Home > Uncategorized > The best laid plans…

The best laid plans…

   The boys were off school and it is the best time to visit a national park (not too hot and plenty dry to allow the grass to die and the animals to need to stay near water) so, in my opinion, we HAD to go somewhere.  I was looking for someplace that would provide the opportunity to see some new animals (primarily cheetah and wild dog) and after checking several options decided on Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.  Deciding was the easy part as making contact with places in Zimbabwe is challenging.  We also were planning to make this trip with our “coworkers” the Ulbricht family.

   The plan was to stay a couple of days with the Ulbrichts in Macha (about 4.5 hours from Lusaka).  Then we would caravan (two vehicles due to 9 people and food for many days) to Zimbabwe and stay for four nights at the main camp and three nights at Kapula Camp (another private camp inside the park).  We would then need to drive the entire distance in a single day because the boys started school again the following morning.

   I like planning and I would like to think that I am pretty good at it.  There is a lot more involved in planning here since you can’t count on fuel, water, bread and another basic necessities.  Plus you have border crossings, police, and poor communication to contend with.  However, I thought I had it all worked out.  We were to leave Lusaka on Saturday, August 4th…

   The morning of August 3rd when I awoke, we still needed to get Interpol clearance (required to take a vehicle into another country) and we still hadn’t gotten confirmation on our reservation at the Main Camp (however everything I read said just show up as tourism has suffered and there is always room).  I got to the Zambia Police HQ at 7am and was about the 20th person in line.  A couple of hours later, I was able to put in my request for clearance and normally can pick it up on the afternoon of the same day (I know this sounds like a bit last minute but there were lots of complications and this was the fourth visit to HQ for this).  I turned in the necessary paperwork and paid the fee and asked if they would both be ready this afternoon (I was getting clearance for both our vehicles).  They said one would be ready but the other would not.  I asked if there was any way that it could be done and they said the polite Zambian equivalent of “no way”.  I walked out still optimistic because I would be back again in the afternoon and could inquire again and was hopeful they would help me out.  I checked my email on my phone to see I FINALLY got a response from Zimbabwe Park Service (after 3 weeks of emails and phone calls)… however, the response was “we are sorry but we are full.”

   By noon, the plans were looking a bit shaky but I was still optimistic something could be worked out.  I started checking for other options and then had to go back to police HQ to pick up the Interpol clearance.  To their credit and my great joy when I handed them my receipt, they handed me both of the Interpol clearance documents.  No pleading necessary and I was all ready to plead and beg (I even reviewed how to say it in Nyanja… ndi pempa pempa (literally, I am asking asking).  We were still going to Macha for a few days and could work out the lodging over the next couple of days.

  Long story short, after enlisting the help of the MCC Country Reps in Zimbabwe, we found out that it was a holiday weekend and all of the places were booked.  They even called the head of the Zim Parks service and he confirmed that there was no lodging in Hwange National Park.  We decided to extend our time in Macha and then spent two nights in Livingstone (Victory Falls) and then our three nights at Kapula Camp.

  I will follow up with photos and stories from each part of our trip.

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