31st August – 1st September : South Luangwa National Park (Croc Valley)
31st August – South Luangwa – Croc Valley
We set off at 6:30am hoping to reach Mfuwe by the afternoon. A few km’s away from the Bridge camp, the Luangwa bridge surprises us with it’s size, it is quite a sight. Of course there is a police checkpoint here and we are simply waved through.
The road is more of the same, trucks, people, charcoal bags, bicycles, goats, chickens, cows, potholes, speed bumps, churches, some mosques and little shops with funny names. I wonder whose idea was it to put words like “Holdings” and “Enterprise” after each shop name – it seems it was contagious. We stop for a drink at Chimwemwe executive lodge to scout the surroundings in case we need to use their campsite on our way back. It looks quite nice, though its name is quite pompous.
From there we drive to Chipata and then a further 3 hours to Mfuwe. The first part of the road from Chipata to Mfuwe is tarred but the rest is under construction so it involves lots of zigzagging around. Some parts looked ready but just closed. The deviation roads are potholed and corrugated but our Hilux has good suspensions so it was not that bad – we are glad we didn’t hire a defender (*Edit: Sorry LR fans I am just not fond of Defender suspensions, so please do not take offence and just take this for what it is – a prissy comment from a city girl just about comfort and not the other virtues of LR vs Toyota which I don’t even dare get into). We finally arrive at Croc Valley at around 2pm. The campsite is very welcoming, with green grass and little thatched shelters to provide some much needed shade. The view over the Luangwa river is magnificent. The bar is also quite cool, and we enjoy some ice cold drinks and a swim in the pool. We spend the rest of the afternoon just relaxing, watching the elephants, hippos and birds right from our campsite.
The women’s ablutions seem to be a mosquito breeding ground. They literally bite me to shreds while I shower and I wish someone had invented a showerproof insect repellant. There are also a lot of bees and other creepy crawlies. So many that all one can hear is a constant loud buzzing. Later in the night I find out the men’s room had none of this! The reason is that it seems the frogs and the geckos prefer the men’s ablutions and eat all the insects! So crazy me spends a lot of time in the night in the men’s ablutions photographing perplexed frogs and lizards.
In the evening we have a nice braaii in front of the river, and use civilisation to our advantage and order two plates of delicious golden fries as side dishes from the bar. During the night an elephant wanders in the campsite, quite close to us. He seemed pretty relaxed. But after our brush ins with the Kafue elephants we are quite nervous … and awed at the same time. No matter how many times I visit Africa I am always awed by these beautiful, intelligent creatures – but at the same time it’s the animal I am scared of the most as well!
1st September – South Luangwa – Croc Valley
Today we are off at sunrise for our first self drive in the South Luangwa National Park.
Croc Valley is perfectly positioned just a couple of kilometers away from the park entrance. We pay our hefty park fees for 4 days, cross the Mfuwe bridge and decide to head on the eastern tracks for exploration. We are surprised at the amount of game around – especially ellies. Quite a contrast with the low game densities of Kafue. It is also a bit greener than I expected as well. The roads are very good too and there are plenty of tracks to choose from. Our firm favourite was the aptly named Elephant Loop on the way to the Wafwa. Always many elephants there, and thankfully quite relaxed ones except for some hairy moments with mothers and calves. None of the elephants tried to charge us here but they do have a way of politely but very sternly letting you know where the boundaries are!
We return to Croc Valley to enjoy some lunch with a view and relax, and notice some backpackers have arrived with tents – they look stoned. We are heading out again for another game drive and despite our stuff clearly visible in our spot we still tell them that we will be returning back later to the very same spot when we notice them circling it like vultures – even though there is nobody else and all the other spots are free.
We set off again for an afternoon self-drive in the park
When we return back to camp at sunset we find that the backpackers with 3 tents had spread out all over the campsite and there was a tent right in our spot. All possibilities of polite negotiation disappear when the guy owning the ground tent (the same guy we reminded that this was our place) makes some rude and sarcastic remarks. Big mistake. We waited for him to grab a bite at the bar and we just parked our Hilux almost on top of his tent. My tolerance for rudeness and sarcasm is very low so backing down was not an option. He makes a hasty exit from the bar and he wisely decides to move the tent.
We have another fabulous braai and settle in for the night. After a while we are woken up by an elephant. It walks straight towards our tent. My mind flashes back to a youtube video I had seen of an elephant demolishing an empty tent at this very same camspite, so I really hope it doesn’t have any PMS today … Now it is so close to us, peering at us through the tent mesh, if I extend my hand I could touch its massive tusks. But of course I would really like to live another day and don’t move a muscle. After it gets bored of the staring contest it moves on, rubbing against the side of the tent. The whole car shakes and we hold our breath. Soon it just moves on, terrorizing the backpackers in the ground tents. I secretly hope it pays particular attention to our backpacker friend’s tent.