We drove in the direction and found four lionesses with four cubs in a distance.

When we were on our way back to camp, we have seen a leopard, though it was for less than a second until it disappeared at full speed. It was a beautiful animal, nevertheless, very brightly coloured. We have also seen some impala on the way, some young males fighting, and a bachelor herd, which was quite interesting, as well. Not one of the males had one of his horns broken. it’s a painful thing, especially for his pride, as he won’t be able to fight again (unlike antlers, horns don’t grow back).

On the next drive we have seen some ostriches, and that would be it for distinctive animals. Our final drive that day was a drive to the palm island. It is a very distinctive place in Hwange, the only of its kind, close to the railway. Some years ago, estimate was of over a hundred, someone brought there palm seed and the whole area is scattered with palm trees. Elephants and other animals came to favour it for the palm fruit. We have only seen a group of sub-adult ostriches with their mother in there, a baby giraffe on the way, side-striped jackal I did not manage to catch on the camera and a beautiful sunset. On the way back we have also seen the train going across the park, but the photo came out slightly blurry as the driver didn’t manage to stop in time. I’m featuring it anyway.

 

When we were back in camp, during dinner like 2-3 herd of elephants came to drink from the waterhole. Spectacular!

 

After dinner me and Dix, a Canadian I met in the Hide, went to sleep in the bush, in a proper treehouse. We spoke for hours over a bottle of wine, listening to the sounds of a bush at night. And, on the way there, we’ve seen a beautiful chameleon and an African kangaroo, or rather a springhare.

In the morning on our last day in Hwange, I was woken up by baboon barking very close by and a jackal concert. I have also seen some of the jackals. The drive was not very successful, however, apart from some zebra and birds.

 On the way back out of Hwange, the only what you can say amazing thing, was a semi-adult leopard tortoise (I’m planning on getting one back home). They’re indigenous to Zim and very beautiful.
The next post to come will be on Matopos, or rather Matobo National Park in Zim, south of Bulawayo.
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Trip 1, post 6: Hwange continued

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Drive 1:

First of the safari drives in Hwange was a magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime experience. We got across lots of game, including ellies, giraffes, a bunch of black-backed jackals, a couple of stunning birds… A variety of wildlife.

The most incredible moments, the absolute highlights of animal behaviour I have seen so far, were those with elephants. We were following a herd of them, about 20 animals in total, the biggest herd I have ever seen. They were crossing the road, on which our driver and guide stopped his vehicle, and there were calves present. They could not figure out what we were, and suddenly, without any communication between themselves that we could notice they became fully organised. There were a couple of huge, tusked animals facin us, keeping the babies behind them, to let them pass unharmed and shield them from any possible danger. Incredible spectacle, including waving their heads and trunks at us, mock charging… We were stunned with their well-thought, seemingly rehearsed a thousand times reaction. No photo will reproduce the moment, this diminishing of human beings faced with power with so much empathy, protectiveness and beauty.

Later on, we saw them passing the railway line, and again the young one was the centre of everyone’s attention, with all the animals focusing on the youngest in the group.

We also witnessed a jackal concert, which was triggered by our driver playing them his mp3. Very wonderful bush music, to be honest, and I am sincere in that.

We’ve also seen some of my personal favourites, giraffes. I can never get tired of these! And that tree on the picture was marvellous.

 

Further in Hwange, day 2:

In the morning we were taken on a drive, which mainly consisted of some bird-viewing. As I am terrible in recognising birds, I will fix a nice post on birds alone, but for the time being, just a couple of photos, first of a very beautiful sunrise, than some birds. We have also seen some dwarf mongoose hunting around a hollow tree trunk.

After breakfast, we have been on a very nice drive, on which we were still shooting some birds (meaning photographs of course!) and met a whole herd of elephants at a muddy waterhole. We have also seen an elephant with enormous ivory, as everyone called it, really huge tusks. Additionally, I have been sunburnt as well. Not a very pleasant thing, to be honest, especially I was wearing a t-shirt.

We came for tea and a siesta and after that went out with another driver towards main camp way. We have found a bachelor herd of kudu, and a small group of zebra, two of which were interacting establishing dominance, which was very fascinating to see.

We went back for dinner and during pudding we have seen our pride of lions at the other side of the waterhole. Our guides asked us if we wanted to go and we were like ‘that’s a very stupid question!’ so we jumped onto the vehicles and we started looking for the pride. On the chase we had stuck one of the wheels in a huge hole and we jumped out to push it, which was very stupid indeed with lions roaming around, but we were later rewarded and we saw briefly the male and soon after one of the lionesses, not very good looking to be honest, slightly too thin and something was definitely wrong with her jaw. Anyway, it was a very good trip indeed, and quite unexpected!

After that, that is lion chase and missing our pudding, I spent quite some time on the terrace listening to a pair of lions mating very loudly and frequently, as the lions like to do it. Plus a couple of incredibly loud cicadas, that nearly made me deaf.

Trip 1, post 5: Getting to Hwange

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Trip 1, note 4, day 2

It is the middle of day 2, and I am now on siesta in our tent in the Hide, a Hwange camp which is quite separated from the outside world (over 30 km from the Hwange Main Camp, so about 50km from the road). It means, there is no Internet here, and also no cellular network coverage.

In the morning, we had a last sighting just before we left, and it was a group of female kudu, large antelopes with characteristic white stripes on their bodies, large ears, and incredible jumping abilities. The appeared in a small herd of about 7 females, and grazed together for about half an hour before they disappeared.

After we packed ourselves, we went to the market, where we bought some light leopard and zebra patterned scarves, and a wooden elephant sculpture, and we drove to the airport, where we picked our huge 4×4 ISUZU, which I drove up to Hwange main camp, some 200 km south from Victoria Falls. There our driver picked us up, and drove us to the Hide. On the way, we had a few sightings, first of which was a steenbok male. Steenboks are small, elegant antelopes, with huge eyes and ears and pointy devil-like looking horns, measuring only 50cm in the shoulder, which makes it very small and difficult to spot. The male however jumped from the road and stopped about 10 metres from us, allowing a nice view on him. Note the light-coloured patch around the eye, it makes it even bigger. Master of make-up!

Next sighting were warthogs, a whole bunch of them, an impala, and warthogs again, this time next to an ancient-looking pump, which used to water the waterhole we saw them next to. Hwange was once famous for having many of these, to keep animals in the park. They are now running short of water due to lack of maintenance – no funds are left for these, unfortunately.

We also saw a tortoise, which I think was a leopard tortoise, but I think our car might have come over it, so I prefer not to think about, because although I was not the driver I feel guilty.

Trip 1, post 4, full day 1: Zambia and Zimbabwe, a history lives on (Part 1)

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Today has been a very long day indeed.

It began as I described, with a wake up call to see the animals, and a wonderful breakfast. Later we went to Zambia, on foot, crossing by the historical bridge (later on the photos). The bridge will have its own post sometime later, but for now on I want to focus on the trip itself. More

Trip 1, note 3: adventures begin

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After over 24 hours of plane flight, etc., me and my father arrived in Harare to meet our driver, who took us to Bronte Hotel. Colonial, beautiful and rightfully named the Garden Hotel in the city centre. After a short stroll around the city, until it got dark, we have returned to our hotel’s bar to enjoy Zambezi beer, local Zimbabwean brew, which is very light and refreshing, a wonderful thing. Later we went to the restaurant, where after a small and insignificant trouble with ordering vegetarian food for me that was served with bacon, which was remade, we enjoyed ourselves. Wonderful food and even better South African wine to flush it with. We tried to talk, but we were very soon asleep, which on the other hand allowed us to wake up quite early the next morning.

 

After a quick shower, we had a very light breakfast and packed ourselves. Then I went on a lone stroll around the wonderful gardens of the hotel, filled with art and crafted metal animals. You can’t even imagine how the garden smelt, full of flowers, trees, exoticness – and in the middle of a huge city, which Harare grew to be.

At 10 we left for the airport, where we waited for forty minutes to no avail and finally managed to find out that Air Zimbabwe no longer flies. We were stuck on the airport with little or no options to consider – it’s over 800 km by road, and nothing flies the distance. We would have to fly over to Johannesburg, and the next day at 11 fly to Victoria Falls, loosing our night in Falls and having to replace the visas, etc. Huge burden. Instead, we chose a less comfortable, more demanding and definitely more adventurous car rental. We would have to cover the distance of over 800km, on road resembling the 1990s ones in Poland, and after sunset – in total darkness. And I mean darkness. It’s Africa, there’s no light halo from the cities, there’s just stars and your headlamps. Yet due to my father’s amazing driving, we managed to reach Victoria Falls at 22, after about 10 hours drive.

We checked into our lodge and finished the evening with a couple of Zambezi’s, discovering the lodge, which is located on a hill, facing sunset and a considerable waterhole. More about the waterhole to come. Yet, having found our beds tightly surrounded by a mosquito net, we decided to fall sleep with windows open, to a cannonade of African night’s sounds: cicadas, birds, some monkey howling… Unfortunately, later some drunk people joined, but we managed to sleep wonderfully until about 7, where my father woke me up ‘marabouts! and something! come and look!’ so I got up, found out that the something where warthogs and wrote this note with the view on the waterhole.

Trip 1, post 2: getting there slowly

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A check-in from Johannesburg’s Tombo airport. From some nice lounge, to be precise. 

After… 21 hours on the road, I badly want a shower. The lounge is nice, but doesn’t have any, unfortunately. They do have fresh orange juice, which is good enough.

So far, no delays or problems. Goes too smooth 🙂 But I have a good feeling that it will stay this way, as all the airports in the way wanted to get me a nice birthday present. I really would love it!

I’ll keep you in the know of how it goes. 

Trip 1, Post 1: Getting ready for… Zimbabwe. Again

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Hi 🙂

I’m exactly 19 hours from my trip. At least first part of it, which is getting there. Probably the most tiring step, to be honest. All the packing, leaving notes to my roommate behind, on how to use my things when I’m away and barely available on all the normal communications, like Facebook, or texts.

That’s it, part 1, which is packing. My ‘travel light’ philosophy is working quite all right with everything but photographic equipment. As i promised myself to finally blog responsibly, here is the must-have list. I have gone to places on my own a few times and these are the things I nearly always find necessary.

1. Must have number 1: pen knife. With not too many functions, as it must be handy, with a nice grasp. I am in love with my Swiss Army knife in the equestrian edition, which is very handy indeed, with all you basically need: large lockable blade, a little but sharp saw, tweezers, ‘needle’ – and a hoof cleaner. This is possibly not very useful for most people, but if you are horse riding in the bush, you may find it invaluable. You can have a look at it in here: http://www.swisstool.co.uk/st/product.php?productid=334&cat=256

2. Must have number 2: head torch. LED one, light, handy. No need for red/blue or whatever fancy colours they come in. Mine is very simple, but water-resistant. I also have another, very small led torch, just in case I need some more light I need to point at things. It is also a nice souvenir I got in China.

3. Spare batteries. And I mean the AA, AAA as well as the camera ones.

4. Headphones. Because of my luck to be seated close to either crying kids or noisy, drunk adults on planes.

5. First aid kit. I have only the things I am sure I know how to use in my kit (btw, it is useful you actually at least read about how to give the first contact help! and in Africa, this should include how to deal with bites. Yes, snake bites as well. just in case). My first aid kit is a few bandages, elastic bandage (the cohesive support bandage is a must! do get one!), some plasters, anti-septic wipes and aerosol, vinyl gloves (THIS IS IMPORTANT. HIV, remember?), two mouth-to-mouth pieces, the special foil rug to keep someone warm… and some meds. Apart from a few basic ones, as paracetamol, aspirin, calcium (helps with mosquito bites), vits C and A and something for flu, I always have some basic meds that help against dehydration, like imodium. Cheap but can save you a lot of trouble. And I have them all packed into a bag, not the boxes, as it saves space, but I do have all the paper prescriptions from the insides of the boxes.

6. Clothes and shoes: not many. As I said, I travel light. My luggage this time is, apart from underwear, 4 pairs of trousers ( a lot for me!), 1 windstopper blouse, 1 goretex, walking shoes (above ankle), trainers, a pair of toms (light, good looking, for the cities on the way) and a pair of wellies. And, oh yes, a hat. Who cares if you look funny, as long you do not get ill from the sun, or whatever? And the essential items this time include Italian army pants (women uniform) – durable, lots of pockets, etc, and a travel vest.

7. A good book – as I cannot force myself to read from all these Kindle things, the book of choice is Tim Thornton’s Alternative Hero, that I picked at a sale today, and also one books for studies…. Some other books include absolutely fantastic Safari Companion by Richard Estes,  Lonely Planet Africa Phrasebook, A field guide to mammals of Southern Africa by Chris and tilde Stuart, Bradt guide to Southern African Wildlife, and also a Bradt guide to Zimbabwe… That’s it, I think.

8. Camera equipment. Now, this is my favourite part. My current gear consists of Nikon D3100, 18-105 and 55-300mm Nikkor lenses (18-105 is a f.5.6 DX format 67mm wide AS-F, VR lens, the other is f.5.6, DX, 58mm diameter, AF-S, VR lens), Nikon SB-700 flashgun, GP-1 GPS unit, a full-sized SLIK tripod, LowePro Stealth Reporter 550D bag… and yes, that’s it. Some tricks are performed using Hama variable neutral density filter, UV filter and gradient grey filter… I think that’s it. And yes, a rain-coat (Zim is very wet in March/April).

(btw, I just killed a huge mosquito on my computer screen and I have it still there, which impaired my vision)

That’s the longest post I have ever written!

9. Oh, I forgot about one think. I pack myself into a backpack. This is crucial. 1) easier to carry around then a suitcase. 2) you won’t pack too much, because you won’t be able to lift it.

 

Ok, tomorrows plan is:

13:26 train to Manchester

17:45 flight to Frankfurt, where I also join with my father

22:10 flight to Johannesburg

On the 23rd (which is also my birthday):

10:05 arrival on Tombo airport in Johannesburg, airport notorious for loosing your luggage

14:40 flight to Harare

*sightseeing in Harare after a bit of refreshment, maybe a blog update, birthday dinner with my father*

 

General plan is:

Day 1: Harare

Day 2: Flight to Victoria Falls + seeing the Falls

Day 3: still at the Falls, but a safari drive in the morning, probably a sunset cruise, maybe a horse ride

Day 4: drive to Hwange National park

Day 5: at Hwange

Day 6: Drive to Gweru, stopping on the way at Bulawayo and Great Zimbabwe ruins

Day 7: Antelope Park, where I want to introduce my father to my lions.

Day 8: My father leaves, I stay at AP, as a volunteer at Lion Rehabilitation Programme.

The basic plan

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