The team were sung to sleep last night, by a chorus of hippos (or were they laughing, we’re not sure). This felt very much like home at Zoe House, Chipata, where we’re graced most evenings by the local dog chorus, as the lights start to fade – and at the off and on of every electricity blackout!
Unlike home however, we had a VERY early start this morning. 05:15 (Zambia time – 04:15 UK!) for a dawn drive, to catch more critters as they started stirring. It was a rather difficult task for the team to rise that early, but oh so worth it with the phenomenal Luangwa park on top form again. Impala, puku and baboons were out in force, and although we didn’t catch lions or leopards today (or tigers, who knew) we did see traces of big, catty pawprints along our path which were just magical. The landscape in Zambia is truly awesome, and it’s fantastic there are still these unspoiled places intact with such rich and wonderful variety of life. We’ve observed that it’s a little bit ironic that with our downtime from bouncing around in a jeep searching for children, we chose to bounce around in a jeep searching for leopards! But we all felt very lucky to be there and to see what we saw.
The team at Kafunta Safari were exceedingly hospitable to us as well. Knowing we were staying just one night they put on a very unusual lunch for us today, high up on a platform in a giant tree! From there we enjoyed table service with a backdrop of incredible views of the Luangwa river, utterly brimming with hippos. How splendid! We were joined by Stephen for this and it was a real treat to celebrate the last fortnight’s successes together in such a special way.
Driving back into town is a bit of a surreal feeling. More so than the drive in somehow, the stark change from the luxury of the tourist industry to the poverty of the local people is so quick, so clear and so sobering. Exactly the thing we needed perhaps, to get our heads back in the game for a very important meeting this afternoon – Stephen had lined up an audience with Chief M’nukwa.
We met the Chief at his home in Chipata, a handsome house fit with beautifully kept gardens and decoration, and the meeting went very well. The Chief seems satisfied with the progress Zoe is making for his people, and supportive of our activities – even to the point of suggesting areas for growth in the future. He explained Zoe is becoming somewhat of a household name in the local villages, known for the good things we’ve made happen; and among other organisations too, as an example of good practice and perseverance. Everyone involved can feel very proud of this!
We’re all starting to feel very sad to have to leave this lovely place, so hope to squeeze in as much more Zambia as we can manage on our last day tomorrow.