Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sunday, Oct 18, 2015: Flight to Mfuwe and Marula Lodge.

Now that we know that we have to fly out at 9:30 this morning, we are up at 6:00, so we have time to pack, grab a quick breakfast and catch a cab to the Lilongwe airport so we are there 2 hours before our international flight.  We arrive at the airport by 7:30, are checked in and waiting by 7:45.  The pilot arrived at 9:00 and was ready to leave so we left early because we were the only passengers on his 6 seater Cessna airplane.  We had a 1-hour flight to Mfuwe, Zambia where the Southern Luangwa National Park is located.  The flight was great – not too high so we could see the landscape below.

When we arrived at the Mfuwe airport our taxi was waiting to take us to the Marula Lodge where our accommodations for the next 4 nights are located.  After buying our visa and getting Zambian kwacha money we were off to the Lodge.

As we arrived at the lodge we saw a mature giraffe along the road, giving us a royal welcome to the lodge! We were met at the lodge by our hosts Mike and Jenny, wonderful people.  The first thing we were told was the electricity has been off in a large area around the park since Saturday evening, but they hoped it would be back on yet this evening.  Well as we are writing this, it was 1:00 Monday before the electricity came back on, plus their backup – a small gas-powered generator quit working mid-afternoon Sunday, so there was no electricity of any kind – the worst part was there was not running water, and then they ran out of cold drinks! After giving us the news,  Jenny gave us a tour of the facilities. Since we were several hours earlier than planned (11:00), our chalet was not clean and ready for us at that point.   
Our Welcome Party
Our Chalet
Looking Right at Me

The lodge is right along the Luangwa River.  There are lounge chairs at several clear over-look spots where you can see all the action along the river.  We sat along the river until lunch was served at 12:00.  The lunch was great.

Since we were early we could have paid to go on the evening game drive, but we decided to just stay around the lodge today and relax – we have a total of 6 games drive in our package.  By now it was getting very HOT. We lounged around the river overlook, then moved into our chalet as soon as it was ready after lunch.  After guest left on the evening game drive at 3:30 and a group were taken to the airport at 4:00, we took a dip in the pool.  That was really refreshing!!  It is very HOT and since the electricity is off, there are no working fans, so therefore no way to cool off, except the cool water of the pool.  We entertained ourselves by watching the baboons and playful monkeys along the river bank as well as the bushbucks and stripped mongoose. Soon after we arrived, elephants crossed the river, coming up over the river bank by the overlook into the lodge area. Cal had gone for his camera and thought he would be back in time.  Well, he met the elephants straight on. The lead one took a step toward him, and people were calling to Cal to stand still, which he did, and the elephant went on his way.  Cal didn’t feel completely comfortable with this elephant encounter.  He was about 15 feet from Cal, looking straight at him. 

Dinner was at 6:00, so since it was dark, dinner was eaten by candle light.  We were in our chalet by 7:30, ready to turn off the flashlights by 8:00, trying to find a way to cool down enough so we could sleep. There was a little breeze at times, but it was HOT until at least midnight.   At 1:30 we heard a commotion outside that sounded like an elephant chasing something.  We could see the light of the night watchman but could not see what was going on.  In the morning we discovered that an elephant had broken the screen over a window of another chalet, used his trunk to pull a bag out of the chalet trying to get some food.  The people in the chalet were scared stiff, as would be expected.  The bag was recovered with most of the contents, although it looked like the elephant had stepped on some of the contents.  The elephant thought it was food. They had previously had stored food in the bag and the smell was probably still there.  Elephants have a keen sense of smell.

There are constant noises outside during the night. We heard the hippos – roaming around and munching on the grass; the elephants stomping around and trumpeting; the bush bucks eating - life in the bush is noisy at night!   With all the noise and the heat, we did not sleep well that first night.  The monkeys are very human, as they sleep at night!

Zambia is experiencing rolling blackouts due to the level of the rivers at the hydro dams.  However, this long blackout had nothing to do with that issue.  Once the electricity is restored there is a schedule for blackouts, which we will have to watch so that we can keep batteries charged.

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