Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Thinking of Cecil - Carole's Post

George and I visited sub-Saharan Africa about 12 years ago when we came over to pick up our daughter Catherine after a BYU work/study program in Tanzania.  Not only were we able to visit her village at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but we did the typical safari tourist adventures and loved every minute of our two weeks in Tanzania and Kenya.  However, this is not the Africa we are seeing now.  Many of the things that impacted me then (the warmth of the people, the endless stream of walkers along the highways, small town markets) continue to be right at the top of my list of things that affect me now. But the reason most people come to this part of Africa is not for those reasons, but rather for the animals and the incredible landscapes.
Since I keep up on the news, I have read about the killing of Cecil in our neighboring Zimbabwe, but I have only read about it in the western press.  I haven't seen a word in the local Malawian papers.  I have read some of the Zimbabwian (and other African) responses in the Western news and it makes me realize what a different experience and relationship those living here have to the animals.  Soon after we arrived in Blantyre, we took the sister missionaries on a P-Day trip to Majete National Park to see some animals. Some of the African sisters had never seen an elephant!
For several months, there was a large billboard on a major thoroughfare in Blantyre that stated "Poaching of wildlife is a major crime with severe punishments".   
When we recently visited Liwonde National Park, the guides talked about the constant poaching there and the few guards who circle the camp at night.  Poaching even meant fishing on the river within the park boundaries. There were over 200,000 people living around the park, many of them in destitute circumstances and I am sure it is difficult for them to understand what difference a boundary makes when it comes to a search for food.

When our son-in-law Tomicah Tillemann came to visit, we took about 30 hours and went to spend the night at Liwonde National Park.  It is only about 1 1/2 hours away but this was a completely different Africa that the one I am living in.  This is the Africa I saw 12 years earlier and it just shocked me that it is so close by!  Several of these photos were posted by George earlier but they bring back happy memories to me.
A short way from the entrance to the park, we parked our car and waited on a small dock for a boat to pick us up and ferry across the Shire River to the Mvuu Lodge. ("Mvuu" means "hippo" is chichewa.) Immediately, the foliage changed and the landscape began to look different.  It was another world - and magical!

Here it comes!  This had the feeling of the jungle cruise at Disneyland (but I think I have that comparison a bit reversed).

There were numerous Kodak moments within minutes of embarking.

Upon arrival, we had a light lunch in the dining room overlooking the lagoon.

Our individual tent chalets had a luxury that I hadn't experienced or thought about in many, many months.


 But this was not a trip about luxury - or even rest!  Rather we had things to see and things to do!
First, the game drive...

Some of our first sightings..the beast and beauty.

Waterbucks and impalas

The amorous bull elephant was following after his mate and calf and was quite agitated about being interrupted.  For a while, it was a tense standoff until he sauntered off after mother and child.

Justin, our guide, pointed out the various common trees of the park, indeed of many parts of Malawi, and their exotic shapes and colors were fascinating.

Of course, the iconic baobab tree is my favorite.  How could it not be with its enormous trunk and romantic silhouette?  The elephants like to strip the lower bark.
The candlelabra tree (named for obvious reasons)
It looks like a cactus stuck on a basic trunk, but it is really of the euphorbia family.

And here they are together.

The yellow fever tree (acacia)
The sausage tree.  No kidding...don't you love these names?
Justin showing us the leaf of the butterfly tree.
This palm looks like it is loaded with coconuts, but its not - just copious fruits that aren't good for much.  The sap, however, is used for making wine.

The panoramas were spectacular
and as it became dusk, Justin stopped the jeep and set up a small table of refrehments, close to a termite mound, so we could enjoy the sunset.

We enjoyed watching the baboons too.

And the sun kept dropping... 

There is no way to describe the red African sunsets.

We had a "night drive" back to the Lodge.  Charles, the spotter and guard sat at the front of the jeep with his gun and his high beam lights sweeping back and forth looking for those noctural creatures. We were rewarded with seeing two large magnificent porcupines.
Back at the lodge we ate a late dinner of goat stew out under the stars.  Until the elephants, who had come up from the river, had moved a safe distance away we were unable to go back to our chalets.  Then we were quickly escorted back to get a good night's sleep.  Unfortunately Tomicah didn't get a "good" nights sleep since one elephant remained behind and wandered about just a few feet away from Tomicah's bed.  

The next morning we were up early for a nature walk, again with Justin.

Checking out tracks in the soft sand..

Checking out various dungs

and other telltale signs.

Charles,  our spotter and guard, then thought he saw a hyena in the distance.  We quickly followed behind to try and catch up.  And THEN....
trapped by a snare!  Not really, it was just a downed wire fence that caused  my foot to catch and down I went, unable to catch myself.  For the next few days, upon seeing me and gasping, my Malawian friends were taught the meaning of the term "faceplant".
...and you won't be seeing anymore close-ups of me for a few days...
Then it was back to the lodge for some breakfast, clean-up, and a little rest.
It's river cruise time.  

Truly, this does feel like the Disneyland jungle boat ride!

We even passed another boat on the river.

But oh, the views were spectacular!  Seeing the life along the river from the river gives a different perspective.

What a glorious morning.  So much to see and take in.
It's back to civilization.

Liwonde National Park was a surprising find for us.  I love this side of Africa too.  
Tionana! ("see you again") I hope!

The side of Malawi that we live and see,  and this, the tourist side that the world sees, are both quite wonderful and we are fortunate to appreciate both.  But now it's time to get back to Blantyre where there is much work to do!

Zikomo kwam biri (thank you very much) to Tomicah for letting me post some of his photos!