Sunday, March 6, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011 – Safari Day!!!

Kelsey and I went to the team meeting we have every Friday at school, it went well.  We then headed off on our grand adventure!  We went to the Winera bus stop in Blantyre and got on a minibus headed to Nchalo at 11:00am.  We got dropped off in Chikwawa at 2:00pm; however, it only takes an hour to get to Chikwawa from Blantyre.  Doesn’t add up?  Let me explain.  When we got on the minibus for Nchalo, Kelsey and I sat there for two hours before the bus was full, so we did not even leave the station until 1:00pm.

Once we got to Chikwawa, the minibus dropped us off in the middle of a very long street with many little stores along it.  We were supposed to be picked up there by a driver being sent from the wildlife park.  However, we spent a half an hour and at least two dozen phone calls back and forth before we figured out where exactly he was picking us up, what the person’s name was and what type of vehicle he drove.  To make matters worse, it felt like we were dropped off in a hell hole (pardon my word usage), it was very humid, the sun was directly overhead and there was not an ounce of shade.  I would like to say that the heat was so bad it was like we were in an easy bake oven and these white girls where getting baked, but that analogy does not do it justice!  What felt like forever later and despite the sweat and frustration, we got picked up.  Surely, you would think that after the hours of being on the minibus and then being tortured by the sun would be enough, but no, it gets better. 

We got picked up in this little white wanna be pick-up truck and we start driving the longest 45 minute drive I have ever experienced.  The pick-up (for lack of a better word) is only a two person vehicle; however, there are three of us, I had to sit in the middle with my legs basically in Kelsey’s lap so that the driver could shift.  Shortly down the road I start to notice the side mirror taped on by duct tape and the rearview mirror hanging on by one small piece of tape, the driver had to adjust it every five minutes so that he could see out of it.  So, eventually we turn onto an unpaved, rough dirt road.  About ten minutes into our journey the knob on the top of the shifter fell off and into my lap!  Before I can get anything out, the driver looks at me and says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this handled.”  Now, things like this are very typical in Malawi, the vehicles are always falling apart or falling off, but just the same from that point on I was earnestly praying.  Oh and by the way, I held onto the knob off the shifter the rest of the trip.  Only by God’s grace did we make it into the Majete Wildlife Reserve and at the Thawale Camp where we were staying. 

Once we arrived at the camp, Kelsey and I became a little concerned because we were their ONLY guests.  I could see the new commercial in my head: “Saw VII”, Starring: Kelsey and Becca in the African Jungle”.  Though Kelsey and I both felt that way, we were also so exhausted from our trip that we did not care too much; however, it stayed in the back of my mind. 

We had been told that we were staying in a tent at the camp, now Kelsey and I were a little hesitant to see what they meant by ‘tent’, but we found that the tent was a large platform and looked like a nice hotel room with two nicely made beds and had a built in bathroom with a shower.  After our crazy journey, it was a sight for soar eyes. 

After getting settled, we went on a game drive.  It was just Kelsey, me, our tour guide (who had a really big gun) and our driver.  Though we were a little uneasy about being the only visitors, it was nice going on the safari by ourselves and not worry about other people being noisy or anything.  The vehicle we rode in was really neat; it was open and had two bench seats with a cover to shade us from the sun.  The park was not an open plain, like you think of when you think of going on a safari, it was like a jungle.  It made seeing animals a little bit harder but the scenery was so beautiful, especially when the sun was setting, it was incredible.  We saw a ton of animals, impala, waterbuck, water buffalo, warthogs, zebras, hippos, alligators, baboons, elephants and monkeys.  Unfortunately, the park did not have giraffes, lions or any other big cat, but the animals we saw were magnificent. 

 Aligator across the river

 Hippo across the river

Pumba! (warthogs)

During dinner we watched buffalo drink at the waterhole a short distance away from the lodge where we ate.  The lodge was like a large open covered patio and it was relaxing to sit there in the coolness of the night.  After dinner we went back to our tent and showered, I still felt sticky but at least I was clean.  The camp had electricity from 6pm to 9pm which ran off a generator, it was nice to have lights and the ceiling fan in our tent going but it was a also a bummer when it went off.  Anyway, we’re going to bed early because the bush walk starts at 6am. 

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