When John Met an Elephant

by John Sunday 28th June 2015

Up at 5 for 5.30 breakfast for a solo game drive with Hendrix in search of Fish Eagles. The search was somewhat foiled by the elephant incident.

Driving round a hairpin bend we were surprised to come face to face with an 8-year old tusker having a dust bath in the road.

Hendrix braked sharply and we came to a standstill, about ten metres away from the beast. After a somewhat nervous minute or two I asked Hendriix if it would be okay to take a photo.


I took two. Continue reading When John Met an Elephant

A Walking Safari

Yet another post waiting patiently in the queue, written as you can see, several days ago…

Yesterday, Sunday 28th June, I joined Janet and Wil, a very friendly Dutch couple, on their Walking Safari. Although this sounds a grand undertaking, possibly over several days, in fact it was only a couple of hours, covering 7.1 kilometres in total if my pedometer is anything like accurate. 

We set off from camp in the Land cruiser, after the usual early breakfast, at about 5.45am. Dawn was breaking and the air still very chilly. After a shortish ‘game drive’ Paul stopped the vehicle, and out we all trooped to receive our safety briefing. Continue reading A Walking Safari

South Luangwa Valley: Kapani Lodge

Kapani Lodge

This post is the first of about six that have been queuing up for an Internet connection. Forgive me if they have all been overtaken by events but I am hoping that most of you will feel better an out of date post than nothing at all…!

Also forgive me if I add photos later, if and when I can. So far it has proved tricky, as you know, so we’ll deal with words first.

After we had flushed the animals off the airstrip, and our charter light aircraft had re routed itself to pick us up from Shiwa we were picked up at Mfuwe airport by Brian, our guide for the next few days, who drove us straight to Kapani Lodge, actually just outside the Luangwa Valley National Park.

My parents loved the Luangwa Valley and as a youngster I will have visited the area probably several times but never before as a safari lodge visitor. My father had been involved in some fairly major way behind the scenes with Norman Carr’s plans for its formation into a national park. Kapani is one of the Norman Carr lodges, and apparently where Norman Carr himself settled after he retired. Two of his ‘children’ live there now apparently, but we did not see them.

The site is spread out along the river, which is already very low although the rains won’t come until October or November. There is a small number of chalets all complete with palatial double bed with mosquito nets hanging from a large frame above.  We have not seen  a single mozzie (predictive text inserts mozzarella here…) but better safe than sorry…

There is a most enticing looking swimming pool which we wondered about braving but never got further than talking about it. Winding bricked pathways lead to the reception and office and eventually to the large bar/dining area overlooking the river, where everybody eats together at the same large table. This may sound off putting but actually leads to a very friendly atmosphere and a most helpful and jovial sharing of tips and experiences.

Our last morning the sun was rising as we watched a family of elephant crossing the riverbed below while we enjoyed very early morning porridge and eggs cooked to order over a log fire.

The porridge tasted so delicious I asked the breakfast chef- a woman whose name I was told but forget now – how she made it. Her instructions were exactly as I make ours! The only difference was that she uses Jungle Oats, for my less tasty version I obviously rather unnecessarily go the the local health food shop to buy the best organic oats that money can buy… Another possibly more significant difference is the slow cooking in the open air over a log fire.

There has been the usual almost insurmountable difficulty getting onto the Internet, but Enoch, the manager, was most assiduous in his attempts to get us connected and did eventually succeed to my intense gratitude, and possibly your horror as you experienced a sudden surfeit of posts.

Shiwa Ng’andu – a Snippet

A snippet, and out of order too, but things have got rather disorganised. Sorry.

IMG_0490-1024x682We arrived at Shiwa after QUITE  the bumpiest 3+ hour ride one could hope to survive! However, Tink and Jen, who had picked as up from Kasama were such pleasant company that we survived the adventure happily, full of wonder at their driving and the robustness of their Land Rover.

There is a longer in distance but shorter in time much better road apparently, but as our plane arrived at Kasama apparently there was little choice.

Power is limited (absolutely no WiFi!), bath water runs very slowly and is heated in drums over a log fire as I remember so well from my childhood. On the other side of the coin, Jo and Charlie Harvey (Charlie is Sir Stewart’s grandson) are the most generous and engaging of hosts, dinner is announced by a drum after drinks in the drawing room, and we are waited on. This is all just as I remember colonial life in my childhood, long now a thing of the past – for John and me anyway. 

The visit to Shiwa is another reconnection with the past for me, the later visits I can remember vaguely, and I well remember Sir Stewart, but not Lady Gore Brown whom I hadn’t seen since I was young.

When I was a child we lived nearby (in African terms) and visited frequently. My mother had been at school with Lady Gore-Brown, and they had been good friends, my father was a friend and colleague of Sir Stewart. I have had great fun looking at their visitors’ books, and seeing photos of my parents and even one of me as a babe in arms in the garden at Shiwa!

Similarly, we brought my parents’ Visitors’ book so Charlie and Jo have been looking at his parents’ and grandparents’ signatures when they stayed with us where we lived, in a place called Mkushi.

Travelling Light

Another retrospective posting, written it feels ages ago, but actually (only) one day ago!

Never mind your ten-seater light aircraft. I am writing this sitting at the back, of our Sky Trails 3 seater Cessna 206 chartered (very) light aircraft, behind Sebastian our Dutch pilot and John in the second pilot’s seater, John complete with largeessional earphones so he and the pilot can communicate with each other.

What a wonderful way to travel! Before the plane could land to pick us up Charlie supervised the cutting of the grass on the runway, and the game had to be chased away. The plane landed, out jumped Sebastian, handshakes and introductions all round, luggage flung into the back and off we went. No mention of tickets or passports or even our destination which by the way is Mfuwe on the Luangwa, the ‘gateway’ to the Luangwa National Parks.. What a pleasant contrast to all the security checks and interminable waiting using ‘normal’ aircraft.

It is quite noisy and when Sebastian turns round to tell me what we are passing I struggle to hear, which is frustrating. I have just made out that we are shortly to cross the Luangwa River so we must be near our destination.

Later. We were met off the aircraft at Mfuwe International Airport by Brian our guide for the next few days, who drove us to Kapani, which originally had been Norman Carr’s own house. He treated the drive as a game drive, concentrating on all the birds and after a up of tea we were up and away on a properly either drive.  We have quickly become so blasé about the game we have seen but are unable to share with you until a) we have access to decent wifi and b) we know how to manage loading photos from the iPad onto the WordPress blog.

Let me just say we have seen masses of elephant, several leopard, lots of giraffe, masses of hippoes, crocodiles, a pack of playful wild dogs and goodness knows what else. We have been so spoilt. John has some wonderful photos which he will put up when we get home, so don’t despair too swiftly!

The Past Recovered, Internet willing!

Sorry for yet another break in intermission. I wrote this on Wednesday, and we are now at Kapani Lodge just outside the Luangwa National Park, and there is internet connection. Apparently. It might be very slow, and it may not work at al, but here is hoping. There may be two or three posts in a flurry, but there again, there may not. Certainly no photos which are too demanding….


So far we seem to have had more days with no internet connection than I ever suspected, so what with that and the problem with photographs we have certainly promised more than we can deliver.

I have been writing posts, but have to wait until we next have wifi before I cam try to send then.

Meanwhile, as I sit in the sun, pondering happily over our visit to Africa, I realise the enormous significance it has had for me. Not for John, except at second hand, but so far we have met such interesting people and done so much that I think/hope he is getting as much interest and enjoyment, albeit different.

I don’t want to suddenly come over all wafty and new agey, and that certainly is. It my style, but for me it has been deeply moving.

Firstly, it was reconnecting with my sister, Ruth. I have visited her three time since her stroke and for the first time have we been able to chat, really, reminisce, remind each other of funny incidents in our shared childhood, which is unique to us. We are close in age, have always got on well and, shared a bedroom, went to boarding school together. Looking at our identical twin great nieces the other day, I felt that, although Ruth and I are not twins and in many ways are very different but we always felt two halves of one whole.

Chatting together in their house in Nordhoek it was suddenly as if we had shed all those years and responsibilities of our lives which since childhood have been very different. So the whole visit to me was wonderfully ‘healing’

The next real link with my past was revealed when we reached Kasama, and not because that was where I was born but because the landscape, the thronging African with their colourful clothes, the women with pots on the heads and babies on their backs was just how I remember the real Africa of my childhood.

Finally, coming to Shiwa which was so much part of my very early childhood, seeing familiar but long since forgotten names ,in the Visitors’ Books and hearing talk of local places that were also part of our lives and my parents’ reminiscences over the years.

Struggling with Technology…

Technology has not been willing…Shiwa has No WiFi! I wrote this on Monday. today is Wednesday and we have been driven some way in the bush to Kapishya Springs where they do have access to the Internet, at the same time we are going to have a dip in the springs, and I shall have a massage!!!

Here goes  with some catch up posts… I daren’t upload a photo at this stage as the wifi here is expensive and not keen on uploading photos.

Dawn is breaking as I start this. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it tonight. We are waiting in the departure lounge at Lusaka airport, having got up at 4.15. Our flight to Kasama is in a Proflight aircraft, banned by the EU as being unfit for travel. Our insurance company, from whom we had to get approval, were very relaxed. they said if the pilots were happy to fly it was good enough for them, and certainly our fellow passengers look happy enough in spite of the early hour.

We have had an interesting but very short time in Lusaka, based at Lilayi. Our travel guide describes Lusaka as not the most interesting of modern towns. The centre certainly seemed chaotic when we were driven through on Saturday – swarming with people and very beaten up looking vehicles. As we drove along passers by kept suddenly streaking across the road without looking to left or right – I was glad not to be behind the wheel myself. At one stage an elderly minibus just sailed slowly into an incredibly smashed up looking somewhat bigger green van. The driver of the white van, smiled and laughed, threw up his hands in amused despair. The green van driver didn’t appear quite so amused, but quite accepting of the inevitable all the same.

On the other hand, the area where we were last night, where we used to live, was peaceful, green and attractive. What a contrast! Probably neither lot quite appreciate how the other half live. As a child I did not, and my memories of the centre of town are of a much quieter and more ordered place that at 18 I drove through quite happily. Maybe I was just braver then but I think perhaps not. Is m talking about a long time ago.

The Arrivals and Departures board is advertising flights to places that were truly tiny when I was young. Solwezi, where we lived for a time with six other European families now has an airport and at least one Five Star hotel!

A bit later:
What an adventure! Seven of us are aboard what feels like a toy aeroplane. One had to almost crouch to reach our seats – I had bumped my head quite hard before I realised this. The take off was extremely smooth and we are now soaring like a bird, not that far above ground so we have a clear view of what we are flying over.


We arrived in Zambia yesterday. It’s warmer, dryer and    lovely to be back. I expected to feel quite emotional when we arrived and I did, but going through immigration soon put paid to that. image

As Audley clients we were instantly swooshed into the Diplomat queue (this VIP business could become an awkward habit) and there we waited, and waited. The woman behind the desk was painstaking and her English faltering. She could not understand the American tourists ahead of us, nor could she grasp that we only needed a visa for Zambia and Malawi. After much head shaking and many sighs, she did at last provide us with a piece of paper with many scratchings out.  Let’s hope it will prove to be an acceptable visa!

The only funny interlude arose when she asked where we were going. ‘Lilayi?’ She asked disbelievingly, ‘I do not know Lilayi. What is that, please?’ 

‘A lodge which has an elephant orphanage’ John explained, hopefully helpfully. ‘Orphanage?!!’ she almost shrieked, glaring pointedly at a notice about the prevention of child trafficking. ‘Why you want orphanage?’ The explanations took another ten minutes or so, but eventually we got out, changed some Kwachas and set off with our driver for Lilayi.

Lilayi Lodge is a delightful lodge with about ten luxury rondavels (round huts) some few miles outside Lusaka. They do indeed run an elephant orphanage and this morning we had a most interesting session watching the elephant babies being fed, and being told about the challenges of trying to protect elephants from poachers and innocent local farmers who see them simply as a threat to their livelihoods which needs to be dealt with.

This afternoon we were driven round Lusaka so that I could try to discover where we lived and where I went to school, all those years ago. In many ways, and unsurprisingly, the city has grown out of all recognition but some things seemed much the same.

Lusaka Girls’ School looked little changed, nor did what used to be called the Secretariat where my father and many of his colleagues worked. This is now the Vice-President’s office, no less!

With the driver’s help we also found the last house we lived in, which  used to be called simply ‘the SNA’s (Secretary for Native Affairs which was my father’s last role) House, in Counsell Crescent, now Chisidza Crescent.

This is the photo at the top of the post. The (brick built) house has been painted bright yellow, considerably extended and is now a private hospital. The original  house itself was easily recognisable, and I could see what used to be my sister’s and my bedroom window. Little did I imagine all those 50+ years ago that I would be back gazing at it as an outsider. Unfortunately, today is Sunday and everywhere looked pretty shut up so we were not able to make contact with anyone.

Tomorrow morning at 5am we will be picked up for the next lap, ‘Africa House’. We are flying by small private aircraft to Kasama where I was born and where my mother was the only white patient for the full two weeks it was usual to keep new mothers in hospital. From there we are driven to Shiwa Ngandu.

More tomorrow… wifi and technology willing (that may well become the holiday’s refrain!). See you then.





Hopping up Africa

This post I wrote yesterday, but am rather behind with the posting. The photo was mine, not John’s, in case you are in any doubt…

We are hopping up Africa gradually: first the Cape’s Mediterranean climate, now the temperate grassland of where we are when now,1640metres above sea level, about 11/2 hours’ drive west of Johimageannesberg.

The Cape was wonderfully green and beautiful, quite lovely, Africa but not Africa. Since yesterday we have been staying with our friends, Peter and Etain Hewitt and are enjoying what seems much more African, and already more familiar, but it’s not the tropics yet.

Incidentally, it is winter here. Although the days are pleasantly hot the nights are perishing. (I’ll tell you some time about how cold we were at night in the cold season at school in Bulawayo). Last night there was a frost, and believe me, houses here are built for the much longer very hot summers, so the emphasis is on airy rather than cosy.

Tomorrow we cross the Tropic of Capricorn and enter the tropical Africa of my childhood!

Today we have had two trips through the bush around Etain and Pater’s house. They own a game park, and Peter took us on an extremely rough and stony Landrover drive to show us the sites and what animals we could spot Wildebeest, Zebra and a with two very young babies. They were all quite unbothered by the vehicle.

We heard much talk about snakes and only afterwards was it explained that one is most unlikely to spot any during the cold season.