Out of Africa remains one of my all time favorite movies, and this weekend I got to channel Meryl Streep on safari! Only thing missing, Robert Redford, but I had my own version! Though not the Serengeti, Nyika Plateau is a stunning and unforgettable experience, 4 hours from home in Mzuzu.
We began our 4 day adventure in Vwaza Marsh, known for its hippo population and sometime elephant sightings during the dry season ie now, just before rainy season.
Four huts with hot and cold running water, no electricity; wonderful shelter for al fresco dining while viewing the animals grazing in front of us. We brought our own food ie steak, chicken, rice, veggies, eggs, bacon, coffee. The camp guides prepared and served our meals.
Friday evening we went for a quick game drive at dusk, not too much time before dark and watched a colorful and blazing sunset, enjoying the hippo antics. SO hot, even at dusk.
Saturday morning I went on a 2 hour guided walk with the ranger armed with an automatic rifle of sorts, in case of elephants that can easily charge and kill you! Unfortunately no elephants but tons of ENORMOUS hippos lolling around in the water, groaning.
Many groups of warthogs with their new babies and kudus abounded. No rain here for 6-8 months and the earth near the water looks like the moon; dry, gray mud, splitting with cracks, imbedded with giant elephant prints.
Saturday morning we headed for Nyika Plateau, Malawi’s largest national park, over 1250 square miles of diverse vegetation and indigenous wildlife. A very dusty and bumpy ride over rutted dirt roads, impassible except with a 4×4 vehicle.
Once in the preserve, the terrain struck me as something out of England, rolling hills with open plains, dotted with huge boulders and occasional trees.
Animals were grazing everywhere and the camera came out for some beautiful shots of zebras, antelope, and deer.
Arriving at Chelinda Camp, we settled into our room complete with fireplace, hot and cold running water and huge shower. Nestled in the pines, the only sound in the camp was the wind blowing in the pines. Cooler temperatures made for wonderful game drives during the early morning hours with sightings of zebra, antelope, eland, and multiple types of deer.
Meals were prepared by the staff, with Roy’s help, and served in the main lodge where a roaring fire burned in the evening. No electricity except from 6-9 pm when the generator whirred in the background. Awakening at 5 am Monday morning I prepared for my second run in the bush and this time I planned to take a flatter, more isolated route. At 7000 ft, I was hurting the day before on the steep hills.
As the sound of nearby hyenas filtered into the camp, I had second thoughts about going out alone for a run but had been assured that I would be safe. Right!!! No gun, no guide and I am crazy enough to go out for an hour run by myself but it was so cool and beautiful I couldn’t resist.
About 2 km into the run, I came upon the hyenas in the grass off the path, chewing on their kill intently. They scattered for a minute and eyed me as I jogged past; very excited that I had seen them up close and personal for the first time. Ungainly in their running because of their short hind legs, their large black ears and comical faces made me chuckle, but I admit that I kept looking behind me as I continued.
Armed with a large pointed stick on the way back, no worries as they had dispersed on the return home.
The rest of the daytime hours were spent napping, reading, meditating, eating….a complete vacation and rest. Our final night Roy prepared a campfire dinner at Chelinda Campsite complete with huge campfire, steak, potatoes and zucchini. Having forgotten the silver ware, we ate with our hands by the light of the campfire as it was dark by the time we feasted.
Monday we returned to Mzuzu, every inch of us covered in the fine red dust accumulated on the 4 hour drive home. Water was off when I returned and I was unable to shower before my language lesson at 2:30, sorry Wezzie!
Breathtaking scenery, stunning animals, great company….grateful for the opportunity to experience another side of Malawi.