Lost in Jurassic park

 

Saturday was an adventure day! It started out with breakfast at a great café called Zebra Crossing. What a score. Great coffee and atmosphere.
Then, we headed off to the real adventure. Only 10 minutes from the house is the Lusaka National Game Park. It is 6,715 hectares (16, 500 acres) and the smallest game park in Zambia. It is the home to two endangered white rhinos as well as zebras, giraffes, warthogs, and another 1000 different species of animals that are protected or endangered. These animals get to roam free and relaxed as there are no predators in the park.
As we got out of town and away from some of the heavy city traffic, it was time for Kat to finally get some time behind the wheel. I know, I know—I am way to kind to let her drive her own car! We pulled up to the main gate and talked with the game rangers who were carrying AK47s, in this case, to protect the white rhinos from poachers. This I can really appreciate. It cost 30 Kwacha each (about $5.00 USD in total) to enter the park. They asked if we would like a game ranger to serve as a guide in the car. Being the “man” that I am, I figured that as it wasn’t that big of a park that we don’t need a guide. I politely declined and they gave us directions to get to the enclosure that help the white rhinos.
We drove about ten minutes to reach the parking area and office for the rhinos. We met another armed game ranger who told us to park our car and then walked with us to the rhinos. They take their job seriously to protect the rhinos. The rhinos, one female and one male, are brought into their enclosed feeding area on Saturdays and Sundays so people can see them. Monday thru Friday, they are able to roam in the park. As tourists wouldn’t be able to find them in the park. Our game ranger escort was named Mwali and very knowledgeable about the rhinos. He gave us their history (from South Africa), ages (approximately both twelve years old), weight (2.5 tons each) and that they hope the female is pregnant by year’s end. Gestation is 16 months! As we stood there marveling at the sheer size, the rangers called out the rhinos names’ and they both walked over to the view area’s wall and we were able to reach out and touch them! What an amazing experience. To be able see and touch this giant yet calm animal was incredible. Their skin is about 2 inches thick and very tough with tiny little hairs that you can only feel not see. The rangers said not to touch the horn. We spent a good hour at their “home” enclosure area and walked back to the car thanking the ranger for his knowledge and dedication to protecting these animals.
We shared with the ranger that we would like to also try to find the zebras and giraffes and asked for ideas of where to find them. He said that a lot of the park was not driveable due to rainy season but if we just make left turns on the roads, we may see some more animals, as well as head back in the direction of the main gate. That’s easy enough, right? Well, this was when the self-drive game drive became FUN! Kat started driving again and we see impala, eland, wildebeest, and guinea fowl although we did not find the zebras or giraffes.
We did as we were told and took the left turns. The gravel road turned into a dirt path that turned into tall grass with traces of a dry season trail. The further we drove, the thicker it got. Then, we started coming up on the unpassable areas. Bah! It’s fine as we were in a vehicle set up for exactly these conditions so the unpassable was never a problem. At times, we contemplated turning around but the paths were just wide enough for the car. It soon turns into over an hour of being completely LOST in areas of the park with no marked roads/paths and what felt like driving in circles. We finally come across a gate and two little boys, who were no more than five years old, playing and rolling a tire (the common toy of choice here in Lusaka) and so excited to see a car come up. Their eyes were open wide as we rounded the corner. They were obviously not expecting to see a car in that that area of the park. They started waving and saying hi. They were the cutest guys wanting to speak English to us muzungus (name for “white people”). We were excited, too! A gate! Until we realized that it was an unmanned gate that was locked! We were still very very lost. Kat said we should we call Mwali, the game ranger who escorted us to the rhinos, who gave us his phone number in case we got lost. I figured “we got this” and we kept driving.
As we continued driving, the small boys followed behind the car, rolling their tires along the way, and chasing us down the path. They couldn’t be happier and where having the time of their lives. We finally come across a house. I get out, said hello, and asked the lady how to find the front gate. We were told to ‘just keep driving straight”. The boys had caught up to us, still playing and screaming, “hi, hello!” over and over again. We followed the simple directions to “just keep driving straight” and we were still not finding the gate. Well, she forgot to mention the fork in the road. Ugh. We took the one that looked a little more used. I had already checked the closing time of the park (a few hours away still) and that we had enough diesel in the car (over ½ a tank) to make sure we were still had a chance to get out this park, the smallest park in Zambia, before they locked us in for the evening! As we drove, low and behold, we started seeing our OWN tire tracks again. Shit, we have been on these paths before and we were the only tire tracks. We kept going, though mud bogs and tall grasses. Then, we see that we are driving towards the same power lines that we had seen before which ultimately led us to the unmanned locked gate. We were backtracking in the same direction. Crap. We are now probably three hours into being lost and driving in circles. At this point, Kat had begun to call the park “Jurassic Park” as she was sure that we were never going to get out of it. She also had given up driving in circles. We swapped spots and I made a 15-point turn to head back the other way. On the plus side, we got to go through the big mud holes again. 🙂  We were back at the “Y” (she said that) and took the other direction in hopes it being the correct direction. Finally, we saw a sign for the office of the rhinos! One of the only signs in the park aside from random signs with road names but no guidance on direction or how to exit! At this point, I’m sure you are thinking, why didn’t I at least grab a map at the entrance gate when I turned down the idea of taking a guide with us, right? Well, we did find out after the fact that they were out of maps so even if I would have thought of it in advance, there would have been no maps available. Ecstatic that we found help, we pulled into the office area to get directions from the rangers. The directions were like this, “Just go up here and take a left, go there, and take a left, and you will be at the front gate.” Well, hell NO to any more “just turn left” type of directions. The ranger was laughing along with us because he could tell from how dirty the car was that we were very lost in some fun areas. Then he says, “OK, just turn your car around, go to the fork, take a right, and there is the front gate.
We followed those directions and there it was. The exit to Jurassic Park. We had survived.

Lost in Jurassic park

Water Leak

So this is happening today. New house means little quirks here and there including a leak in the wall running from our laundry room to the outside wall. Before it turns into a real problem, the landlord has one of the guys from his crew here. A small water leak from the geyser (hot water heater) is a lot more work than you would expect. He has had to hand chisel a hole six by six inches through the wall into the laundry room to find the leak. Its a good day to be a renter

Water Leak

Mogley Junior

For those of you who have met Mogley Jr in the Tahoe, rest assured, he made the trip and is settling in nicely to his new ride. A Toyota Prado and it is already set up for the bush! Now to practice driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.

The hardest part about driving on the opposite side of the road and car so far is that the levers (windshield wipers and turn signals) are on the opposite side of the steering column. I keep turning the wipers on when I want to make a turn! I feel when I master that, all will be well.

Now that I don’t have to rely on taxis or drivers, this land is my oyster.
(Ok, actually the car still needs to be licensed, plated and insured so technically it isn’t ready to drive—as Kat keeps reminding me—but I have driven it anyways. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!)

Mogley Junior

Lusaka Experance

Ok… I know I said my first post would be the longest but be patient with me. I’m new to this writing thing and I’m just trying to figure out how to write less with the same amount of information. 😊

Today we went on a tour that showed us a more personal look at how Lusaka people live including their culture, education and living conditions. Felix, from the Lusaka Experience (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293843-d2525765-Reviews-Lusaka_Experience-Lusaka_Lusaka_Province.html), was our tour guide for what was supposed to be a 2 to 3 hour trip. He is Zambian who started out showing missionaries, volunteers, and other visitors to Lusaka about Zambian culture and lifestyle. Felix is also very involved in youth development including helping a performance drama group that does local plays throughout the year. He’s a hands-on man who takes pride in his culture and his people and strives to help improve everybody’s living conditions. The tour that he provided focused on the area of Lusaka called Garden compound.

Andrew, the driver, and Felix picked us up from the house and began telling us what we were going to see and do. As we drove, he gave us history of the area, tried to teach us a little bit of local language, and what to expect when we got to the first stop. It was arranged that Andrew would drop us off at the first stop and then find us at the end of the tour to take us back to the house.

As we get closer to Garden compound, the change in living conditions was very noticeable. We started out by going to Ngwelele Basic School which was a government school for first to ninth grades. Felix gave a brief description of the school and its history. We were not expecting to see much at the school at it was closed for the national holiday, International Women’s Day. Luckily, as we walked through the gates, there were many children there who had come to study even though the school was closed. As we walked around the school looking into the classrooms seeing their computers (both of them), we bump into a few children that Felix knew. They told us their choir was practicing in back for a national event. We talked to the choir director and he had the group sing a few songs for us. WOW! How awesome was that, not only were they excellent singers but it was my first exposure to local music. Truly amazing experience. There was another group of school children in one of the pavilions. They were making a movie for the drama club. We walked over and started talking to the children.

Note, I am bigger than 90% of the African men that I have seen so far not to mention I am pasty white.

First, to see the children’s faces look with their wide open eyes of amazement towards the big white man walking on the school grounds and then to see them running up to say hi, shake my hand, and just talk was absolutely amazing. They like the opportunity to practice their English language whenever they get the chance. The children were amazing and wanted to hold my hand and ask about my tattoos. They also showed us a few games that they played. These were simple games like shooting a rock into a circle or using an old inner tube that has been cut up and tied together to make a big rubber band so they can jump back-and-forth over it as a group to a very catchy song. They were having the time of their lives playing simple games and loved sharing with us how they entertained themselves. When we were saying good bye, everyone made sure to shake our hands. In Zambia, they have a unique handshake so I decided to show them the “fist pump with the blow up”. They loved it and even sang us a thank you song. How sweet. It was a song just to thank us for taking our time to come and visit them. They were so excited to see us. Truly heart touching.

So we were off to our next stop into the Garden compound. It is an area where roughly 18 to 20,000 people live. These people live with no running water, only communal toilets and very few had power. Their houses, which none of us would consider a house, were cinder block walls with few or no windows and a sheet hanging over the one opening that was door. Many of the streets were all dirt/black mud (its rainy season) because of the amount of coal that they burn for warmth and cooking. But yet, as dirty as it looked on the outside, it was still oddly clean and livable. If you can think of the worst living conditions you have seen in the US, it’s a five-star resort compared to what how these people are living. Every person we talked with was so excited to see us. Never once was I nervous or felt in danger and all the people were so friendly. Within minutes of walking into the compound, little children are coming out of every nook and cranny to see the Mzungu (slang for ‘white person’). At first, the children were scared of me because of my size but as soon as I started saying hello and putting my hand out to shake, they started coming around. Before long, I was walking hand-in-hand with three children touring through some of the poorest areas in Lusaka. The children, and their parents who make so little money on a daily basis, seemed so open, friendly, and happy. Such an experience really puts things into perspective.

Next, we stopped at a couple local community-based projects to talk with the people who were helping the community—most targeted providing activities to youth to keep them motivated in learning and engaged in new opportunities (chess, computers, singing competitions). We also stopped at a woman’s small tailoring shop where she made cloth bags for sale. Felix next took us to a local place to have lunch. Now this place, much like the Garden compound in general, was a place I would have never gone to without a Zambian to show me the way. Just like any other community there can be a few bad apples and things can go bad quickly even though I have yet to see that here in Lusaka.

At the restaurant, Felix asked what type of meat I wanted to eat (chicken, fish, or beef) and I chose chicken. Felix ordered the rest which was all local foods that are eaten widely throughout the country. Nshima was the main part of the meal. It is basically cornmeal cooked in oil and water with a bit of salt. It comes in a large stiff ball. I was taught to take a same bit from the larger ball, roll it in my hand to create a small ball about half the size of a ping pong and then use it as a scoop to eat the other foods (eggplant, spinach, baked beans, and a dish that they couldn’t translate into English). When eating nshima, you eat with your fingers. It was surprisingly delicious although it took a while for me to learn how to roll the nshima in my hand but as soon as I did, the feast began. It was an excellent meal and I cannot wait to have it again.

This concluded our tour and headed back to our house. The 2 to 3 hour trip had now turned into a five hour trip. The time flew by and was worth every second.

Note about the pictures: I got them from an internet search for Garden compound. I didn’t feel taking pictures was appropriate so my camera stayed in my pocket during the tour until it came time to eat. I still wanted to share with you what I saw so I found some comparable pictures from the internet.

Lusaka Experance

A relaxing day

Well, slept better but still no t on this time zone yet. Started watching LOST. We have a DVD player and brought some movies. It’s another beautiful day in Zambia. I have had all the windows open all day. Getting a lot of fresh air.

The landlord showed up to fix the plumbing problem and some other little things on the punch list. I cleaned, unpacked, and cooked lunch. All and all, a productive day but also a relaxing one.

A relaxing day

LOST 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

Still not over my jet lag. I’m up at three and come out and watch LOST the TV show. Kat gets up for work, makes some calls and finds out that we both need to go to the embassy for paperwork and briefings. Not what I had planned today. But let’s just get it done. Spent the entire day there. Learned lot, meet a lot of great people and got my badge so I can come and go freely at the Embassy. An Embassy driver brings us home (no car yet) and we come to find the master bath floor soaking wet from a pipe leak. Called the appropriate people and they came out to fix it. They didn’t have all the parts today so they will be here tomorrow. I guess I will get a lot done around the house while they repair that.

LOST 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42