MY FIRST SAFARI TRIP, DAY 2: THE GREAT ROAD
During the hour-long vehicle ride with Lindsey from Mfuwe Airport to Mfuwe Village, the South Luangwa Valley passed before our eyes like a scene from a movie. We were on the Great Road, the only paved road between Lusaka and Mfuwe, which takes nine hours to drive under the best conditions. The solitary road takes a beating from traffic and the heavy rains in the wet season that undermine the pavement through every crack and pothole.
Mfuwe Village outside the South Luangwa National Park is large by African village standards because many of the villagers have tourism-related jobs. They are safari guides, accountants, housekeepers, taxi drivers, farmers who supply fresh vegetables and chicken, or they work as tea bearers on day safaris and cooks in the remote bush camps. There are some modest concrete-block homes, but most of the people in the village live in round brick huts with thatched roofs and have no running water or electricity. The village has grown as more people move there hoping for work. There are some schools in the village, and safari lodges help support some of the schools and other nonprofits in the area.
It didn’t seem possible that we were really in Zambia, even when I saw beautiful black-headed herons, egrets, and crested cranes with silky silver-gray plumage and golden feathered crowns alongside the dirt roads where the beginning of the wet season created small lagoons. Cars and people on bicycles whizzed past without even giving the birds a second glance.
When a 9- or 10-foot-tall elephant and her baby materialized out of the brush next to our Land Rover on the side of the road at the edge of the village, it didn’t seem surprising. I’d seen elephants before. It seemed like these were placed there for our benefit as we drove by, sort of like a stage setting. It was raining and elephants like to shower themselves in water and dirt. Coated in luscious, shiny, dark grey mud, they looked like life-sized ceramic figures.
Lindsey and I would soon learn about the elephant’s danger of extinction in our lifetimes.
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.