Knowing that we had a long journey ahead, our team loaded the bus for Kafue National Park at 5:00 am. During such early hours, there isn’t much traffic, and we sailed through each checkpoint between Kitwe and Lusaka. When we arrived in Lusaka, Festus took us to the newly-built Cure Hospital.
Cure is a non-governmental organization that operates all over the world. Their hospitals specialize in orthopedic and neurosurgical problems. After a few negotiations, we were allowed a tour, but no photographs. They have beautiful facilities. The floors are clean tile, the walls are freshly painted (the children’s wards have murals), and some of the wards have private rooms. As we met the patients (mostly children with brain tumors and hydrocephalus), I thought, “I could work in a place like this.” I’ve often wondered if I could really work in Africa long-term. Am I too spoiled by American healthcare? I don’t really think I could work day to day at Mulenga or Kawama. The resources are too few in the clinics for me to be effective . . . but a hospital, a real hospital . . . that’s something I could handle, even with fewer than American resources.
After our tour, we stopped at a local hotel. We borrowed their courtyard for a church service. One of our major disappointments in the longer journey to Kafue was missing church with the Zambians. We managed to have a nice, sunny, American-style service. We hoped we’d be able to join the Zambians for worship in a few days.
After church, we drove for about 2 hours on a paved road, then turned off onto a narrow dirt road. We had no signs, no directions except for asking the occasional Zambian walking along the road. Our bus lurched along, brushing trees and bushes on either side for two hours. Dust swirled in the back of the bus, and I dispensed zofran and phenergan to several team members. The Bible says, “Narrow is the road that leads to life,” and I think we may have taken it. Finally, we arrived at the Hippo Lodge after dark. The lodge has no electricity, so it was lit with candles, lanterns, and a campfire. Matt and I won the Honeymoon Suite (Matt is quite good at number-guessing). It is a stone house with screened windows, a hot shower, and a cushy mattress, a Zambian paradise.
After we each had our accommodations, we were fed tender steaks, peppers, onions, and rice. For dessert, our hosts served grilled bananas filled with sweet cream. All the cooking is done over an open fire, and it was fantastic. Matt and I slept well for the first time in days. We awoke to a tapping on our door at 6 am for a sunrise safari. It was dark when we went to our room the night before, so I was surprised to find a river immediately in front of our porch when I awoke. The hippos lounge in the river all day; from the lodge we could hear them laugh. Occasionally, we heard a lion growl, though we never saw one. We snuggled together in the back of the land rover and watched the mist hovering over the river as the sun rose. We saw puku, impala, kudu, water buck, bush buck, jackals, elephants, monkeys, and warthogs.
We followed some lion tracks, but found none. We returned to the lodge in time for breakfast (homemade granola, eggs, bacon, grilled tomatoes . . . yummy). One of the lodge owners, Bruce, made me a fantastic cup of tea (with warm milk and sugar). Matt and I enjoyed our view, napped some, sat in the sun, took an afternoon boat ride on the Kafue river, watched the sunset. After dinner, we headed out for a night safari ride.
At one point, our guide turned off the land rover and we sat in the most profound and dark silence I have ever heard underneath the brightest night sky I have ever seen. The Zambian wilderness is very secluded, and at night it’s a little bit like looking at the sun through a dark screen.