This past weekend I made a whirlwind trip back to the Western Province. It was a crazy undertaking but worth the effort. Last year I had failed to see this mass migration of wildebeests (the 2nd largest in Southern Africa) which happens in the Liuwa Plain National Park (this game park is situated about 3 hours outside of Mongu near the Angola border) and I was bound and determined to make the journey this year. So, with a 3 day weekend in front of us my brave friends Simon and Shannon agreed to accompany me to find some wildebeests.
We got up at 3:30AM Saturday morning and proceeded to get lost trying to get out of Lusaka. Luckily, Simon is a good navigator and led the charge so we quickly found our way to the very straight and boring road to Mongu. We had to meet our guide into the plains by 11AM in Mongu so we were a bit under pressure but we successfully managed. Shannon was already in Mongu so picked up provisions (complete with tomato sauce, cutlery, green peppers and other random items). Unfortunately, we later learned we had nothing to cook with but we managed to beg and borrow from other campmates to make a one-pot wonder meal…but I digress. Anyway, after successfully arriving in Mongu, we immediately left on our next leg of the journey with our guide (you need a 4x4 to maneuver in the park) and headed south to Kalabo. The road was…let’s see how do I describe the road to Kalabo? A bit bouncy? It’s this crazy road that’s being constructed through the plains and it keeps getting washed away during rainy season. We had fun being launched around the land cruiser (no napping for me) and then bargaining with the construction workers to cross the somewhat constructed bridge because the pontoon was broken. We ended up giving them a half-eaten loaf of bread in return for allowing us to cross the bridge which may or may not collapse at any moment as cars cross. Ahh, this is Africa.
Pulling into Kalabo we paid for our campsite in the park (after chasing down the worker who was supposed to be working in the tourist information center but was off attending church) and boarded another pontoon to get into the park. This park is remote…but beautiful. It’s just open space. I don’t think my pictures will truly capture the beauty. And we quickly found wildebeests. Unfortunately, we didn’t see thousands of them as anticipated (just hundreds). Apparently their journey into the park from Angola is delayed a bit…but it was still pretty spectacular. We also saw the largest hyenas I’ve ever seen. And a jackal. And bubble fish, a water monitor and amazingly large birds (I have no idea what kinds). There are lions in the park but we failed to find them? Those sneaky lions.
We had a great time camping with very little equipment, skewering green peppers to try to cook over the fire, and drinking some wine under the stars. The best part was showering after arriving back in Mongu (we were pretty disgusting) and then watching the sunset over the plains and getting to see old friends who I miss terribly. It was a good weekend. I feel lucky that I get to continue to have these adventures in Africa.