MY FIRST SAFARI TRIP, DAY 1: ELEPHANT COUNTRY
When we landed in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, the chattering in many languages, the unrestrained exuberance of the people in the airport, and their colorful clothing almost overrode the fact that the airport was small, aged, and chaotic. Carol sent someone to help us navigate the customs lines and get to our hotel, where we would stay one night before leaving for the bush.
If I’d closed my eyes the minute we stepped outside the airport, I would have still known I was in a different country. A warm, humid breeze hit my face, carrying an occasional waft of fragrance from the white blossoms of frangipani trees. Flamboyant trees bloomed in the parking lot in vivid red and orange, and Jacaranda trees like those from my childhood in Los Angeles abounded, covered in clusters of purple blossoms that dangled from lacy leaves like wisteria. A Salvation Army band played rousing gospel music just outside. I felt I’d come home and they were welcoming me home. Lindsey and I just kept looking at each other and grinning at each new sight and sound.
After a good night’s sleep, we ate breakfast in a dining room where bright yellow weaver birds were building nests to attract mates. They darted just over the small crocodiles in an open pond alongside our tables.
Then it was time to catch a flight to Mfuwe Airport, an hour’s flight north. Imagine seeing the bush from out of your window in a British Aerospace turboprop airliner that holds about 20 people!
Soon after the airplane leveled off outside Lusaka, as far as I could see, there was no visible sign of civilization except for the smoke from cooking fires. From the air, I saw the café au lait rivers and tributaries of the rift valley, created by ancient faults shifting, warping, and eroding. The Muchinga Escarpment rises over 1,000 meters from the valley floor as clearly as a relief map. These waterways slide through the gently undulating land, often bounded by miles of overgrowth and trees where one can only imagine what wildlife lives inside. If the airplane were flying at a lower altitude, passengers would see dazzles of zebra, herds of puku or kudu, or towers of giraffes in clearings created by elephants. A view from an airplane could reveal a herd of elephants plowing a wide swath through rich grassy meadows after rain where the standing water mirrors the sky at their feet. We were headed for a part of the world that is true wilderness.
Written by Patricia Cole
An Africa Hope Fund board member for 7 years, Pat is a writer and a conservation activist. After traveling to Zambia, she became dedicated to helping Africa Hope Fund provide education to the next generation of Africans and ensure their future by protecting wildlife. Find Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, or on her websites www.writepatwrite.com and www.patmcole.com.