TIME FOR A TEA BREAK

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Manda  drove up and down gullies flowing with muddy water from the rain, jockeyed our vehicle over rocks, and lurched back up to flat ground. The topography was a combination of riverbeds, creeks feeding riverbeds, steep riverbanks, and flat grassy open meadows that went on for thousands of acres surrounded by dense trees with occasional areas where tall trees stood, silvery gray and dead from elephants peeling their bark and very stark looking.

      A few turns took us into places where trees, vines, and brush were thick and dense. Manda knew that after a night of hunting game leopards often drag their prey, sometimes an impala several times larger than the leopard, up into a tree to keep it from other carnivores like hyenas and wild dogs or crocodiles and feed their young and he hoped to show one to us. A guide could spot one, but a tourist would have a hard time find the leopard in a tree because there are so well camouflaged.

      By mid-morning on our second day out we were ready to stop and get out of the lurching Land Rover. Manda pointed out safe places for pit stops. While we were stretching and taking turns behind a big tree, Manda pulled a lovely morning snack out of the back of the vehicle and served homemade biscuits, cookies, and other treats along with tea or an orange drink. The weather warmed up quickly, and we were happy to wet our whistles and stand around the front of the vehicle while Manda pointed out wildlife right within our sight we would have missed on our own. On one of these stops, Manda told us the huge termite mounds could reach more than fifteen feet in height, and the secretions from the termites make the mounds so strong that locals add deserted termite mound material into their bricks to make them sturdier. I felt I should record everything Manda said or take notes, but I knew if I did either, I would miss the the experience. Instead, I recorded a couple of short talks when we stopped on walks so I could hear his voice along with the constant song of birds in the background and step back into Zambia for a minute when I got home. I wanted to remember the sights, sounds, and smells of the Zambian bush.

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

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Carol Van Brugen