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A tough supply run in Zambia’s wet season

We set off at 05:00 with supplies for the team looking after ‘Plains Camp’ during the rainy season.

I took Ferrison and Botson along for support and for Botsons knowledge of the bush west of the plains. We had one broken fan belt to fix on route. We reached a point on the edge of the plains where the flood waters prevented any more progress by vehicle at 09:30. I Ask Ferrison if he wants to walk to camp, he points at Kapinga Island (about 5kms away) and says ok after all it’s just past there a few kms, agreed but thought he might be underestimating a bit. So we decide to leave our lunch on the vehicle, as we have to get out and start wading, off come the shoes and trousers, and after what felt like the longest 5km’s ever, with water up to our chest in places we reach Kapinga Island . We see Lechwe (Antelope) practically swimming from us, that was our first clue!.

We passed Kapinga Island into the next plain, following the ‘road’ which is 1 mtr under water. So we struggle on and after another couple of hours and with cuts to my legs from the grass starting to appear we reach the last large plain to cross before camp we try and shout to the guys in camp to come to us by canoe.. they don’t hear us. Between us and camp is a set of small rivers/gullies of flowing water. Ferrison decides now is the time to admit  that he doesn’t swim, but as Botson does and as we have taken literally hours to get to this point turning back no option so we strip off to just our shorts and proceed to swim across the channels. We reach the other side of the channel expecting firm grass to walk on, but we find only floating grass, on top of more water.

We finally reach 2 Fig Island, next to our camp. As we drag ourselves up on to the first bit of dry land for hours we hear a rustle in the long grass… A hippo!!!  it is 10 meters from us and it charges, Botson and I run in different directions, luckily he goes for Botson (not lucky for Botson) and gets about 2 mtrs from him, Botson makes himself big and we are both now shouting to try and scare this thing… luckily it works and the Hippo trudges off … We are finally spotted by one of the staff at camp who sends a canoe for us. With only an agonizingly short distance to camp we have to wade once more through even sharper reeds and grasses (mixed with Hippo poo). We get to camp!! All this effort to tell the guys we have 4 bags of maize in our vehicle, which we will leave in the bush for them to collect. Turns out that half the team had gone fishing in a dugout, well they are traditional fishermen!… The one chap who is around, called Peter, wants me to see the camp, I feel like I need a doctor not a guided tour of my own camp but he is so nice and keen that I should see it I cant really just sit down as I want, now covered with cuts and insect bites on my bare white/red body (remember no clothes since the swim). I can’t wait to get it set up for the season and make it home. I love this place (usually)….

So now the small task of getting back to the vehicle! Now I am feeling fairly strong at this point in time, not bad considering its taken a good 5/6 hours to get here, with no food all day but lots of water. So it’s back in to the water and we trudge back past the Hippo and swam back across the rivers we get on to the plain towards Kapinga Island. It is here where my body decides to punish me for the lack of exercise over the last few months with muscle cramps and only(!) some 10 or so kms to go till I reach the vehicle. Now my nakedness mixed with lack of food, energy and cramps are making life very hard. After a very long and slow struggle, we finally make it back to the vehicle around 17:00. I have never ever been so relieved to see a Land Rover in my life and the final challenge is only another 4 hours drive to camp.

Next time I come back in just a couple of weeks will be to start building camp and the floods will have passed, but I will take a boat just in case…

Most of the time Plains Camp is much more gin-and-tonic and a great base to explore the African bush. Book your visit through Keith’s father who runs Busanga Safaris.

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