The most painful part of coming home from vacation was coming home without 1000 pieces of Lapua brass. Between the two of us we went through 1000 rounds! But what could we do? The bag of brass weighed about 25#. That would have been another suitcase. We did sell it to some local shooters but for pennies on the dollar. I would not normally mind but we all know how expensive and hard to come by components are these days. Oh well. Part of the price of the trip. It was worth it. Last I wrote we were finished with the shooting portion and heading up north for safari.
From Joburg we flew up to Maun, Botswana. After going through customs we were greeted by a pilot who led us out to the tarmac and to a very small plane. Apparently we had some extra unscheduled passengers which brought our weight quite high. He said because of the heat and extra weight we would most likely be flying lower and it could get bumpy. Great. But once in the air all I could think about was the amazing views below me. The landscape alone was beautiful but occasionally herds of elephant or giraffe would appear. The pilot would veer the plane closer to them. We finally landed on a dirt runway somewhere. No idea where we were at that point. There were old panels along edge of runway that spelled out Kwondo. We arrived at one of the camps of Kwondo Safaris. Ours was the Lagoon. Spencer and Elmo our guides for the next few days met us in one of our fav vehicles of SA the Toyota Landcruiser. This one is extended and convertible for safari passengers. They drove about 15 minutes to the camp. We were greeted by the hostess and she gave us a quick tour and orientation of the resort and how the activities worked. It was 3:00 and at 4 was tea and snacks then out for the evening safari ride. That ride went to about 8:00 in the dark and drinks and dinner were waiting for us when we returned. All meals were home cooked, the breads and pastries homemade as well. Awesome food. We had the pleasure, or scare, of an elephant that came right next to us in our outdoor dining area. We were on an elevated platform in an outdoor room basically. He went in to the fire pit area and nicely moved several of the chairs out of his way so he could get to the fruit tree there. Now although pretty cool, these animals on this reserve are wild. The number one rule of the camp is that once it gets dark they have to escort us to our rooms. Hippos come up out of the river, elephants wander in and the water buffaloes come in as well.
Charles and I woke up a couple of nights and outside our canvas and screened tent are hippos and elephants grazing away. Not something you want to startle when the only thing between you and the animals is a mesh screen as a wall. The rooms were lovely with king size beds and full baths. Choice of indoor or outdoor shower. The very next morning we were woken by the staff at 5:30am to dress for breakfast and the morning safari ride. Normally they come back by 10:30 or 11 but that morning is was almost 12:30 when we returned. 6 hours in a 4-wheel drive and it is in direct sun wears on you. And we had not really had a chance to unwind from the two weeks of shooting and travel in between. They siesta for the day after lunch until 4 for the next round of rides. We looked at them that afternoon and bowed out of that evenings drive. There were only 2 other guests there besides us and all thought we were crazy. Why would you come this way and not do every ride? It was the best decision we made. We chilled out and read and slept all afternoon and started cocktails well before they returned for dinner. It was perfect. That re-energized us for the next day adventures. I have to say that I really was impressed with the guides tracking abilities to find some of the herds and packs and occasional leopard. I learned on this trip that I am glad I did the safari but I have no desire to do it again. Travel in Africa again? Yes. But no safari. Perhaps one day of it. Very cool to see the animals in the wild but that was enough for me. I actually was bored on the last drive. I just took in the scenery of the landscape. My fav part was actually the river boat tour. We saw tons of hippos and birds. A nice perk of all of the drives land or water was that they stop at some point and bring out snacks and drinks or tea. On a white tablecloth at the front of the pickup. How civilized. Our last morning at Kwondo camp Charles and I did a walking tour with our guides.
We drove out to a location and this was the first time I finally saw a rifle in the safari truck. Spencer loaded up the H&H rifle and he led the single file line as Charles and I followed and Elmo took up the rear. This made you realize how small you are as a human. Being in the truck you are invisible to the animals. Not so down on the ground. I loved this. I was on high alert the whole time but it was the best part of the trip. We did not really run in to anything too threatening but the most interesting thing was Spencer’s knowledge of plants and small insects and even the evolution of a mud hole area that starts with the droppings of Springbucks and such and becomes an area for many animals species to use. Long story but fascinating. All of the animals and plants work together to support each other in some way even if they prey off each other later. Also, I never thought of myself as a bird watcher but I was in awe of the gorgeous variety of birds. Who knew? From our walking tour Spencer drove us back to the dirt runway as we waited for the next flight to take us to Livingstone, Zambia.
This plane was even smaller than the last. Only room for the two of us and pilot. Once in Livingstone, yes named after Dr. Livingstone, we were driven to the next camp called The Islands of Siankaba. This camp was on the Zambezi river that led to Victoria Falls. Lots of crocodiles and hippos here! This was not so much of a safari camp as it was for outdoor activities. You can go to the Falls, take hikes, canoe trips, village tours etc. Again, beautiful private tented rooms and gourmet meals included. We certainly did not rough it here. The service at this second camp was above par. They were super cool. I highly recommend both of these camps we went to. Gillian, pronounced Jillian, from Africa 2000 Tours arranged everything. I mean everything. We never lifted a finger. We magically were whisked to and from. Unfortunately by the time we arrived at the Siankaba camp we were pretty much done. Home was sounding pretty good at this point. A nice thing both camps did was to celebrate Charles’ big birthday with private dinner and wine, birthday cake and gifts. After 4 days at the last location we started our journey back to Joburg to pick up our rifle gear and make the trek home. Via Hong Kong again.
This time there was no drama going through Hong Kong with our rifles. The problem with the trip over was that we went through Vancouver and they had no clue what to do with the rifles. It was not organized. This time the SA contingent of Cathay Pacific had zero issues with the rifles and they did not even charge us for the extra bag like they did in Vancouver. When we arrived in HK a rep met us at the plane and we went down to Customs and they checked the rifles and said they would hold them in their office until our flight left that night. It was so much easier and organized. Then we got to go in to HK and spend the day busing around and we met a long time friend of Charles’ for lunch. I really hope to get back there some day and spend more time. Hong Kong is a very cool place. Work hard and play hard. To end the trip on a flattering note we had a funny thing happen in San Francisco when we went through Customs.
Yes, this was a long trip of connections. And we were wasted with exhaustion. Anyway, we landed late at night in SF and I think we were the last flight in from international stuff. At baggage claim we heard a page calling for us. The guy just wanted to let us know where our rifles were being unloaded and that we had to check them through Customs. We went through the first guy and I had my rifle export paper ready for him. He seamed very relieved I had it as though many forget to. Then he said to go over to Custom’s agent at an area where they search bags, etc. As we expected to we opened the cases so he could compare serial numbers and it went quickly. We locked them back up and we starting to walk away when the agent asked how we did in the competition? First of all we never mentioned this fact. Charles pointed to me and said “She did really well and brought home some medals.” The agent said “We would expect that from 30CalGal!” Okay really? In no place or form did I have anything that had any of this info. We were so loopy we did not even stop to ask how he knew that. Others seemed to think they are briefed before their shifts. How often do rifles come in from Hong Kong. Did they Google it? Who knows? It was flattering and a bit “Big Brother” at the same time. Wacky.
**A mention again to Gillian of Africa 200 Tours and especially to Adele of Hunters Permits of Africa. She “owns” the Joburg and surrounding airports. She takes care of getting rifles in and out of the country as well as hunting guides etc. She is the sweetheart of the airport police station where the rifles come through. She also babysat our rifles and extra gear as we traveled around. Worth every penny.