A weekend in Kafue National Park
In search of the soft life

After what I would consider the most stressful week of my year, my brother decided to treat me to a  relaxing weekend at Mozhi Bush Camp, located in the Kafue National Park. The perks of being a baby sister include receiving princess treatment when life gets the best of me.

We met with our host and driver Joreen, in Lusaka. She appeared to be very young, which made me question her experience and wonder if we were in capable hands. She was thoroughly energetic, hospitable and pleasant to chat with as she gracefully sped through the Lusaka traffic to get us to the park in the best possible time.

The bush is peaceful, no one cares if you have a cheap phone, basic clothes, and drive a deadbeat car. It will take you and accept you as you are. The bush will take you in and not judge where you are coming from or what you have to offer, and that is priceless.

As we eased into the drive out of town and onto the road to the park, it became evident that Joreen was not only extremely experienced in her role, but was a little over 15 years older than I had initially thought. This was a reminder that you should not judge a book by its cover. She explained with ease how she at times will drive three times a week to the camp to ferry clients and had been doing so for close to two years. As soon as we entered the gravel road in the park, it was apparent that she knew every bump, turn and curve. Joreen could do this drive in her sleep.

The drive became arduous, and I couldn’t wait to get to the soft life part of the journey. And just as              I was starting to get bored on the road, we spotted a chubby yet majestic hippo crossing the road. I screamed like a little child in excitement at the sight of the hippo. Finally, the action we had been craving appeared to us unexpectedly and jolted me back to full consciousness, now expectant of what the 90 kilometres drive through the park to the lodge would present to us. Minutes later we spotted a leopard gracefully walking along our path.

Later we met a mongoose wagging her healthy curvaceous tail with a slight bounce as she walked on. I tried to catch her on video, however, she sped off. It looks like animals also have active social lives, with things to do and places to go on a Saturday, as we also saw a lean rabbit speedily making its way across the road. I fell asleep and was woken up to an immobile vehicle. Finally, we had arrived.

It was a few minutes to midnight. The warm face cloths that were presented to us were heavenly and refreshing. I guess this is the beginning of the soft life, I thought to myself. We were guided into the restaurant. Shortly thereafter, Ba Mathews served us pumpkin soup and homemade roti bread. The soup was warm and a great introduction into my belly after that long drive. No sooner, we were served moist chicken wraps infused with two distinct flavours, coated in a crispy outer feel, along with a bed of mashed potato. I ate it up like it was my last supper. Dessert was a peanut honeycomb pie, but by then I was stuffed and ready to shower and call it a night.

Our bags were taken to our rooms and I was pleasantly surprised to find hot water past midnight, considering that the camp solely runs on solar power, dead wood, and gas. The hot water ran down my feet, as I showered. Rushing down on the wood planks that supported me. The bathroom, covered with treated wooden trees, gave me a comforting yet wild feeling. I enjoyed the feel and vibe the chalet presented.

As I glanced at the bed covers, I realised that I would be needing an extra blanket. Velelapi, the camp manager organised an extra blanket which she delivered to my room. As I entered the blankets, I gasped as I felt something warm. My first thought was that a wild animal had claimed my nest, however, after cautious inspection, I found it was in fact a hot water bottle placed in between the sheets to provide some extra warmth.

I am an early riser, which meant me being awake by 6 am. My thermos flask still had warm water,  thankfully, because heaven knows how much I love my tea. I decided to brave the cold and headed out to the river bank. I sipped my tea in full amazement and gratitude for the opportunity to experience the fresh crisp air and peace of the bush camp provided.

I observed a group of hippos relaxing and discussing their early morning politics. My favourite spotting was of one baby hippo. He kept going underwater for long periods of time to sightsee. I    would give anything to play with him, I thought.

My brother later joined me at the river bank and we talked about how different the scenery and peace as compared to our usual hustle and bustle in Lusaka. I shared with him that as much as I am a lover of nice things, I could move to the bush for 6 months at a time. The bush is peaceful, no one cares if you have a cheap phone, basic clothes, and drive a deadbeat car. It will take you and accept you as you are. The bush will take you in and not judge where you are coming from or what you have to offer, and that is priceless.

After breakfast we walked right over to the balcony where I spotted a crocodile. I was ecstatic! This was my first crocodile sighting during the trip. My last name happens to be the word for a crocodile in my local dialect. I couldn’t help but scream and point out the crocodile to my brother. I think we both took this as a sign that we had been officially welcomed into the park.

Then out of nowhere, a gazelle came to join us. She approached us with poise and care, being the Lusaka person I am, I tried to force my way into a photoshoot. But she ran away when we got a little too close.

We were called for lunch and were served the most tender beef slices on a bed of roasted butternut spiced in cinnamon beside a fresh garden salad with feta toppings. I decided to share some of my beef with my brother only to ask for half of it back, later. Cheeky much? I promise this was the most delicious meal served to us during our stay. It was not only the freshness but the combination of the meal. I looked up and noted that no one had any leftovers.

Thereafter, we were immersed in full-on conversation with the hosts and staff. Our curiosity was satisfied as we discussed various topics about the establishment of Mozhi Bush Camp, surrounding camps and recent animal sightings.

Eventually it was time to go for our sundowner boat ride. The camp manager and her team had spent               most of the morning and afternoon preparing for this activity. At 3:45 pm, Sandy, our guide and lead ushered us into the boat, which had warm blankets ready for us. Another great marker of the hospitality at the camp.

Sandy possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area’s wildlife. He explained how crocodiles can adjust their metabolism and go without food for six months to which I exclaimed, “I cannot go a full day without food.” I also learned that a hippo’s gestation period cannot go beyond eight months because of its build, which has short legs that cannot allow for its belly to carry heavy weight without it                    grazing against the ground. I was impressed. I had learned more from Sandy than I had in biology class back in school.

It was at this point that a hippo hit our boat. I silently said my farewell prayers and was prepared to meet Saint Peterat the gates of heaven. Everyone was shaken. I was too afraid to scream. The hippo hit the front left side of the boat where the men were seated, better them than us if you ask me. The boat tipped to one side, however, because of its large size, it steadily stabilised.

There was an awkward silence before anyone spoke. We all thought it but no one said it, what if things had turned for the worst? I had to keep reminding myself, this is the beauty of the wild, she is always in control. After everyone had relaxed, we shared a good laugh about it, to which Sandy shared a near-death experience he had encountered during his safari days in Livingstone. His story has me in knots, this man had nine lives. Thankfully we were served with refreshments, my glass of merlot wine never tasted any sweeter, considering it is a dry red wine, but you get where I am going here. You never know what to expect in the wilderness!

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