25th August – Kafue (Nanzhila Plains)
25th August – Kafue National Park, Nanzhila Plans. The start of the adventure!
We wake up to a cacophony of bird song and a slight headache from yesterday’s over indulgence of alcohol mixed with malaria medications. Taking a shower is quite an adventure due to the contraptions one has to use to get some hot water, essential for this somewhat chilly morning. Clean and refreshed, we have a leisurely breakfast of some rolls and cake that we got from Shoprite the day before and make our final preparations before we leave for our next destination – Nanzhila Plains in Kafue.
The road is very good until Kalomo, but it is quite narrow and you do have to watch out for all the pedestrians and domestic animals and be prepared to overtake the large trucks. Many people and animals are alarmingly trusting of the drivers on the road! We arrive in Kalomo where we unsuccessfully try to refuel. We proceed to the turnoff to the National Park and the road becomes a gravel/dirt road which is quite corrugated and potholed so we have to be quite careful when driving.
We arrive at Dumdumwezi gate at the entrance of Kafue National Park at around 2pm. It takes some time to get the paperwork sorted and fiddling around with the millions of Kwachas which we never actually get used to till the end of the trip. Thankfully Zimbabwe has dollarized so we don’t have to deal with Trillions while we are there!
From the gate it’s about one hour to our next stop, the Nanzhila Plains campsite. The road is surprisingly good, made of very compressed sand. But disappointingly there is no game around! It is only when we take the turn off to Nanzhila Plains that we see some animals including a beautiful male Sable which snorts at us in disgust and then bolts away.
We arrive at Nanzhila Plains and are shown to the campsite – we are completely alone, not another soul in sight. The campsite is very nice, and it overlooks what we assume are the Nanzhila Plains. There are ablutions and they are very clean and even have lights and warm water in them and came complete with a huge 7 legged rain spider. I think the ablutions might be new as there is none of the bucket shower contraptions that we heard about when doing our research.
We have a very brief game drive by ourselves towards the west towards the Mufuta Loop, and we do not see much, the most notable sighting being a pair of honey badgers in the distance which quickly disappear in the bushes. But we do encounter the most notorious creatures of the park – the dreaded tsetse flies of Kafue. Wretched creatures! A bottle of Doom with low odour (low odour paramount to use inside a hot car!) takes care of the ones that manage to get inside the car, but how to get rid of the ones stubbornly hanging on to the outside of the car when we want to go back to camp? We really don’t want these free riders in our campsite. We stop a bit away from the campsite and wait. They don’t leave – if anything they are more determined to get into the car. The only thing we can think of is to doom the ones outside as well. Yes doom turns into a verb in Kafue with “Quick doom them!” being the number 1 phrase used during our stay in this park. Insert expletive at the beginning of sentence. I take on the task and I must have been a funny sight jumping around the outside of the car trying to avoid the little voracious missiles while trying to doom them. Eventually after some struggle where a rolled newspaper also gets involved we manage to get rid of all of them.
After a tsetse free sundowner and dinner over the campfire of lovely juicy burgers at the campsite, we join a night drive operated by the lodge where we see lions less than 1km from the campsite, trumpeting elephants, civets and genets. We return back to the campsite at around 10:30 and enjoy the solitude and night noises. We are fast asleep when the lions wander into camp during the night – the campsite is completely unfenced, like all campsites we stayed in during our trip – it is only on the next day that we are told about our feline visitors.
It is notoriously difficult, some say impossible, to find a repellant against tsetses. Even ones full of DEET and 100% effective in the Amazon won’t work. But after a lot of research we came armed with 2 products to test out which both worked like a charm: The first one is Avon Skin so Soft Original Dry Oil Spray. Yes the beauty product. It also has the advantage of leaving your skin moisturized and smelling nice! The second product we tried was an Australian product called RID which is very hard to get hold of. I got mine from an online store in the UK. The RID works slightly better – but with both products the tsetses will land on you, and will bite through the clothes so we sprayed our clothes too and we were not too bothered. You need to apply it at least 2 or 3 times a day. Even if they do not bite tsetses are very annoying as they try to get into your eyes and mouth like dogged projectiles and if you do not brush them off they will nip you a bit which hurts – though it does not turn into an itchy bite. So for the ones that do get into the car we use Doom. We just spay it in their general direction and after a few minutes they all die. By the end of each drive our car mats turned into tsetse graveyards, but no mourning from our side. Please ensure to dispose of the dead tsetses from Doom responsibly – if you just wipe them out of the car when you stop the birds might eat them. Not really sure but my guess is that the chemicals could harm them so better be on the safe side.