The Kruger


They could see the sun peaking above the horizon, light started to flood through the trees as the fog dispersed. It was surprisingly cold and though daughter and father were bundled in jackets and sweaters it didn’t seem to be enough. Glancing down the daughter pulled out her phone to see that it was not yet 6am. The car bumped along the winding road and occasionally they pulled to the side of the road to admire some animal tracks or better yet a real animal such as an elephant, a zebra or a giraffe.

The car slowed and pulled onto the side of the dirt road. The guides got out of the vehicle and the tourists followed. They stood around waiting as the guides took the rifles out of the truck and loaded them with ammunition. Once they were finished they moved along in single file with one guide on each end carrying a riffle. The walking safari had begun.

To start from the beginning now seems just about right. One daughter departed her home in Lusaka at a very early hour with a small backpack and a heart full of joy and excitement. One father was already on route and was flying for Geneva to meet the daughter in Johannesburg South Africa. Once they had both arrived and shared a happy reunion in the OR Tembo airport they went with their driver to the place where they were going to stay. The daughter had been living in Zambia for over eight months and Johannesburg was just like North America in terms of infrastructure.


That afternoon they had a guided tour of Soweto, a residential area in Johannesburg that boasted a neighborhood with some of the most expensive houses as well as one of the largest slums in southern Africa.

Very large football stadium

Very large football stadium

South Africa constitution written on a metal slab

South Africa constitution written on a metal slab

Government housing, Soweto

Government housing, Soweto

Nelson Mandela had lived in an area of Soweto and the father and daughter visited his old home that he used to share with his wife Winnie.

Nelson Mandela's former home

Nelson Mandela’s former home

NM bedroom

NM bedroom

That evening they each fell asleep under a very large duvet as it is now winter in the Southern hemisphere and dreamt of the adventures to come in Kruger National Park.

The drive to the Kruger area is just over six hours and they made only one quick stop for lunch along the way. As soon as they arrived at the lodge they almost immediately jumped into a safari car for the evening game drive, which was going to be followed by dinner out in the bush.


For a while they rode around at dusk till finally the sun dipped below the horizon. Then the guides used the torchlight to shine light into the bushes, hoping to catch a glimpse of an animal’s eyes.

Over the following few days in the Kruger area, the father-daughter had many adventures.

The domesticated warthog

The domesticated warthog

Even a lion won't fight a honey badger - they always target the family jewels

Even a lion won’t fight a honey badger – they always target the family jewels

They spent almost a full day at an animal rehabilitation center where they pet tame warthogs, fed meat to heavyweight vultures and admired the infamous honey badger.

Feeding the vulture

Feeding the vulture



They also got to pet a semi-tame cheetah that had been rescued as a cub and raised with humans till it was brought to the rehab center.



One morning they ventured out for a walking safari and saw many impala, a few dangerous looking spiders and then some hippos bathing in the Kruger River.

IMG_7579 IMG_7567 IMG_7565

They spent one full day in the Kruger. There they were bombarded with impala, zebra and elephants.

IMG_7636 IMG_7678


There they saw vultures circling high above their next meal. They witnessed kudu and other dear like animals grazing or running around.

IMG_7743 IMG_7775 IMG_7646 IMG_7670

They witnessed baby baboons riding their mothers and then a heard of rhino walking through the bush.

IMG_7710 IMG_7733 IMG_7778

Towards the end of the day they encountered a large pileup of cars and when they looked out they saw two cheetahs cruising along looking for their next meal.

IMG_7818 IMG_7805

During their last evening in the Kruger area they went on a game drive in a private reserve. There they saw many rhino and the owners had taken off their horns in order to make them less of a target for poachers.

IMG_7971 IMG_7953

They also saw hippos and buffalo.


As they were headed back they heard the call of a lion and so the driver darted across the narrow roads until they reached a dry ravine. Then the driver went into the ravine following the sounds the lion was making. Suddenly they saw the lion as it was running towards them. Soon after they saw rhino walking quickly towards their car. The driver moved into reverse and then after knocking over a few small trees he continued his pursuit of the lion. After that point the excitement had passed as the lion was quite content to walk at a slow pace in front of the car on the road. Regardless the daughter in an excited manner tried to take photos in the dimming light.


Alas the adventure eventually had to come to a close and on their last day they enjoyed a walking tour and learned a few things. The only one that comes to mind is that wildebeest poop if set aflame works better than a mosquito coil.

On the drive back they stopped at the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world.


The sight was so amazing that no words can really do it justice. The father and daughter were quite pleased that there were no guard rails so that they could get as close to the edge as they wished.

IMG_8031 IMG_8015 IMG_8006

The daughter just made her flight and the father joined her at the gate to say their goodbyes. While it was a sad moment they also both knew that in a few months time the daughter would be back in Canada for a visit where then they would be able to engage in their traditions. Biking like crazy, working on the farm and in general just enjoying each other’s company.


A village stay


Bike/walking path leading from the village to the adjacent river

I believe that a child views the world afresh. Through their eyes little is tainted by prejudice and ego and the brush strokes of memory have yet to lie down on this canvas. Perhaps this is an objective reality, the world as it truly is, with its smells, sounds and sights. Its people, animals, plants and infrastructure can just exist with no predetermined notion as to what it is or what is should or shouldn’t do. Nothing is ugly, pretty, poor, rich; it just exists. When I set out from Lusaka on the early morning bus I was willing myself to see the world from this perspective again so as to see what was real versus what I expected to see.

Packed and ready to go!

Packed and ready to go!

I was staying in Kapala village with a man named Asford Banda and his family. Asford is a farmer with the company I’m working with, NWK Agri-Services, and acts also as a distributor and signs contracts with farmers on behalf of the company to buy their crop at the end of the season. Kapala village is directly adjacent to Nyantalo village and is in the Kawaza Chiefdom of Katete district. Apparently Katete has four chiefdoms and the Kawaza Chiefdom stretched all the way to the border of Mozambique.

Asford's home in Kapala village

Asford’s home in Kapala village

The sleeping situation

The sleeping situation

Over the first three days I accompanied Asford when he went to his farmer cooperative meeting, travelling by the main mode of transit – the bicycle. It was nice to be back on a bike again, though perhaps not the bike seat as after biking at least 20 km each day I found it harder and harder to lower myself onto the seat each morning. The cooperative meetings were being facilitated by a Zambian NGO called Profit +, funded by USAID, to help them to develop their constitution, goals, member recruitment strategy and marketing plan. It was interesting to see what they wanted their organization to be like. They stated as part of their purpose that they wanted to help alleviate poverty and hardship in their communities and that they wanted to promote opportunities for women.

The kitchen

The kitchen

We also visited a local school in that area and met with the headmaster. He seemed pleased that I had come for he thought it important that I see the hardship here. He wished for me to remember them when I went home eventually. I didn’t’ say much in that meeting, and tried my best to absorb all he had to say for he’d worked in that area for a long time and had seen many children pass through his school. Even though they have a high attendance record and some of the best testing scores in the area, normally only two out of two hundred or more students will go to college or university every year. Why? He mentioned incomes being too low, too few colleges and universities and test scores not being good enough.

The temporary toilet and bathing area (until they build a permanent one)

The temporary toilet and bathing area (until they build a permanent one)

On my last two days in the village Asford took me to different villages, which had NWK farmers in them. We rode by bike on the main road heading towards Mozambique and eventually ducked off onto a dirt road. The road became gradually smaller, hillier and slightly more perilous as we travelled along it. We came to a group of villages, which were similar to Asford’s though in a worse state. Our village visits normally passed in a similar manner. First we found the farmer we were going to visit and we all greeted each other in Chewa. After that my minimal Chewa language skills would falter and I would lose track of what they were saying. By the end of the meeting with Asford translating between myself and the farmer and his/her family there would normally be a very large crowd of children that had gathered around us to look at me.

Path leading to the main tar road

Path leading to the main tar road

In between moments of meetings and travelling Asford and I normally just talked. Those conversations I found to be one of the most fruitful parts of my stay. We discussed the culture and customs, the upcoming harvest, poverty and suffering and then also what we thought could be done to make it better. He seemed to ignore my notion of introducing irrigation, as he couldn’t see that being applicable in most villages with only one communal borehole. Instead he favored drought resistant crop seed varieties or just superior seeds being made available to farmers along with education about proper planting.

The resident chicken in the bedroom I slept in

The resident chicken in the bedroom I slept in

When the week came to a close I said goodbye to Asford and his family, the villagers and the ladies I played net ball with. I left behind the chicken and rats I shared by bedroom with. Though I felt like I gained a lot from that week, I also knew it wasn’t enough. It helped me to see how reading about development and then living beside it were completely different things that could be beneficially complimentary to each other. During the day I saw the capacity gaps, the lack of infrastructure and an array of systemic issues. Though at nighttime the observations persisted as it became clear that almost no one had electricity and those who did only had enough to power a radio or a television for a few hours. I can say that I learned a lot, though my understanding only increased a little. It will take a longer time, more observations and more testing to start to grasp this tangled and complex system. Then to effectively improve it will require a collective understanding, a bank of information from local people to experts and organizations in a variety of fields and most importantly the willingness to act now as opposed to delaying change for a new generation to follow-up on.

When your culture is shocked

A village between Chipata and Katete in Eastern province

A village between Chipata and Katete in Eastern province

You read about it, you hear about it and then once you step off the plane you start to wonder, “when will it happen for me?” You’ve accepted that it will happen, for everyone before you have told you about how it happened to him or her. How when they looked back they realized that during those few weeks/months they were experiencing culture shock. It shadowed them at their apartments, danced close in nightclubs and shone on them in villages. It swaddled them with doubts, questions and fears. It had them question their resolve, their passion and work ethic. All to turn their equilibrium of life into disarray to the point where they wonder, “why did I come here?”

In 1955 Lysgaard developed the U-curve model of adjustment as a hypothesis for the cultural adaptation of an expatriate. In the model the expat undergoes four stages of adjustment: honeymoon stage, cultural shock, adjustment and mastery. People have adapted this model to explain their experience in a whole new world, though not everyone will follow the pattern shown in this diagram:


Honeymoon: the expat gears up for departure, energy levels are high, optimism even higher. Upon arrival the expat is wide-eyed and keen, taking in everything new with relish. Consuming new experiences as quickly and keenly as a dog with fresh meat.

Crisis: suddenly everything “new” is no longer shiny and cool, but rather prickly and unseemly. The expat keenly misses home and dives into blogging, watching television and just about anything else to try to wipe away the feeling of listlessness and unhappiness.

Recovery: being determined and noting that they still have time left to their placement, the expat creates strategies to cope with this new place and culture. Slowly, but surely they rise from the ashes and start to re-embrace this new place and all of its quirks.

Adjustment/Mastery: at last the expat has arrived at the golden city. The trials of the past have made them stronger or so they tell others. Their culture savviness adds to their other virtues as their mood climbs to be just as high as their honeymoon stage. They’ve made it.

I’ll tell you right away that I anticipated to follow this curve and had even developed some strategies to keep me “sane” during the tough times of the “crisis” period. This got thrown down the toilet of life as soon as I got off the plane. My pre-departure was filled with mostly fears and some excitement. When I arrived I cowered in the back seat of the taxi cab into the city and contemplated asking the driver to turn around and take me back. We passed fields of sand, broken down buildings, trucks filled with standing men in its bed and mini-busses packed with people. Everything seemed wrong: we were driving on the left side of the road, the taxi driver’s English was barely understandable especially with his thick accent, and the heat was near unbearable. Culture shock came early and hard, in that first week I wrote a short poem (one of my coping strategies) to help clear my head and make sense of what I was experiencing.

When your world falls away,

How will you be?

Perhaps it can be analyzed and determined

And then you can shape it yourself,

So you ponder a series of futures.

Do you cease to be yourself

As you lose your physical connections;

Your roots, your family, your home.

How do you muster courage,

When courage has been lent to you by those you love.

How can you be yourself

When you feel off, disconnected, jet-lagged,

And lonely.

Can you really make a difference?

Or is that just a fallacy?

Can you overcome these feelings

And reach your vision of your potential?

And if not then when do you retreat,

Call it quits and reunite with the familiar?

I suppose only time will tell.

Given that curve I was doomed if this was my honeymoon stage. Though things didn’t work out that way. My mood lifted slowly, week after week, as I slowly took in more of my surroundings. I went from a cautious observer to a participant. I rode in minibuses, bicycled between villages, and travelled to the end of the country and back again.


Home in Kapala village, Kawaza Chiefdom, Katete region April 2014

This is not to say that times have not been difficult since then, but they come in waves and then pass again. I will say this though, no matter what has happened good friends, a supportive family and steady writing has been my refuge. This process of keeping constant account of what I’m doing, keeping in touch with friends and family and making new friends in this new place has helped. When I’m approaching another lull, this refuge makes the dip seem shallow. When on the rise again I feel free and enabled to embrace this lift, seeing and learning with my whole being.

The Chitenge Party – Part 3/3 of the Twisted Sisters Saga

Where we left off from part 2/3

Where we left off from part 2/3

The alarm went off at 7:00 and they had a bus to catch at 9:00. The elder sister twisted out of the tangle of sheet on top of her and with the nimblest of fingers executed the correct sequence of swipes to snooze her phone. She lay there, head pounding, eyes swollen, and mouth dry. She licked her lips and thought back. There were flashes of little things like Jagger bombs on the shore, a cigarette, throwing people’s shoes off the boat, singing the Canadian national anthem and dancing the two-step with Australians. As her brain churned over the events of the previous evening the younger sister remained comatose.

She got out of bed and shook her sister, time to get up, time to go. They moved slowly and bluntly, banging into each other, the walls and the furniture. They’re heads were full of fuzz and their ears were ringing while the thing between their ears was throbbing. It was a great beginning.

Once they checked out and left the hostel the elder sister found that she was starting to improve, which she related with great cheer to the younger one who continued to look morose. They had decided to take the “first class” bus to Lusaka, which for 20 additional kwacha (or 4 Canadian dollars) had air conditioning, seats that didn’t leave you hanging over your companion and even little snacks. As soon as they boarded the younger sister fell asleep and the elder soon followed once they were out of the city.

A noise woke the elder sister. She was confused and looked around for a cat, for it sounded like something was coughing up a fur ball. Alas it was just the younger sister fighting to keep the whole of the previous night’s party from spewing out of her mouth and nose. The elder sister had never seen such dedication to keep “something” from “happening”. She wanted to relieve her sister’s suffering, but could only find a wrapper that used to hold two cookies. The volume would not suffice. After a few minutes the struggles were over, the event was held off and the sisters were relieved and passed out till they made it back to Lusaka.

Needless to say that evening was a calm one. As soon as they got off the bus they sought out food for their empty bellies. They tried “biltong” which is a popular dried meet in Southern Africa and went to see a movie. After which they went home, exhausted after a day of napping on a bus and suppressing certain undesirable events.

They decided that since it was the last day of their adventure together that they would go to the markets. Saturday is the busiest day in Lusaka to go to the market, other than Christmas Eve day. They met up with the elder sister’s friends Nicole and Lis and brought Eliot along to the “Dutch Market”. This market is held at the Dutch Reform Church in Kabulonga the last Saturday of every month. When they arrived they thought they had reached a kind of heaven. Instead of the busy bustle they had encountered on Lusaka’s streets they saw neat temporary stall with beautiful African artwork, jewelry, furniture, clothing, etc. There were also food vendors selling everything from local nshima to fresh made cookies and bagels. They walked around and even bought a few things. Vendors would welcome you to their stalls, each one claiming that, “it is free to look madam!” And so they looked, asked questions and then moved on to the next delight.


Chicken feet – what a delightful thing to try!

A note about market vendors: What is nice about most of these vendors is that if you got their number and wanted something custom-made you could do so without breaking the bank – they normally offer very reasonable prices once you’ve haggled a little.

Nicole and Lis knew a seamstress and wanted to have clothing made before leaving Zambia in a week, but first they needed good fabric. The sisters were happy to join them to go down to the main market on Cairo road and so they jumped into a cab. Once they got there they realized that their favorite fabric store was closed. Disappointed, though not defeated the ladies strode out into the main city market on Cairo road, which is the largest market in Zambia.



Striding forward the ladies stood out and heard quite a few marriage proposals from men drinking Chibuku Shake Shake (a local maize alcoholic beverage) and many offers from vendors who were selling some of their wares for just five kwacha (1 $). They hunted high and low and occasionally stumbled across great fabric called chitenge. Delighted they were all buying some, though they felt like they could find more elsewhere…


They decided to give up on the city market for they were not interested in their second-hand western clothing (going from five to 20 kwacha), their dry and wet fish or the assortment of hardware and building materials.

They cut back across the market, crossed some train tracks and then found themselves at the beginning of Kamwala market. Of course along the way there were accosted by a drunk middle-aged man who was quite taken by their white skin. This was where “mama” Diana and “bear” Nicole came out and ran the man off after he tried to attempted to fondle them. The elder sister bristled thinking about how he had touched her sister’s arm and laughed when she remembered Nicole raising her arms before bringing them down to shove the man firmly in the chest. He didn’t know what hit him.

Upon entry to the market the ladies stopped and knew they had to take a picture. It was the Lake of Lusaka! Not an actual lake, but a perfect example of the lack of water services in the city. It was a huge pool of water that had formed between two buildings. It was so large that people had created temporary bridges out of concrete blocks and wood on the sides when it expanded to reach the side of each building.

The "Lake" of Lusaka

The “Lake” of Lusaka

Then they entered the market. They saw lots of great fabric and in the area, which was a cluster of small shacks so close together you thought it was one solid roof there were dozens of seamstresses making everything from school uniforms to traditional African clothing.

They left the market exhilarated from their day of foraging and purchasing. Their bags were bursting with chitenge fabric and they hungered for more. Riding on this shopping high they decided to have a diner in style: Chinese food from levy mall, wine from Pick & Pay (grocery chain) and chocolate cake from Woolworths (clothing store with a sneaky food store at the back). It was once they were seated waiting for the Chinese food that they started to feel the exhaustion and dehydration. The sisters also noticed that they were looking a little rosy, or maybe it was red.

They hauled themselves back to the elder sister’s apartment and after downing a good helping of water their spirits returned. Wine was opened and consumed, Chinese food was inhaled and chitenges fawned over. They held them up to themselves and posed for the camera several times. It was a chitenge party.

And yet it came to an end and it was time to go. The younger sister finished packing after Nicole and Lis left and then the sisters headed to the airport.

When they arrived they noticed that the line for security was very long. It wrapped around the entire arrivals area, which was not a good sign. The elder sister went to the booking desk for the KLM airline that her sister was flying with and inquired if her sister could check in there. She could not. Disappointed and worried about her younger sister missing her flight, she mentioned that her sister would not be able to check in if she waited in line. The lights went on. The guy stood up and motioned for them to follow so they did. He went right to the front of the line, spoke to the security guard and then gestured for the younger sister to proceed.

They hugged and held back tears as they said goodbye to one another again. It was the younger sister who dropped off the elder one at the airport in Toronto when she left to go to Zambia. Now it was the elder saying goodbye as her sister returned home. They let go of each other and the younger sister skipped the line and went directly into security to check into her flight.

The older sister left once her sister was no longer in sight and sighed to herself, it is never easy to say goodbye to your sister, your best friend and your devious companion all in one go.

IMG_7369 IMG_7408



Mosi Oa Tunya – The Smoke that Thunders – Part 2/3 of the Twisted Sisters Saga


A warning call is sounded and the two look quickly to the left, then the right hoping that if they stay in the car, they won’t see them. The car jostles to a stop, the call sounds again. The ground trembles as the creatures come closer. The passengers gaze quickly between the creatures, fast approaching, to the driver who is trying to get the car moving again. Too slow driver, too slow. Finally the car rumbles to life and is put into first gear. Meanwhile a woman who was fighting between the impulse to duck down or take a photo extracts her camera and in her haste to capture an image, drops the camera outside of the vehicle. The car stops again, then backs up. Now the creatures are upon them and they don’t know what to do. The creatures are upon them, have surrounded them and they are stuck immobile in the middle of the path. What happens now the duo thought, what happens now?

What does happen of course can only be revealed later as the storyteller was so anxious to get to the excitement that she forgot to reveal the juicy beginning. Or perhaps, in her wickedness, she wanted to heighten the excitement for the reader.

The sisters rose early in Livingstone the morning after their dive off of the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Within the hour they boarded a shuttle bound for Botswana, as today was the day of big game, of Chobe National Park. After a 30-minute drive they arrived at the border and after moving through a throng of sales agents with large platters filled with wooden carved figurines, they moved across the river by boat then jumped into a large safari car.

After one last passport stamp it was another short ride to the lodge just outside of Chobe National Park. In the morning they left the lodge and entered the park by boat. Being an especially hot day the sisters sat down quickly and proceeding to sweat, a lot. Quickly, the two realized that this discomfort was not only felt by their human counterparts, but by the animals as well, as they seemed to all be situated on the plains near the water. The sisters were delighted.





It was a similar case in the afternoon, which was even hotter. The populations of animals around them were so numerous that even the tour guide stopped to take a picture.




There were warthogs kneeling, giraffes towering, impala frolicking and elephants doing what they do. The large creatures rolled around in the mud, sprayed themselves and others with water and shot large quantities of earth in the air for it to strike their back and cover their wrinkled skin.






They then leaned out of the car to take pictures of large buffalo till suddenly the driver pulled into reverse. Jostled around in the vehicle the sisters were annoyed at the driver, but then he turned around, “we are going to see the lions.”


Hells yes.

He whisked them away from the field of animals and back into the brush, taking no care to avoid hanging branches, which threatened to smack the vehicle’s passengers square in the face. As he slowed, everyone scanned the horizon, the ground and the trees for lions. Then he stopped, “look in the bush.”


Lo and behold, at first the sisters saw nothing till they leaned in closer and saw a pair of large eyes staring right back at them. The female lion looked a bit hostile, but the sisters were safe in the car and so took a few photos before the driver then lurched away again.

Finally, on their way out of the park they had to stop the vehicle as a large herd of elephants was passing. One elephant approached the car and called out so when there was a clearing the driver tried to make a go for it, however this is where the woman’s camera fell and the whole car started to feel immanent peril.


The man in the front seat slowly opened his door and picked up the camera and then the car whisked them away. The sisters could hear multiple warning calls being sounded behind them and wished the driver would go faster. Faster.

Alas the sisters were safe and sound by nightfall once they had returned home and were now already anticipating the next activity, rafting!

Fast forwarding to the following morning, there was no rafting, as the sisters were the only two people in Livingstone to sign up that day. They sighed in disappointment, but after inquiring about different options their spirits picked up. They decided to see Victoria Falls from another perspective, that being right at the top of it.

A boat took them out from the Royal Livingstone Hotel to Livingstone Island, which is situated right at the top of the falls. The little boat darted around rocks and over the small rapids, heading directly for the falls with its rising mist. Then just before the end it turned into a small port on the island. Upon arrival the sisters where informed that they could swim in a small pool at the edge of the falls. They laughed, surely they were not serious. But they were.


While they had not packed swim wear to come to the island they decided this was no cause for concern, they would merely go in their underwear – surely it is similar enough to actual swim wear right?

IMG_7349 IMG_7361

First the guide took them to the edge of the falls where they took photos one foot from the edge, no guide rails or safety guards here!


Then they were led to the small pool where they stripped and then quickly though carefully climbed over wet slippery rocks to step down into a bubbling pool. The edge of that pool was in fact the edge of the falls, though luckily there were a few larger rocks in the way. It was all merriment and laughter especially when the powerful water showed them what happens to clothes that are not bathing suits, as they do expand and start to fall off. I’m sure the photographer had quite a show.


When they were finished they enjoyed a five-star breakfast on the island with real good coffee, something that had proven hard to find in Zambia, and then headed back to the mainland.

Now that they were well fed and bathed the sisters thought it a great idea to head back and sign up for the booze cruise that evening. While the elder sister had been on one of the cruises while her mother was in country, she had not been on the “budget” cruise, which boasted a braai and unlimited alcohol as well.  Prior to their departure for a night of drinking the sisters explored parts of the city, visited a small market for souvenirs and curled up for short naps to save energy for later.

Pleather pants, maskera, two mosi beers and the girls were ready to go. They were picked up by a van and driven to the Zambezi River. Lo and behold a large boat was waiting for them and within one minute of climbing up to the upper deck they had a large G&T in hand. So it began. The cruise is only three hours and the sisters lost track of the number of drinks within 30 minutes. They swayed, sung, laughed and were merry with the whole gang of passengers. Then at one point the elder sister looked out over the river and saw the sun setting on the horizon and she couldn’t believe she almost missed it.


When the boat made it back to harbor, the party really wasn’t over. The younger sister ran up to the bar at the lodge and order tequila and very tall rum and cokes. They were downed immediately. Then there was a blur of dancing the two-step, singing potentially the Canadian anthem and then a cab ride back to the hostel.

As soon as they got back the sisters dashed up to the main area full of excitement for the night. Then after the elder sister grabbed a drink she looked around and the younger sister was nowhere to be found. Did she come back with her? Did she just imagine they were both in the cab together? Though she was drunk and so decided it wasn’t worth worrying about and chatted up a few of her buddies at the hostel. Sobering slightly she decided to check on her sister who still hadn’t materialized.

She went up to the room and found the door partly open. Weird. She pushed the door fully open. No one on the bed, though when she looked towards the floor she found her sister, lying there, spread eagle.


“Ros!” The elder sister walked into the room and closed the door. “Ros, time to get up!”

The younger sister remained unresponsive.

“Ros!” The elder sister grabbed her arm and pulled, then pulled on her leg, and then tried to tickle her stomach.

Finally a response: the younger sister quickly lashed out with both legs like a puffer fish and then back to the floor. Limp, like a wet sock.

The elder sister sighed and then an idea struck.

“Ros, if you don’t get off the floor right now and into bed I’m going to ask all our new friends to help me lift you off the floor and tuck you in.”

Then without uttering a word the younger sister crawled across the floor, stood on her knees and then rolled most of her body onto the bed. Her legs still dangled off the edge and the older sister lovingly pulled them onto the bed. Though not before savoring this funny memory in her brain.

After that the elder sister got changed, put on the alarm and then turned out the lights. She had a feeling that the bus ride back to Lusaka the next day was going to be a rough one.

Let’s Fall Together – Part 1/3 of the Twisted Sisters Saga

post 16 graphic 1

One sister found herself back in a familiar place. Its halls were lined with advertisements, security guards and suitcases. The Lusaka international airport was near empty at 11:30 pm and on the board above the one sister could see that the other had arrived. Clutching her hands behind her back, she looked on at the closed tinted door, trying to see if perhaps any of the moving bodies behind the glass were her sister. She knew that she could have arrived 30 minutes later and still be on time, but in her excitement she chose that the best place to wait was not at home, but in the arrivals hallway. She stood waiting. While waiting she updated her Facebook status, “sister not here yet, but soon.” Then she was just waiting again.

Finally the doors open and people start to emerge. First local Zambians, then expats with work permits, but no sister, not yet. Ignoring the guard rope she walked closer to the door and from there she could see this bright, colourful bag on the luggage belt in the distance – that’s when she knew the sister had made it. Another half hour passed and finally, just when hope was almost lost, the lively sister emerged. She was wearing hiking boots, pants and a sweater and in her frenzy to get out of the door to greet her sister, she could not understand that the security wanted to see her luggage tag. After showing almost all other documentation to the guards the sister was permitted through the gate. There the sisters embraced in the arrivals bay, and there the adventures of the twisted sisters commenced.


The next morning was suddenly upon them and to their surprise they were up and about by 8:30. As they were to travel to Livingstone the following day they set out early for the bus station. The elder sister having been there before was adequately prepared, and while she tried to warn the younger one, she knew nothing could prepare her for this experience. They walked on the side of the main road, on the non-existent sidewalk strewn with large puddles, old water bottles and large tree roots. Dodging the obstacles, they rejoiced in the time they had for catching up. Lucky for the younger sister, she had come during the rainy season so the culverts and ditches were lush with abundant flora allowing for the existence of a large population of insects, frogs and birds.


As they approached the bus station their presence appeared to become more and more noticeable. As they got closer they not only felt noticing eyes, but were approached by many locals inquiring about where they had traveled from and where they were going. The elder sister, accustomed to such attention, tried to re-direct these individuals as they made their way down the road. It became a form of a dance, this re-directing business, as when one person would be sent away the next would approach them. All were full of questions and of course things to sell them.

When they entered the bus station they were encountered with a flock of “agents” who try to sell you tickets for different bus companies. Knowing which company and bus they wished to take was crucial in this moment as the duo weaved their way through the squawking flock and made their way to the ticket booth. As soon as they reached that destination their constant companions appeared to have dissipated into thin air.

Tickets in hand the sisters made their way back in search of a coffee reward. Jump in their step they started to imagine the adventures they were going to have in Livingstone before long.

It was quite a contrast, moving from the bus station, which consisted of a series of small make-shift buildings and lines of buses, to Levy mall, a large complex which could resemble anything you’d find in North America. Lusaka can be like that sometimes; it can seem almost the same as home some of the time, though most of the time it is drastically different.

With one cultural experience tucked into the younger sister’s belt the duo enjoyed the remainder of the day, eating the local nshima and then exploring some parts of the city before retiring home for a nap. Knowing they had to catch a 6:00 am bus the following morning the duo realized they would need to get some sleep. Of course, as they tried desperately to sleep, they found that they could not accomplish this seemingly easy task.

Finally they saw the sky start to light up and they knew it was time to get up. They bumped around the house, making coffee, packing up last-minute things and splashing cold water on their faces. Finally, the cab arrived and they left the flat in Lusaka. The elder sister uttered a very faint cry to signal the commencement of travel, “tianbepo, tianbepo…”

View from the bus when the sisters boarded at 5:30

View from the bus when the sisters boarded at 5:30

The bus had narrow seats, which meant that the sisters were very squished together for the duration of the ride. The elder sister, feeling the beginnings of illness taking over, slept for most of the journey, which is why little can be said about this aspect of the adventure. However there were moments of dire circumstance that occurred as within an hour of departure the sisters noted that there was no toilet on board the bus and they had consumed a large about of coffee and water. Bladders full and jiggling with every bump, the elder sister in particular sat perched on the seat, hoping and praying for a stop to happen soon, that or that people would not notice if she decided to relieve herself into her water bottle. The matter was thankfully happily resolved without ruining a good pair of pants or an expensive water bottle. When the bus made a quick stop to pick up a passenger, the elder sister darted off the bus and the other made sure it would not leave. The sister found relief in a village bar “toilet” or hole in the ground, and then was able to enjoy the remainder of the trip to Livingstone.

After they arrived, batted off a dozen taxi drivers and checked into the hostel they contemplated what to do. Seeing as the afternoon was still early they opted to head to the falls. At this point the elder sister was thinking that she was starting to hallucinate for the fever was running strong and the temperature in Livingstone was close to 40 degrees. Keep pushing, keep going.

They drove up to the falls, when they got there it was just after 5pm. When they purchased their tickets to see the falls they were informed that if they wanted to do the bungee jump they would have to go there now because they closed at 6pm. The younger sister expressed wanting to “check it out” and the elder obliged this request, hoping that seeing it would be enough, that doing it would not be necessary. The bungee jump platform sits on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Once the sisters showed their passports they were granted access to the bridge and made their way to the platform.

Just a side story: a few months ago the elder sister heard the story about a girl who tried the bungee and the rope broke, but she was just fine. That was not what scared her. After the rope broke sales plummeted for the bungee jump and so a local chief stated that he would do it to prove nothing was wrong. Once he jumped all the elder sister knew was that he shat his pants. He shat his pants out of fear. He shat his pants in front of hundreds of people and made the headlines of every paper. He shat himself. Would she shit herself? That is what scared the elder sister.

While they watched person after person jump panic started to rise. From panic came sweating. Along with sweating came paleness and nausea. The elder sister stood tight-lipped watching person after person fall. The younger sister touched the elder’s shoulder, “D, let’s do this!” Turning to her sister and providing a wan smile the elder nodded her head. From there, memory is a little foggy, though the sisters must have bought tickets and been given harnesses because the next clear recollection is of the sisters being strapped together with joint harnesses. They’d chosen to do the tandem gorge swing where the participants are strapped together and they have to walk off the platform, drop and then will be caught by the ropes and swing in the gorge just above the water. They are supposed to fall and then before they smack the bottom they swing through the gorge. Easy. Peasy.


“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…” The elder sister’s thoughts, while they cannot be recollected fully, were mainly those simple words. Her thoughts were thankfully interjected by the demands of a Zambian man who was trying to instruct the sisters as to what they had to do.

First step: wrap the arm closest to the other sister around her and grip the handle on the outside of her harness.

Second step: with the other hand, grip the rope attached to the front of the harness.

Third step: on the count of three-step out quickly and in unison off of the platform. One, two, three, step.


They practiced this over and over again. By the end they were grinning, for being the A students they were, they rejoiced in doing something correctly. The next minute or two was filled with laughter and high fives for taking the plunge; they were undertaking an adventure together. This was interrupted when their names were called and they were asked to step onto the platform. As they looked down to step onto the platform there was a moment of hesitation as they realized that the platform was a grate and was very see-through. Looking down at the water coursing through the gorge below the sisters stepped cautiously to the front of the platform.


At this point a shift occurred, the wan timid elder sister stepped forward having accepted the fate of her decision. She knew her bowels were full and had accepted that if she shat her pants it would be humiliating, though not the end of the world. The younger sister suddenly came to terms with the consequences of her decision and lagged back, “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” Her exclamations were ignored as our trusty instructor nudged her to the edge of the platform.

“Move to the edge of the platform,” the instructor said as he checked the straps one more time.

The elder sister grabbed the outside of the younger sister’s harness and pulled her forward.

“Put your toes over the edge of the platform.”

The sisters obliged with many more “oh my gods” from the younger sister.

“Now count with me”


The older sister yelled very loudly, as this seemed a time for the call of war or impending bowel movements…


The younger and older sister stopped quaking.


The sisters held their breath.



The sisters took a large step forward with one foot and then quickly followed with the second.


Silence. Air. Breath. They felt suspended for a moment and then started to fall and fall fast.


Losing all control the elder sister screamed as loud as she could and peddled her feet as though she could run on the air. The younger sister seemed to decide that she should do as the elder was doing and joined in. They screamed and ran on the air, clutching onto each other for dear life.


They could see the gorge fast approaching. Finally the rope started to catch and they swung far out into the gorge.


“Dude you screamed so loud!” The younger sister exclaimed shoving the elder sister.

The elder sister looked down, then up and shrugged. They turned to look at each other and burst out laughing. If that wasn’t a bonding experience then they didn’t know what was. They laughed uncontrollably for a few minutes and then rapidly recalled the experience of the last few seconds back to each other while they were being pulled back up to the bridge.


The experience left the sisters energized and quite sweaty. When they crossed back into Zambia they made their way directly to the falls hoping that the mist would help cool them off. When the elder sister had last been there, their had been a moderate amount of mist and a light jacket was necessary. As it was now a few more months into the rainy season the falls were almost at their peak flow and even a full poncho wouldn’t be able to keep anyone dry.


They ran along the pathways overlooking the falls trying to take some photos. Within ten minutes they were entirely drenched. Despite that as they ran back to dry land they both stopped to admire the double rainbow that started and ended along the falls.


They had to ring out their shirts and pants before leaving the park, concealed amongst the ferns, for they knew a cab would not take them back to town in their state. After a bit of needed haggling they secured a not-so-overpriced cab back to the hostel.

The first day of adventure proved to be quite exhausting and so they curled into bed at an early hour. They dreamt of falling, of bonding and of not shitting their pants. They also started to imagine what the next day would be like given what they had planned.

To be continued…

Reset: new year… new goals… new self? A framework to set and stick to goals that further your personal development

Goal: embrace adventure

Goal: embrace adventure

A new year is around the corner and you are enjoying the holidays and reflecting on the last year in anticipation for the next. You want to make realistic promises to yourself and potentially others so you give it considerable thought. Then again if you are like me, you’ve hardly given the New Year any consideration at all. You may have gotten swept up in life and have hardly noticed that a new year has come, other than the fact that Word keeps spell checking the dates you put at the top of documents.

The reminder came after I read a blog post saying that it was not too late to set resolutions or goals, which makes a considerable amount of sense. So then the quest for resolutions or goals commenced, which is where developing a framework came in handy. First you examine your values, then you narrow down on goals that embody those values.

post 15 graphic 1

One needs to think about values they hold dear, that they would like to live to. I chose the following: Cherish relationships. Live and learn. Invest in myself.

Next, reflect and design a set of overarching goals that you believe would allow you to live in accordance with these values. Finally ask yourself, “What does accomplishing that overarching goal look like for me?” Write down those tangible goals that come to mind and remember that these are meant to lie just outside of your comfort zone. You know you’ve hit that spot when you start to sweat a little just thinking about it.

Finally the last stage is putting some figures on it. This way you have a number to hit and once you do you can think about doing more, but you’ve also satisfied the original goal or resolution you’ve set for yourself.

post 15 graphic 2

I firmly believe in trying to look out for your best interest. That doesn’t mean allow yourself to do the same old same old. Instead find a way to live that allows you to better yourself: challenge yourself in a way that is constructive, explore the world, and invest in what you believe in.

The goals you set for yourself at this point in the year can serve as a compass, to gently nudge you to remember what you value and how you believe you can live in accordance with those values. Overall it is important to remember that even if you do not accomplish everything you set out to do, so long as you respect and challenge yourself throughout to be a better person, you are most certainly on the right track.


Then let’s get a move on.

And we are kids again… a tale of embracing curiosity


Strolling down the main strip – Cairo Rd, Lusaka

I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of time as a child doing what I now consider to be unproductive. I played with miniature people, tiny backhoes and created worlds and stories out of dirt, rocks and water. I didn’t answer emails, construct business models and view every hour of my life as something that I could turn into something tangible. Looking at an adult you see someone who has progressed since they were children as they can turn productive time into dollars, and hours talking and acting into influence, but how have adults digressed? If I asked you today to make up a whole new world based on you having nothing to draw inspiration from would you be able to do it? Can you view the world as malleable as a child can and see not what is there, but what could be?

There was hesitation, a leap, a plane, a trip and then arrival. A new world stands before you, some things are familiar, but most are not. You can crawl back to where you came from, back onto the plane, back to the original decision to come here and whisper to yourself not to go. Or the other option, one that leads to the unknown and causes you to feel a seeping dread, is to abandon what you know and embrace this new place. You embrace ambiguity and the curiosity you so often felt when you were a child.


I walk through Lusaka and for the first few months wondered why here was so different then home. Eventually that question turned both ways, why are we so different too?

Why is there so much garbage on the roads, in the sewers and burning in ditches? Why is every house, every building surrounded by tall walls with barbed wire and electric fences? Why are so many people wearing second-hand western clothing? Why is there so much alcoholism?

Why, why, why?


Then there are other questions that come from a different place:

How do they view my being here? How did this culture form with overwhelming kindness? What inspires different people? Who are they?

I see now that the world is far different then I imagined a few months ago. Instead of thick, sturdy walls of culture, infrastructure and governance I see a pool of water and sand. This sand forms structures that look so robust, one believes they cannot be changed; one person or a small group of people can’t make a difference.

In reality, this sand can be pushed aside and with the right tools can be built up again, and again, and again. While here it seems apparent that things can and are rapidly changing and growing, even developed countries can and will change. With the challenges that our society will be facing in the 21st century, it is inevitable that yet again the tables will turn and even the most developed of countries will need to shift their behavior.


So are we capable of embracing a new world, one that we’ve yet to meet and greet. Can we open our doors to the possibility of changing “business as usual”?

All I know is that I will continue to embrace my inner child. The child who used to always ask “why” as each answer that was given would lead to the next question. Adopting a fresh view of the world has made me a more inspired and motivated person, a happier person. In letting go of the belief that everything is immobile and frozen to adopt the view that it is in fact dynamic, alive and full of potential, I’ve started to believe. And I feel hopeful.

Cherish life. Invest in relationships. Nurture curiosity. Live and Learn. Believe in others. – Things to live by.


The beautiful hills in Eastern province

Surfing the Zambezi – Part 3/3 of the Zambia Botswana Adventure

bot zam post 3 graphic 1 The wind blew in their hair as the car sped along the streets of Livingstone, Zambia. The duo had a fitful sleep the night before and while for the daughter that was due to mefloquin induced psycho dreams, the mother was awake in bed dreading the activity. As they turned off the highway, their hearts skipped in unison. The daughter was excited, the mother frightened. As they pulled into the final gate, the driver turned around slightly to tell them that they were going to pick up their tickets first, then join the rest of the crew. Oh boy they couldn’t wait. bot zam post 3 graphic 2 The previous day after the duo arrived and checked in they were anxious to start the festivities in Livingstone and after making a few enquiries they learned that they could jump aboard a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river in under an hour. Delighted with the prospect of relaxing and enjoying the view and perhaps even more wildlife the duo retired to their room to get ready. They were picked up by a lively local driver in a safari car and were rushed down to the water.

Jaws open so far that the duo didn’t know if they would close.

In front of the duo was a large two-story vessel called the African Queen harbored on the edge of the Zambezi River. Tickets were purchased and the daughter pulled the mother away from the gift shop with the promise of future haggling and considerably lower prices. They descended a ramp and posed for a shot or two, as they had taken easily a hundred times less photos this day compared to the rest. They then boarded the Queen, settled into comfortable chairs on the top deck and were promptly served two G&Ts.


The African Queen had an impressive structure and to the duo’s continued delight had not one, but two bars on deck. As this was an all-you-can-drink cruise the duo was quite determined to get their money’s worth.


They mingled with the staff, met some South Africans and enjoyed the sights to be seen on the Zambezi. IMG_7874 Though it was nothing in comparison to Chobe National Park, there was still a sufficient amount of wildlife and at one point a collection of hippos decided to attack the boat. bot zam post 3 graphic 3 After the cruise was over the duo slowly remounted the steps off of the harbor platform, alcohol most likely being the cause of this reduction in speed. The duo slept very soundly that night and if the mother had been snoring, as was the norm, the daughter was too intoxicated to hear it.

And with that we return to the following morning.

The liquid courage of the previous evening had worn off and so the duo would have to face this next challenge sober and lacking sufficient levels of caffeine. After the duo joined the rest of the crew they were given helmets and then were fitted for life jackets. Little did the duo know before that in order for a life jacket to “fit” one is not supposed to be able to breathe. After a quick safety discussion where the daughter listened attentively and the mother tried to block out the words injury, death and even safety, for it was usually quickly followed by injury, they were ushered into a truck.

The drive was quick and the mother to her credit only mentioned that they turn back once or twice. Once they arrived they took their paddles and started to walk down a steep ravine. Again the daughter looked about her and imagined the Jurassic Park theme song was playing in the background for the deeper they descended into the ravine the less they could see of civilization and human presence. Soon the foliage was so dense it was difficult to see the sky or the ground. They descended further.

They could hear the roar of water growing louder till finally they saw large rapids below them. The undulating current seemed unforgiving and harsh as water flowed down the river, rebounding off of the walls and rocks in the middle. When they arrived at the bottom a mound of shoes that people chose to leave behind and fluorescent yellow inflated boats greeted them. bot zam post 3 graphic 4  Safety was the word for the first few minutes on the boat as the duo learned what they had to do when in the boat, when outside of the boat and when their fellow-men were outside of the boat. After that was done they pushed off, the daughter sitting perched off of the edge in front and the mother holding up the rear.

The first rapid was a class five rapid, the largest one they would face and in fact the largest one you can legally face.  They waited for their turn in an eddy on the side of the river. Everyone was silent. Either they were contemplating their fate or perhaps they were also thinking about whether they had applied a sufficient amount of sunscreen, either way everyone was nervous.

They shoved off and made their way to the middle of the river, paddling hard to get into the correct position to approach the rapids. After a pause, which lasted five seconds though seemed to last ten minutes, the boat hovered horizontally before it’s nose turned down and they descended into the valley of rapids. IMG_2501 Chaos ensued. Water decked the duo in the face from all angles to the degree that it was near impossible for them to keep their eyes open. Thus they blindly went forth trusting that they were on course and not headed straight for any large rock face. Not long after they crashed to the bottom of one wave did the navigator at the back of the boat call out for them to hit the deck. Snatching their paddle with both hands the duo did what was asked and dropped to their knees and grabbed the rope on the side of the boat. Looking upwards the daughter fought the urge to scream as the boat penetrated a wave at mid height and a tower of water washed over the crew. Briefly under water the duo held their breath though nothing could stop the Zambezi from surging into their nostrils. bot zam post 3 graphic 5 Promptly after resurfacing they were called to resume their seats and continue paddling. Using the side of the boat as leverage they obeyed though not before quickly looking back at the angry mass of water behind them that had pushed them around like rag dolls. However, knowing that that was the most powerful wave they would face, the crew including the mother and daughter were sufficiently more at ease. IMG_2370 With a few breaks the duo tackled another 13 rapids and only walked around one for they were told it was too dangerous to navigate. While at first the daughter did not believe this statement, she became a firm believer once she saw that said rapids measured a story in height, and that there were five of them in a row.

Walking around the largest rapid

Walking around the largest rapid

For some of the smaller class two and one rapids the duo was given the option of floating down the river. Given that this was one of the rare opportunities to swim in fresh water without fear of encroaching crocodiles they willingly jumped in. Once the duo reached the end they were sufficiently exhausted and proud that they had not involuntarily left the boat, though the daughter came close twice as she grew bolder with every wave. They walked over a beach and then ascended to the top of the ravine in a cable car. When they returned to the lodge they enjoyed a hot meal, which was much appreciated as it had been raining most of the day. They also purchased the photographs of the trip for they were highly amusing.

As this was their last day in Livingstone the duo was determined to fight the exhaustion and ignore the sun burns to visit Victoria Falls. The mother and daughter had both been to Niagara Falls thinking nothing could compare.

They were wrong.

bot zam post 3 graphic 6

Victoria Falls is fed by the Zambezi River and lies across the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Even though the falls were not at their peak, as they would be in March and April, the duo could see the mist rising from them as they drove closer to the site. IMG_7881 IMG_7896

They walked along the narrow paths across from the falls in the thick jungle and periodically the path would diverge and allow the duo to get right on the edge of the ravine. There they would be so close to the falls that it would seem as though it was raining due to the thick mist cloud generated by falling water.

Zimbabwe concealed in a veil of mist

Zimbabwe concealed in a veil of mist

IMG_7903 If it were not for the exhaustive activities of that day the duo could have continued to linger and stare at the falls, but hunger and a need to relax called them away. IMG_7905 IMG_1603 Before leaving they haggled at the market near the falls, trying to outwit the merchants. After a few previous episodes of haggling the duo had developed a fine tuned system and managed to get better prices each time. bot zam post 3 graphic 7

One of the "curio" markets the duo haggled at in Livingstone

One of the “curio” markets the duo haggled at in Livingstone

That evening was New Year’s Eve and once the duo returned from diner and were in their room the mother turned to the daughter,

“Di, do you want to go out for New Years”

“Not really, you?” “No.”

A pause. “Do you want to stay up till midnight?”

The daughter stifled a yawn, “not really.”

“Good, neither do I.”

And with that the duo set their new year’s plans, which were to lie back on their beds covered in after-burn cream with a beer in one hand, a book in the other and read until they fell asleep. While they were both reading books that they were highly into, the duo passed out before ten. 

The daughter, the storyteller, would like to remind the readers that the duo had been commanding all their strength to stay alive from 8:00 till 15:00 that day and on top of that went to the falls. So if an excuse for staying in for new years were needed, which it isn’t, they had a very good one.

The next morning the duo rose early, wished each other a happy new year and then packed their belongings into the truck. Knowing that this was the last leg of the trip before the mother was to return to Canada and the daughter was to stay in Zambia, the duo wanted to make the most of the six-hour drive to Lusaka. As it was new years day there was hardly a soul on the road, which meant that the duo was given the opportunity of purely enjoying each other’s company and the scenery around them. IMG_7924 Though knowing that at times they asked each other probing questions the other did not want to answer they chose to mix up the conversation by taking turns reading to each other. They read the majority of the guidebook on Zambia as well as portions of the novels they were currently reading. They made a few stops, some to squat in the bush while nervously looking out for snakes and then others when a “photographic” moment presented itself. The mother wanted to capture the small towns, the vendors on the side of the road and at least one of the many termite mounds that you could see standing in a flat field.

Selling charcoal on the side of the road

Selling charcoal on the side of the road

Before they knew it they had arrived back in Lusaka. There they spent their last twenty-four hours together exploring the city, going to see movies and eating plenty of good food. But then it was time and at 22:00 the duo drove to the airport for the mother’s flight. After a failed attempt for the mother to upgrade her flight to first class they stood in line at departures until it was time for the mother to go through security. There they hugged goodbye and both stifled back tears knowing that if one started the other would soon join. The mother walked through security and the daughter watched her disappear through the metal detectors before she turned away and walked outside.

Feeling tearful about the mother’s departure the daughter elected to write about the story feeling that it might help to focus her nostalgia and energy over the coming days and weeks. bot zam post 3 graphic 8 While this marks the temporary halt of the story of the duo, the tale of the daughter continues. For she remains in Zambia and is keen to keep the spirit of adventure going and to continue to learn about the world and its wide range of diversity.

The Valley of Elephants, Chobe National Park – Part 2/3 of the Zambia Botswana Adventure

bot zam post 2 graphic 1

Gripping the railing the daughter looked out and through the bushes not ten feet away tall majestic creatures reached their heads towards the sky and stared towards them. As though shrugging their shoulders in boredom, they slowly turned away and proceeded to continue eating.

They stood grouped together and like keystrokes on an instrument, alternated between leaning down to eat and then standing upright to glance back at the vehicle. The mother and daughter sat in silence watching the family of giraffes, mouths open, eyes wide and expressions completely baffled and amused. The camera was extracted slowly and while leaning over the mother, the daughter took many photos before the vehicle jolted to start moving away again.

Giraffes grazing

Giraffes grazing

The next ten minutes passed quickly. The duo chatted ecstatically at each other, one hardly listening to the other for both were a tad too excited for that level of patience. They then entered the Chobe Lodge area after passing over a series of grates and under a series of electric fences. Once they arrived a drink was passed into their hands and they were whisked down to a boat for the sunset cruise along the river. After a moment’s hesitation it was decided that both cameras should be brought for as the mother said, “you never know what we might see!” And the daughter agreed.

bot zam post 2 graphic 2

As they set off, their guide narrated in the background while the duo was consumed with the drink in hand and the sights surrounding them. The water was still and clear, as though trying to tempt swimmers to enter its dangerous depths, luckily the duo knew better and anyone aboard that boat would soon too. When the duo leaned a little further out of the boat to glimpse a family of baboons drinking by the water or to try to catch a glimpse of the African Fish Eagle, the crocodiles wouldn’t been too far away. They hovered just below the surface of the water and at times you could see their scales and backbone appear as they kept their eyes locked on the sacks of meat aboard the boat slowly cruising down the river. Even if there weren’t any crocodiles, there were plenty of hippos.


The boat rounded a corner and the daughter was called to attention by the frantic motioning and gasping from the mother who had hastily put down her G&T and was struggling to undo the straps of the camera bag. Looking over the fray of activity the daughter too put down the G&T then snatched the camera bag from her mother and pulled out the telephoto lens.

“Holy shit”, she brought the camera up to her eye to catch a better look, waiting for the boat to close the gap.

Just ahead along the edge of the river over a dozen elephants were running down a moderate hill while a small contingent, already at the bottom, were eating salt off of the steep wall of the adjacent slope.

bot zam post 2 graphic 3

Ten camera lenses captured mother elephants and their babies feasting on salt and then witnessed an elephant waltz over to the water for a long drink. Soon after, his comrades joined him and they all waded into the water.


Unable to resist the opportunity to cool off, many of the elephants took this moment to bathe and spray each other with water from their trunks. Bobbing in the water, they took no notice of the vessel and the ogling spectators, but instead chose to sink to their knees to fully submerge their bodies.


Then when all that was done, they commenced another ritual of covering themselves with dirt. The air was full of dust and salt and the calls of one fellow beast to the other.

bot zam post 2 graphic 4

Upon return to the lodge, after first sighting hippos bathing and baboons drinking, the duo was delighted and could not stop speaking at each other.


Over the course of the next three days they rose at 5:00 to lug their bodies onto safari cars to depart the lodge at 5:30. They would return at 8:30 for breakfast and then be taken out on the boat at 10:30 to return for lunch. Then finally they would enjoy the late afternoon game drive at 15:00 and would return when the park closed at 19:00. Every outing was different and the park seemed to transform itself from dawn till dusk offering new and diverting sights each time the duo ventured out. All the cars were in communication with each other and would radio each other about different sightings, thus little that happened was missed.

"Pumba" - the warthog

“Pumba” – the warthog

Warthogs dogged the cars, the impalas and virtually just about anything as any animal with carnivorous tendencies would be more than willing to test their meat.

The mongoose (the wild ferret?)

The mongoose (the wild ferret?)

Meanwhile the mongoose would frolic, both in the brush and at the lodge, their mannerisms reminding both the mother and daughter of ferrets.

A bunch of month old impala waking up at 5:30

A bunch of month old impalas waking up at 5:30

The man - male impala guarding his family

The man – male impala guarding his family

Herds of impalas littered the roads, the plains, the edge of the river and then the nooks and crannies in between. Either the duo would see herds of just males, those rejected by the ladies last year, or they would find a herd of females, their month old babies and one male to guard them all.

The Kudu

The Kudu


The duo was particularly mesmerized by the creatures with faces of tribal paint and horns reaching towards the sky. Kudu sightings left little to be missed. They reminded the duo of the Canadian moose due to its stature, but there was an added magic in their eyes, manner and markings.

A pair of African Fish Eagles

A pair of African Fish Eagles

A heron

A heron

As the car rumbled along narrowly avoiding beetles rolling elephant dung up hills of sand and guinea fowl nervously darting across the road the duo had the opportunity to appreciate the fine bird species. The African Fish Eagle looked very much like the American Bald Eagle, though was not the favorite of the duo.

The African Darter

The African Darter

The Little Bee Eater

The Little Bee Eater

The beautiful colours of the little bee-eater and the African Darter always captured their attention. To the duo’s delight, it was virtually impossible to enter the bush without seeing an abundance of birdlife. And those bird in kind, cared very little about the existence of the duo, or were being just plain coy.

When the brush would part and the daughter could catch a glimpse of a field filled with wildlife she would imagine that she was hearing the Jurassic Park soundtrack.



Giraffes would walk around the vehicle and stare down at their admiring faces. Buffalo would slowly wander around, followed by cranes and other smaller birds. Then elephants and hippos in the distance would pay them no mind and continue to graze, to drink and to lounge around under the African sun.


You don't want to anger this buffalo!

You don’t want to anger this buffalo!

While their entire stay was filled with activity and things to view and take photos of, it was in the last two mornings and afternoon that shit really happened.

bot zam post 2 graphic 5

The duo felt that they might fall asleep though the car shook them awake with every frequent bump. The car jostled to a stop and the driver hastily turned around the shot back in the opposite direction at full throttle. She spoke rapidly into the communication system in a language the duo did not understand, though they picked up on one word, “leopard”. Maybe it was the cool damp wind that awakened their senses, though their minds immediately tuned in at the mention of that one simple word.

In the distance they could see a group of other safari vehicles on the narrow dirt road and all of their passengers were poised cameras ready. As the duo approached they didn’t see anything, what a disappointment. Then they were informed that the leopard had descended from a tree after eyeing the impala that was naively eating close by.

For five minutes no one moved. Then there was pointing.


The leopard was slowly moving through the green brush towards the impala. Still eating, the impala looked around, looked at us and then continued to exist in blissful ignorance. The leopard was crouching now under ten feet away and it rocked back and forth as though winding itself up to pounce.

A jump, a fight and then collapse.


In the dense foliage the duo could see the leopard holding onto the neck of the impala while choking out its windpipe. The leopard eventually got the impala down and while they disappeared from view, the witnesses could see the foliage move as the leopard dragged the impala back to his tree.

Later in the day, the leopard lay poised in the tree, relaxing after the ordeal of the morning.


Meanwhile in a time twenty-four hours later, the same duo, the same car and the same driver cruised along the dirt roads in Chobe till they abruptly stopped by what seemed to be a bush. Pulling out the binoculars the duo could see in the distance a pride of female lions and their cubs. A lone warthog naively wandered closer and closer to the sleeping pride till one lioness rose up, causing the warthog to rapidly retreat towards the vehicles. To the delight of the duo the lioness pursued and stalked the warthog right up to the vehicle and then to the other side of the road. However, she seemed not to be too serious about this endeavor and once the warthog got too far away she padded her way back to her pride and lay down for a nap.

Lioness stalking the warthog

Lioness stalking the warthog

Driving away, the duo was very pleased with the sighting and talked animatedly about it. Their driver however knew that they were not finished yet. The duo frantically tried to turn on the camera and bickered about who should be taking photos, for in the distance and rapidly approaching was a full-grown male lion. He paused and looked towards the duo, and they responded by taking tens of photos within the span of a minute. The lion calmly walked beside their vehicle following a female lion that was already disappearing into distant bush. When they headed back to the lodge that morning, the duo couldn’t stop envisioning the two prides they saw and the full mane of hair donned by the male.

The male lion

The male lion

But the tale is not over yet.

In the final afternoon the duo was found in a safari ranger leaning out of the vehicle to take photos of the African Darter. When they finished the car moved on and they entered a valley. The vehicle came to a crawl as they encountered two elephants bathing in the mud. They parked to watch the small group contentedly cover themselves in dirt, not noticing that a large herd of elephants had emerged from the brush on the opposite side and were making their way to the vehicle. Elephants, large and small, moved around the vehicle though it were a rock in a stream, passing so close that if the duo were to reach out they would be able to touch their tusks.


Nothing like a good mud bath!

Nothing like a good mud bath!

The herd gathered around the water and using their trunks they sucked in the mud and then sprayed it upwards to cover their backs, sides and heads. For the select few who were not satisfied with this method, they chose to drop to their knees and submerge their bodies, lathering themselves with dirt by rolling around on the ground.


Using their trunks as leverage they fought gravity to stand up and moved on to a pile of dirt to cover their glistening forms with a layer of dust. Meanwhile the duo watched for as more elephants kneeled to the ground before them, several others emerged from the bush surrounding the vehicle.

IMG_7630 IMG_7651

Once most of the elephants cleared the road the driver started the vehicle and started to slowly move away. This alarmed a few of the elephants and one raised his trunk to the sky and called out to them while running towards them. He stopped just short of the car and called out again. The duo sufficiently shocked asked their driver what that was about and she simply responded,

bot zam post 2 graphic 6

The next day after the safari the bags were packed and reluctantly the mother and daughter piled into a safari car to leave Chobe and Botswana. The driver weaved through the park and the duo surveyed their surroundings in the hopes of catching a glimpse of another lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe or even mongoose.

After a short boat ride and a few more stamps in the passport, the duo re entered Zambia to return to Livingstone for the final leg of the trip. They were staying at a hostel just outside of the city and when they arrived they proceeded to the main desk to check in.

As the mother handled the details the daughter busied herself looking at the brochures to figure out what they could do for the next few days in Livingstone. She picked up one leaflet and turned it over a few times. A smile crept onto her face as her heartbeat picked up, a sign that she had made up her mind, but the question was could she convince her mother?

She walked over to her mother and showed her the leaflet asking if she wanted to take the plunge.

The mother gulped and stared at her daughter’s keen face and though she held very strong reservations to the activity in general she didn’t want to deny her daughter the pleasure of this adrenaline junkie activity.

And so they made the reservation with the woman at the front desk who in turn told them to be ready to be picked up at 7:00.

As they walked away, the mother turned to the daughter, “I’m afraid Di.”

Though the daughter didn’t confess it, she was too.

To be continued…