It’s February 2001 and …

It’s February 2001 and …

It’s Monday 5th and it’s Spitting Cobras!

At this time of year you always see more snakes than usual – it is during the heavy rains that the young are born and leave the nest. Whilst reading his book on his veranda last week one lunchtime, Jeffrey saw a big black snake slither past him – only a few feet away – he kept still and the snake didn’t pay any attention to him what so ever. The following day as Jeffrey opened up the office in the early morning, there was a smaller version of this snake on the step, rearing up with a splayed neck. It was a young Black Necked Spitting Cobra. Later on that day, Kenneth the room attendant found the nest and a further 4 small cobras near the laundry. Unfortunately we have to kill these snakes as we can’t risk having them around camp. We just hope we found them all!

Our friend the Emerald Cuckoo has finally found a mate! None of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him as he flew off into the sunset, but he disappeared some time last week. Peace at last!

Good news on the dieting front – Basil, myself and Jeffrey have all lost weight. Basil wins with his astonishing loss of 5kg in two weeks ( I think cutting out the beer helped a lot!). This is perfect timing for Jeffrey who heads off to Sydney, Australia for his annual leave tomorrow. He is more than excited at the prospect of catching up with friends and family and visiting his old haunts – we will miss him here though.

You'll have to imagine the elephant grassThe elephant grass that grows here in the Luangwa Valley has reached incredible heights this year. It really can hide elephants. It is very thick as you drive out from Nkwali at the moment, it seems that the coast is clear and then an elephant will step out from the grass on one side and just as quickly disappear into the grass on the other. There must be so much more hiding in there which we don’t see – it is no wonder the baboons and monkeys stick to the roads.

Have a fun week.
Take Care

It’s Monday 12th and birding!

A very quiet week for us at RPS and not much to report, I’m afraid!

We are looking forward to seeing Jo and Robin again who we expect back this week. I am sure Jo will write next week and tell you all about their travel in East African and Egypt.

It rained through most of Friday night and although it was very damp, it looked as though it might clear so we all piled into a Land Cruiser and set off into the park on a birding trip. We were one of three vehicles in the convoy and duly stopped to twitch at every LBJ and non LBJ that we came across. We did however get caught in a small shower along the way – but managed to shelter under a large acacia drinking tea and eating cake until it passed. All in all a super morning with a total of 140 birds! (I must admit, I didn’t see them all but took the others word for it!) Amongst the usual storks, Kingfishers and Starlings we also had a lovely sighting of the African Crake and some wonderful cuckoos.

We are very happy to see that some of you will be visiting us in April this year. By then the roads have dried up somewhat yet the river is still high (I think this year it will be especially high). We take advantage of this by combining river trips and game drives. It really is hard to beat a morning in the boat at Wakumba Lagoon, just to sit and watch the enormous amount of activity going on around you. We do hope more of you will take the opportunity to see the Valley in all it’s splendour!

Kawaza School boys, October 2000Many thanks to those of you who have sent out books and supplies for Kawaza school, it means such a lot to them and is always appreciated. Please do use our “PO BOX 80 , Mfuwe” address for these parcels and not the “Mercury Couriers” address. The school has to pay for receipt of any mail which arrives through Mercury couriers and this is often more than the value of the goods!

It is always lovely to hear back from you – do keep in touch!
Have a great week.
Take Care

It’s Monday 19th and The Pope’s Travel Diary

Robin and I are finally back from our travels. We have had a great time and here are a few highlights:
We stayed first with Richard and Tara Bonham at Ol Donya Was in the Chulu Hills, Kenya – with rounded volcanic hills, green grass and fantastic views.

We then flew to Tanzania and joined Nigel Perks of Gibbs Farm for a full mobile safari. What a treat to be on the other side. A day at Ngorongoro Crater where we saw a the big five and then stayed at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. As someone put it – not over the top but at the top. Quite a place and I loved it although I am a bush bunny at heart and do not go for glamour – for this night is was luxury and fantasy gone wild.

Wildebeest in the Serengeti - photo by Nigel PerksThen we spent 8 days in the Serengeti. And we saw the wildebeest – hundreds of thousands of them. As far as the eye could see. For hours of driving. Hard to take in. There were just wildebeest everywhere. Quite amazing. Nigel was a brilliant guide and host and I highly recommend him for anyone wanting to visit not only the Serengeti but most parks in Tanzania – if you would like to find out more about this please contact your agent.

The second fortnight was in Egypt – Sharm el Sheik, Cairo and a week on the Nile. And we simply loved it. A country of contrasts. The Red Sea lives up to the name of the best reefs in the world. And such a stark contrast to the apparent lifelessness of the Sinai Desert. You lift your head from the view of teaming fish, a reef brimming with life and see the driest of deserts. Cairo was noisy, busy and very polluted but worth a visit. Did you know that there are 79 pyramids in Egypt? So we saw those at Giza and also Saqqara.
Arriving at Luxor to meet the cruise ship was a relief after city and the next 7 days were a total surprise. One of the best week’s holiday imaginable. The Nile is a total life giver in the never ending desert of the Sahara. Green green fields, date palm trees, donkeys carrying the harvest to town, old hand pumps, irrigation, falloukahs with their huge white canvas sails, the mosques calling out the prayer are the back drops for the massive ancient temples and tombs along the Nile. And you really wonder how much has changed! Robin and I do not consider ourselves to be “culture vultures” but we are in wonder over the ancient temples we saw. And as our excellent guide, Hazen, slowly revealed the stories and meanings of the gods and kings we listened enraptured. We were very very sad to leave the boat after the 7 days.

The River at Christmas 2000So back to the green green Valley of Luangwa. The river is full to the brim and still rising. We have been packing all afternoon getting ready in case of a flood. Everything needs to be lifted 4 feet off the ground. If the river does come over the top the crocs come with it so it is wise to be ready!! However, the staff watching Nsefu and Tena Tena say the river is starting to drop up there so hopefully it will here tomorrow. But the threat of flood will certainly be with us for a couple more weeks. The last time this happened was in 1978. Robin was in the Valley at the time and he was able to boat from where Nkwali is to the main road right across the land. Quite a thought. We are measuring the rise of the river every hour! And I can assure you that we are praying for a drop in the river.

Whatever the threat, the river is looking quite amazing – literally bank to bank and flowing fast. The sun has come out and we will be boating this evening for a sundowner. We will raise a glass to you all.

Take Care

It’s Monday 26th and the River has Dropped!

You will be happy to know that the level of the Luangwa River has dropped over a metre in the last week and we are no longer on “Flood Alert” – hoorah!

Hornbills near Chichele HillAs you can imagine we are all very relieved and have relaxed somewhat. The river is the lowest it has been for 2 months which is great. Our island just downstream from Nkwali is beginning to reappear after some months of being under water. We have had one light shower during the week, so it seems the rain has eased up for now.

During the rains, when most of the camps in the Valley are closed, there are regular “bird drives”, where a number of us locals get together and go into the park specifically to ‘twitch’! We made our way down towards Chichele Hill stopping at every lagoon, swamp, plain and woodland on the way. Some of the highlights included: Striped Cuckoo, Lesser Moorhen, Black Coucal, Paradise Wydah (in full rains plumage) and a Ground Hornbill stalking, catching and eating an Eastern Green Snake. We spent a good half an hour at Wamalombe Lagoon which becomes a very active breeding ground for Storks and Herons at this time of year. The noise is just incredible. The chicks must be a few weeks old now and you can see their small scruffy, fluffy necks and heads stretched up towards the sky waiting for food.

Water BirdsApart from the vast array of birds, we came across two lioness on the road. One was extremely strong and healthy and looked as though she may be nursing cubs, which were unfortunately hidden away somewhere. The second female was not in such good shape. One of her eyes was a cloudy grey and obviously blind, she was quite thin and had some open sores on her legs. She was not affected by the presence of the vehicle however and proceeded to walk past us no further than a metre from my bare vulnerable legs. It was the closest I have ever come to a lion and I must admit I was slightly nervous! The adrenaline you feel when things like this happen is unbeatable.

Until next week Take Care

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