African Dreams- pt. 2- "The Arrival"
I met my friend in Atlanta where we would spend the night (just down the street from the old FWA hotel) to insure that there would be no connection SNAFUs. As I posted yesterday a missed flight could be total disaster since planes don't necessarily fly every day in Africa. Overall it was an uneventful 14.5 hour flight. That's right, kiddies. FOURTEEN AND A HALF HOURS on a plane. It's about as close to Hell as one can get. The plane must land in Johannesburg on fumes because the return flight can't even make it to Atlanta without stopping for fuel in Florida.
We landed, found our ride, and proceeded to the hotel. We discovered they had a half-day tour of the city. Jet lag hadn't hit yet, so we took the tour. For the most part it was just like any other big metropolitan area. It finally hit me when we drove through Soweto that I was in a place where so much news and history took place within my lifetime. Back in college there were regular protests against apartheid. I had read about the Soweto riots. Now I was there.
The next day we took off to Lusaka, Zambia. It really didn't sink in yet that I was now in one of the poorest countries on Earth. Things were ok now, but it wasn't that long ago when countries like this were suffering from things like starvation. The hotel was the best in the city which was the equivalent to an old Holiday Inn in the States. I was a bit shocked to have a bellhop actually get down on his knees and beg money from me. WTH?!? We decided to take a quick drive around the city. A cab driver agreed to drive us all over for as long as we wanted for $30. We talked him down to $20 and we were off. Once again it was just another big city only more poor and rundown. Our taxi driver lectured us about the city and took us all over. When we passed the headquarters for the secret police he joked, "This is where they put your head in a vice." Huh?!? Was the gov't a big fan of the movie "Casino" or something with Joe Pesci as their minister of security? I later found out from a Brit who was in our tour that had a friend in the embassy to Zambia that the cab driver was telling the truth. We enjoyed the taxi driver so much that we ended up giving him $30. Word must have spread that we were generous rich Americans because we were treated VERY well by staff. Later we found out that the taxi driver was just beside himself with joy that he made so much money that he was able to make needed repairs to his vehicle.
The next day we hopped on a small commuter plane to the little town of Mfuwe, gateway to South Luangwa National Park. The plane was probably an old Horizon Air commuter like I used to take from Yuma to Phoenix. Even the pre-recorded voice for announcements was the same. At Mfuwe we were now in rural Africa. It was a 2-hour drive to get to the park. All along the way the road was crowded with people walking and biking to and fro. This was the most amazing thing to me. How many hours of the day were taken up simply traveling from one place to another? There were settlements here and there, but even if they were 2 miles apart, it would take at least 2 hours just getting back and forth. Those feelings of "be so very grateful for what you have" really started to kick in. I was looking into the daily lives of so many people just doing their daily routine.
We arrived at the park entrance which was a guard house on the bridge across the Luangwa River. As our guide took care of all of the paperwork, my friend and I walked partway across the bridge. OMG! There are 10-15' long crocodiles in the river! There are a dozen hippos on the bank! Holy shit! We're REALLY in Africa! A short drive later and we were soon at theMfuwe Lodge
As I stood on the balcony of our cottage I watched exotic birds feeding in a wetland. Baboons chased each other around. Some strange antelope grazed. Wow. We walked around the lodge compound exploring all of the area. The paranoia soon hit as to whether or not we could be eaten by a lion. Soon a family of elephants came walking by. Ummmm. Perhaps we should duck into this building. What do you do when confronted by a mama elephant?!? I don't want to find out! How do you stop a charging elephant? Take away his credit cards! *rimshot* So now we were in the Africa we had dreamed about. We were living in a National Geographic documentary. This was no Disney Africa. This WAS Africa.
I'll start posting pics tomorrow. It looks like I screwed up and the uploading didn't happen. *facepaws*