Here are some people shots from our trip.
We began our stay at The Islands of Siankaba, a beautiful lodge on the Zambezi River, upstream from Victoria Falls. This darling man piloted our little boat to an island in the middle of the river, where he served cocktails while we listened to hippos roar:
A local cutie enjoying the view--and the mist--at Victoria Falls:
Zimbabwean first names fall into three categories: 1)"Normal-to-us" names like Frank and Jones and Simon. 2)Native-sounding names I can't pronounce--or spell. (So I won't try.) 3)Wonderfully descriptive names like "Beauty" and "Adorable"--this guy's first name. And he was:
One day we visited the village of Siankaba. In the village (population maybe 65), there is no running water, there are no flush toilets, no phone lines. There is very little of anything we tend to take for granted. Yet I was impressed at how inventive, how adaptable the people are at making the most of what little they have.
This is the village's choir master. He had only one hymnal, so to teach the choir a new song, he sang each line of the hymn--soprano, alto, tenor (there was no bass singer in attendance).
The choir sang their lines back to him a cappella until they had it memorized. They had beautiful voices:
The guys who work at the lodge are all adept at this mode of transportation, too:
One task at the lodge is "monkey chaser." If the staffer guarding the alfresco buffet table turns his head for just a second, Vervet Monkeys will swoop out of the trees and make off with whatever they can. Once, this guy told us, he saw a monkey trying to run away with a whole platter of teacakes--and the platter, too!:
A classic mother-and-child moment in the village:
These young girls were carrying water from the village pump to their homes. Then they returned with these big trays for some other errand:
No people in this picture, but it sums up what it's like in the village. Mud huts and hand-made wood furniture. Aaaand cell phones:
Washing clothes in the village is a matter of several buckets and a lot of elbow grease:
Our guide showing us how the village blacksmith uses his hand-built bellows to stoke a fire hot enough to forge steel blades in his outdoors smithy:
There the girls go again, still hard at work. They are taking a shortcut across the grade school's play yard, where chickens mingle with Fisher-Price toys:
We visited two pre-K classes. This doe-eyed boy was in the class for five- and six-year-olds:
His beautiful little tablemate:
Those fingers never strayed far from his mouth:
Hauling water from the well to the homes is a daily, multi-trip affair:
We left Siankaba and for Mfuwe (population 5,000), which sits at the edge of South Luangwa National Park. The immense park is home to a huge variety of birds and animals. From the posh Mfuwe Lodge, tourists take Land Rovers with specially equipped, tiered seats to see the animals in their natural habitat.
We saw jeep after jeep of Muslim tourists from the U.K. They seemed to be a huge, extended family, wearing a mix of clothes, from western gear to traditional robes. They were having a glorious time, snacking on treats, enjoying a multi-family vacation, and trying to convince us that they saw a lion (they didn't):
The jeeps are also a great way for serious photographers to get close-up shots of the local fauna. Look at the size of that lens!:
When something exciting was spotted, the jeeps pour in from all over to have a look. It begins to resemble the 405 Freeway during commuting time. (The rule of thumb is that once there's five jeeps in one spot, the first one to arrive has to move on.):
Once we left Mfuwe Lodge and its relatively crowded trails behind, we got out into the real bush. This is Fannuel, our guide, driver, naturalist, and interpreter. Through him, we saw the fairly unspoiled, truly wild side of this beautiful land and its fabulous critters:
Occasionally Fannuel hopped out of the Land Rover to move a huge branch that elephants pushed over into the road. He also removed other hazards, like this wicked-looking branch full of thorns. They're big and tough enough to give a jeep a flat tire:
We went out twice a day on "game drives" to look for animals. Midway through each morning, we stopped for coffee and cookies, and at sundown, we stopped for cocktails and nibbles. Fannuel had a rotating cast of helpers who helped set up these lovely little breaks. Everything was served off a flip-up grille on the front of the Land Rover. This is Jones, enjoying a "sundowner" with us:
Jones also manned the high-powered beam used to locate animals in the dark. After sunset, he stands shotgun in the jeep, holding on with one hand while sweeping the beam back and forth in front of the jeep as it trundles along. These talented guys could pick out the eyeballs of a tiny mammal--even a chameleon--and once a spider!--in the velvet night:
Speaking of "shotgun," this is Frank, our park ranger. You don't go out on a game drive in the park without a ranger for protection. Here he's showing his mid-20th-century, Czech-made rifle to The Hubby:
If Nature calls while you're out on a game drive, you'll need TP, a box of matches (to burn the TP), and Frank to pick you out a safe spot to commune with Nature:
And Frank, bless his soul, stands guard while you're...umm...communing:
Speaking of that, here's Fannuel and his trusty Leatherman tool showing us whats in this dried-up blob of elephant poop. Poop lectures: just one of this man's many talents.
After a dusty day driving through the bush, we were met with a friendly smile, a cold drink, and a damp cloth to wipe off the trail dust:
The service at the bush camps was remarkable. Every morning while we ate breakfast, staff dusted off the Land Rover until it sparkled:
They served us drinks in the most lovely places, like out in the shallows of a river:
They watched over us, even when we were goofing around in the river. (How ya doin' there, Frank?)
I got such a kid out of the "cockpit" of the Land Rover, where cup holders and shotguns coexist:
If we didn't use the Land Rover for our morning game drive, then a staffer toted all the goodies for coffee break in his pack. I don't know how the water for coffee stayed so hot, but it did:
One morning we were surprised with an alfresco breakfast overlooking a riverbank. This gentleman was toasting lovely home-made bread over a small brazier:
And the chef made our eggs to order--as well as offering up about 12 other side dishes!
Back at camp, we presented the gentlemen with a little gift--pencils for their children and nieces and nephews. (School supplies are costly and hard to get.) They gravely drew up a list of all those present and their absent coworkers. Each man ended up with seven pencils. You would think we handed them slices of the moon, they were so lavish in their thank you's.
It made me sort of sad. If--no, WHEN--I go back to Africa, I'm bringing a whole lot more pencils.
Until then, lovely people, thank you again, and goodbye!