August 20th, 2010: Friday morning, and no, we are not there yet. A slow cool boat ride follows the high-seated Jeep ride. Hand painted wooden signs direct campers to various stops along the banks. The river is filled with hippos. A fat lazy crocodile poses for Jeff’s camera. The air is a lovely cool while our metal boat is skimming the surface of the Lower Zambezi river, and the smell is like fresh hay. It is a fine day in Zambia.
At Chiawa Camp at last, we debark, and John, the man with the clipboard arranging the day’s events asks if he could get me something to drink. I ask for a Vodka rocks with a twist of lime fully expecting this smart ass remark to be met with a substitution, say of a warm local beverage, but John says, with a twinkle, would you like me to make that a double. I’m going to like it here.
Soon, our cast of hospitality providers present themselves:
Grant, earnest son of the owners with a quiet humor,
Everesto, the Shy Gun Man,
Paul the Head Guide, a blue eyed South African – so very knowledgeable,
Daniel, our walking guide, a local boy, also quite knowledgeable, soft spoken as he tells us the story of his grandfather who was killed by a hippo while working on the family’s banana farm,
Clement (like the Pope) our fishing guide, soooo polite, soooo patient, scoots the boat forward toward everything we point at.
There are a maximum of 9 guests in the Camp at any one time, and our companions are fascinating as well. Louis, Claudine, Pierre-Jean and Monique, two couples from French Switzerland, are such excellent company, and they teach us to kiss three times goodbye.
Nearly every day Lumpy, the bull elephant, wanders through the camp, casually dining on the highest tree’s leaves. In our cloth suite (I just can’t call it a tent, there’s a copper bathtub in the middle for criminy’s sake), the staff puts hot water bottles between the sheets every night – they are covered in fuzzy leopard spotted cozies, and the towels are twisted and shaped into green terry elephants on the bed each night. On the veranda, today, while water buffalo chew their cuds to the right of the fabric-based chalet, nervy baboons stroll up our walkway, river hippos in the distance – the chuckle when they eat. I awaken Jeffrey from his nap – hey hey there’s a water buffalo right outside! Later we see waterbuck, and Impala among the acacia trees. Daniel weaves some of the bark into a hand sized rope – my new favorite souvenir.