While this may appear very touristy, open-air game drives are the only way to get this clo
This was Africa, real Africa. There were no game parks, fences, tourists, or road signs. The track was rough and my top speed only 15 mph. By 23:00 I'd been on the track for three hours and had covered only half the ground needed. I was tired, and macabre shadows begin to play mind games with my subconscious. Should I stop? Is it safe?
Thirty minutes later I pulled into a clearing and popped up the ARB tent (there is a certain false sense of security when you are sleeping six feet off the ground). I was about to crawl in when I heard a loud waavwooff in the bush, and a golden hue sent macabre shadows across my camp. I had unknowingly stopped at the edge of a small village, and upon hearing my commotion, someone got up to re-stoke the fire with paraffin. I slipped my hand into my tent, slowly pulled out my machete, and waited to see if I should expect company. A few people scurried around the fire's light. I heard voices, but all seemed calm. I crawled in and went to bed. Being alone in the dark and in a strange place can play tricks on your mind, especially when you were harangued for $600 earlier in the day. I lay in bed listing listening intently to every crackle in the bush and the screech of a howler monkey.
Somewhat lost one night, I followed a two-track through the bush to its terminus on the Sh
As I prepared coffee in the morning, a man with what appeared to be a muzzle-loader rifle pedaled by on a bicycle. We smiled and waved to each other. As the eastern horizon came to light, a few villagers wandered over to check me out. Though they did not speak a word of English, and I don't speak any of the 73 Zambian dialects, they were very curious and all smiles. I felt relieved but a little silly-like an alien who landed in the Waltons' farm and expected Mary Ellen to attack him with a skillet.
Rouge Monkeys, Killer Flies, and Flat Dogs Camp
Smack! I hit my leg with purpose in hopes of killing whatever had just buried its teeth into my thigh. I got the little bastard, and smeared my palm around to make sure it was dead. As my attention realigned with the trail, a long red and black wasp shook out its crumpled wings, regained its bearings and flew out the window, seemingly chuckling back at me as it took flight. What the heck was that? Turns out he had friends, lots of friends. So many that I finally closed the windows, stopped the vehicle, and waged war on 30-plus blood-sucking intruders.
I'd been rousted from my sleeping bag this morning to the crackle of limbs being shredded off a tree. Jumping out of my tent, I glimpsed a large elephant tearing branches off a mopani tree a few tents over. Moving on to an overlanding group camp, the massive pachyderm proceeded to trash their kitchen as the camp's occupants scrambled up a tree to a platform.
Swimmers in the Zambezi River are referred to as "Croc Biscuits," and this little guy was
This was the Flat Dogs Camp on the banks of the Luangwa River (crocs lying on the riverbank are affectionately referred to as "flat dogs"), and there were no fences to keep the critters out. Hippos emerge from the river at all hours of the night to forage through camp, vervet monkeys swoop down from sausage-tree limbs to swipe anything they can get their hands on, and flat dogs soak up afternoon rays just yards from your tent. It is truly a wild and unruly place, and everything-including humans, if they wander into the wrong crowd-may become part of the perpetual food chain that is the African bush.
Overlanding is a cheap way to see Africa. For a reasonable fee, you can jump in a 2-ton military truck with a dozen other adventurers and go from one hot spot to another. My neighbors, the tree-climbers, were a group of college students. And one kid, who missed Dumbo's wakeup call from the kitchen, poked his head out of the tent to find a leg-sized proboscis in his face. The overlander guide eventually chased the intruder from camp and the students returned to terra firma.