We were picked up by the helicopter at Busanga Bush Camp and lifted up to wave a fond farewell to our new friends at ‘BBC’. After picking up some guests from Shumba we flipped over to the airstrip where we were met by Wilderness Air in a Cessna Caravan for the flight to Lusaka. This is quite a long flight – about an hour and half or so. This gave me the opportunity to reflect on all the game we had seen in the Plains, most memorable of which was: African finfoot, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, oribi, reedbuck, De Fassa waterbuck and a brown-hooded kingfisher that had caught a barbel or catfish and proceeded to smack it on the branch of the tree he was perched in until he was quite sure it was dead and ready to eat.
At the airport in Lusaka we were met by our road transfer guy called Michael. We were very efficiently whisked through to the parking lot where we transferred our luggage into the vehicle and proceeded to wind our way into the Lusaka mid-morning traffic. The road transfer takes around two to two and a half hours. A large part of that is getting out of Lusaka. Typical big city traffic with usual gridlocks, traffic lights out and bumper bashings causing congestion that can make your blood boil, greeted us. Our driver was not one for sitting in traffic so he found some back roads, which I am not sure were actually roads, but they did the trick. It certainly was an adventure and beat sitting in the thick of it.
The road opens up and it is a wonderful opportunity to actually get to see the countryside. I love road-trips so this was great fun and we were able to get a feeling of the farming, the villages, the outlying areas and the culture of Zambia. As we were headed down to Chirundu, we had to descend from the high-lying grounds of Lusaka. This meant that we had to cross over the escarpment. A beautiful scenic drive and Michael knew the road so well. He slowed down at areas where he knew the road was bad or that there were corrugations or the like – even though there was no signage to alert drives to that fact.
We left Lusaka airport at 11 and arrived at Chirundu border post at quarter to 13:45. As I stepped out of the vehicle I felt as though the bad guy in a James Bond movie had punched me in the head and stomach. It was 45° C in the shade and coming out of an air-conditioned car into that heat was fierce. The Chirundu Border Post is one building for both Zambia and Zimbabwe. We were met by Avi from Tiger Safaris who helped us get through the process which was actually quite quick and easy. We said our good-bye’s to Michael and hopped into Avi’s car to Tiger Safaris (about five minutes away) which is where the launch site is for the boat transfer to Ruckomechi.
Just the effort of climbing into the boat in this heat was enough to sweat at least a litre. It was wonderful once the boat got going because the air cooled off the pools of sweat like a natural air-conditioner. You need to hold onto your hat for this ride, and you definitely need your hat because of the sun.
The river is wide and impressive but you have to know your way around it because there are secret sand-banks that can ground you at this time of the year when it is towards the end of the dry season and the river is relatively shallow. We passed the confluence where the mighty Kafue River joins the Zambezi River. That, we were told, is about half way to Ruckomechi. As we sped along we moved in pockets of air from suffocatingly hot to marginally cooler. We saw some game, but not too much. There were hippo and elephants and the occasional crocodile. Of course, the Zambezi does not have the “occasional crocodile” – there is a very impressive population of crocodile and they are big and hungry! No dangling of fingers or toes over the side to splash water to cool yourself down!
We were met with ice-cold face cloths and a wonderful warm welcome smile from Abiott of Ruckomechi. After this we were sipping welcome drinks on the main deck area at Ruckomechi. What a trip!
First image by Dana Allen