It’s Monday 15th December 2008 and getting to Liuwa Plain

The build up to the first Liuwa Plain safari has been amazing. Starting at the beginning, Robin and I spent a wonderful couple of days there in May on a recce (see It’s Monday 30 June). Having decided its “green for go” we have to do the costings, budgets and start the process of marketing. Then the menus were planned, shopping lists drawn up along with lists for housekeeping and the workshop including spare parts, tools, back up this and that. There is no fix it shop down the road and you have to be totally self reliant. Finally with all in place Robin and team set off. He phoned two days later, having arrived, and said in a rather tight voice – “it’s wet here, areas of the plain are flooding, the storms keep arriving. Jo – we may have to withdraw. Have a plan B in place!” You can imagine how I felt! After all the work. However……the rains abated, the water levels dropped and the first guests flew in. Back at Nkwali base we were on tender hooks – will it all work out…….this week we will hear about the journey in to the Plains, an adventure in itself.

And next, when Robin returns we can hear the rest…….

Have a great week

Jo

Over to you Michelle …

Dramatic black skiesCollapsed bridge

I’ve just been asked to help out with the Liuwa Plain Safari – Jo said “to ensure the guests have an unforgettable experience”. I’m guessing, in a positive way.

We set off from Lusaka with all of the katundu (kit for safari) to set up camp for the first Liuwa Plain Safari. The convoy consisted of four loaded landcruisers and seven staff members (a chef, waiter, guide, housekeeper, mechanic, Robin & me!). We left the Lusaka roundabout (all roads eventually lead out of the capital) early morning in rush hour traffic and surprisingly our convoy managed to keep tight, bearing in mind a couple of the drivers had never left Mfuwe, let alone driven in the capital city. The first 8 hours of driving were a breeze over tar roads and sunny skies. We traversed Kafue National Park spotting some roan antelope, impala and puku, elephant as well as a variety of birds. We timed our arrival at the ‘Hollywood Hotel’ in Mongu to coincide with the first rain shower. It bucketed down causing a power failure for most of the night – our road weary bodies took advantage of the darkness to grab an early night.

Mealie truck on the road to Liuwa PlainThe road to Liuwa

The following morning we woke with good spirits and grey skies – perfect for travelling, and set off on the next leg over the magnificent Zambezi flood plain. We were surrounded by a luscious green landscape offset stunningly by the black sky, providing plenty of perfect photo opportunities. The easy tar road finished and we were faced with an old dirt track riddled with deep puddles, potholes, broken bridges and culverts completely collapsed … so we made our own diversion. The heavens opened and we were happy in the knowledge that our well packed katundu would stay dry under the tarpaulin.

Getting stuck on the way to Liuwa PlainMud everywhere on the way to Liuwa Plain

The challenge of the road soon proved too much and Bernard, our mechanic and convoy leader stopped. He was well and truly stuck with mud being flung in all directions from the spinning wheel. Two snapped tow ropes later we eventually managed to haul him out using a sturdier chain and set off once again for another muddy, wet 4 hours. The journey was highlighted by patches of the bluest sky, interrupted with black clouds and fresh rain. There is always excitement in the air during the rainy season and our adventure was no different.

Pontoon  over the Zambezi RiverZambezi pontoon

The route was very quiet with few other people on the way. We did see another truck stuck having to offload pockets of mealie meal to make their load lighter. As it is mango season (yummy!), kids from the villages lined the roads selling them to the few passers by – we bought a pocket for munchies along the way. Cruising through Ku’omboka Village we spot the famous black and white striped boat and the King’s brick built palace.

Pontoon crossing -

The road seems to go on forever as we bounce around in the cabin with the wipers going at full power, imagining that we are partaking in a mini version of the Camel Trophy Challenge. At one point it takes 8 hours to cover 30 kms. Suddenly the rain stops and 5 minutes later we have a beautiful blue sky. There are two pontoon crossing – the Zambezi River (quite a smart looking pontoon) and the Luanginga River (not quite as smart). Driving is hard work, so we tuck into our packed lunch and carry on.

lunch from the bonnet of the carAlfred and  James getting used to the kitchen at Liuwa Plain

Finally we arrive at Liuwa Plain – all we wanted to do was get out and run! And we did ! The wide vistas really are exercise for your eyes as you stretch to see the horizon all around. On arrrival at camp we were met by Lady Liuwa, who adds a certain flavour to camp life, and a stunning sunset that gave a hint of the beauty in store for us over the next couple of weeks. The journey was definitely worthy of the destination. Now all we had to do is set up camp and wait for guests to arrive … for an unforgettable experience!

Lion - Lady Liuwa welcomes the team to Liuwa PlainLiuwa Plain Sunset

Cheers,
Michelle

PS Next week we’ll hear Robin’s adventures with the guests.

Running across the wide open vista of  Liuwa Plain

Liuwa Plain Safari

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