Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tsika Island, Lower Zambezi River

Our arrival at the Island - how excited are we to be at Tsika?!

We'd been wanting to go Tsika ever since...well ever since we were invited and invited and invited and invited by our best family, the Winters, but had never managed to go. It was a shame we could not all go together but with our family on the Island, every last room was booked.  Accommodation on the island consists of three open air chalets, a kitchen and dining room insaka, and a lovely sitting area with a fire pit. That's it.  You have the whole place to yourself.  The staff (usually 2 or three guys -- a boatman, a guide and anyone you bring along (in our case, another boatman) stays near to the camp but are always there it seems...and you want them there because you need someone to watch for animals, start the fire, sort the fishing, or take you out in the boat.

Most every excursion involves a well-packed car.  This was a bit tricky because the car was already packed...with PEOPLE!  We had to bring all our own food and drinks so everything (besides some VERY sour jelly beans) went up top - even Uncle Alan!  Just kidding, he got an actual seat inside the car.  It was wee bit stormy when we left Lusaka.  We made the drive down to Gwabe camp tho in good time despite the unexpected diversion.  The highway between home and Zimbabwe has been under construction/repairs for most of the year -- we never know which stretch they are working on or how far off the path the detours will take us.  Getting there is half the fun tho, right?  eeeshhhh.  More like half the BATTLE.

On arrival at Gwabe, we quickly found our friend's car...he has parked there as well and took a boat with his daughters down to another camp.  We also found he had taken our boat/boatman.  The lodge owners were out and the fill-in knew nothing about our arrangement to borrow a boat+boatman for our stay.  Hmmmm.  Things were quickly shuffled, however and we managed to secure our transport (tho without discussion of the fees which we found out later (gulp!)) while we sat by their pool and had a nice cold drink.

The boat trip to Tsika would save us a long and bumpy road ride. (normally travel is across the river via pontoon and a few more hours on the road, then transfer of everything and everyone from a nearby village across the way over to the island)  The boat transfer was a welcome arrangement after our already long and bumpy ride.  Here is a shot looking over the Zambezi towards the escarpment - towards Lusaka as the crow flies.

Let's get straight to the food bits.  Self-catering for the guys on camping trips means fishing, eating fish and bringing/drinking beer.  For our gang, we went upscale (are your surprised) and had the Pikani cooks (that would be me + Rodar + Obrin) prepare meals for 7 for four days, not a small fete, especially since we didn't really know about the cook/kitchen set up.  We managed.  Here is one of my fave meals:  marinated + oven baked tilapia, coconut mint+chive relish on toast with a friend egg.  So so so yummy. (hahaha...I'm editing this but I'm leaving this funny typo; "Friend Eggs" sound so cute and healthy.)

me. fat and happy.  and out of focus. I think O was keen on taking pics of the elephants in the water behind me.

The boys set up the tripod in front of our chalet and had fun doing gymnastics and taking timer photos of themselves.  here are my favourites.  Contemplative Owen.

karate kids

and my goodness the kids got hops!

We didn't just see birds and boys....we some wonderful eles.  They were at our chalets when we arrived and hung around the camp and across the way the whole time we were there.  Amazing creatures. Finn and I surprised a huge monitor lizard and we had loads of birds and kuckey looking and sounding insects as per usual. Love the them more from a distance.

The bee eaters are always a favourite.  This is not the best photo but I love the fanned tail feathers.  They nest in the cliffs river-side.

 The Lower Zambezi is chock full of crocs...this one was monsterously large.  It is very freaky to spot them one second and the next second, they are all but can see the tail here still.  Do you see why we don't EVER risk swimming? or sitting by the river bank? or why fishing is even a bit fraught??

Ah, the national symbol of Zambia, the mighty Fish Eagle! We did not supply this guy with a single fish. but we spent many many hours trying.

The birders had a bit better time of things than the fishers although we were really missing having a proper birding guide.  That came later in their trip....thankfully we didn't know just what we were missing by being so rusty with our IDs and without the right guide.  The guys were wonderful to get us there and tour us around safely, but to get a good birder to accompany you into the bush?  well.... it's an amazing thing.

Because we had two boats and two boatmen, we split up - the fishers and the birders.  The birders got the banana boat and had a great trip around the island, the fishers got the Vundu and went round the other way.  We caught up with each other at lunch time.

Bye-Bye Tsika!  We'll be back!

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