Saturday, October 2, 2010

Kaliya

Kayila is a newest lodge in the Safari Par Excellence chain.
Nestled on the Zambian side of the lower Zambezi River it commands a wonderful view of the river and you can see Zimbabwe from your accommodation.
‘Trains and boats and planes’ go the lyrics of an old pop song.We however only needed two modes of transport to get us to the lodge. First the flight from Johannesburg to Lusaka.This was followed by a 3-hour bus ride and an hour boat trip to the lodge. There is a landing strip near the lodge, but that would spoil the excitement of road travel in Africa! And the bus trip was made all the more exciting by the fact that the road was crammed with articulated trucks almost nose to tail. Overtaking becomes an art form,and our driver was the Picasso of drivers.
The boat ride was a lot more relaxed and we were able to spot a variety of game along the way. Elephant, waterbuck, hippo and a fish eagle watched our progress up the Zambezi.
On our arrival at the lodge the lodge staff and manager, John, met us.
Having read the publicity material that had been supplied, I opted for the Kayila Treehouse.The accommodation was totally different to anything I have ever stayed in before, which makes up for having to climb several flights of stairs to either go to the bathroom or the main lodge for meals. The upside, of course, is that you can fool yourself into believing that the exercise makes up for all the food consumed!
The view from the treehouse is awesome.
Not only could I see up and down the river, but I was also able to look down on elephant feeding beneath ‘my’ tree.
Before dinner our party embarked on an evening cruise on the river…buffalo, a pied kingfisher, a spur winged goose and some Egyptian geese, together with more waterbuck and impala were all very relaxed as we drifted past.
There is nothing like an African sunset to put you in a great mood and to remind you how special Africa is.
At the end of the cruise dinner was waiting for us in the Boma.
Dinner consisted of an asparagus pancake starter. Followed by chicken with vegetables and potatoes. Dessert was a chocolate mousse, which I am reliably informed was delicious. [Not eating chocolate, I had been supplied with an alternative desert]
While John, our host strummed his guitar and sang old folk songs, the rest of our party stood around the fire and talked about the meaning of life and other deep and meaningful topics.
The generator turns off at 10.30,and having seen leopard spoor in the camp earlier I chose to have an early night. The others stayed on and were lucky enough to see a shooting star.
My bed was comfortable and sleeping under a mozzie net is always special, if somewhat colonial. The highlight of the evening was being serenaded to sleep by hippos roaring beneath my accommodation.
If the sunset was wonderful, sunrise on the river was even better.
After a HUGE breakfast it was down to the river as we were going to paddle to a nearby island to spend the night ‘under the stars’. Well not quite under the stars, but in tents.
We would be sharing this particular island with hippos, which we had encountered earlier in the day. It is amazing how quickly you can become an Olympic paddler when a hippo submerges near your canoe
We paddled in 2 person, Canadian style canoes. At first we spent a lot of energy trying not to go around in circles. But we soon got into an easy rhythm and we were then able to enjoy the scenery. Lunch was served on the banks of the river. While some of the party napped, I took the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. We were watched by purple crested louries. Just as we were about to leave, two elephant came down to the water to drink. As they have right of way, we sat and watched them drink before setting of for our overnight destination. In total we paddled about 15km’s down the Zambezi River. No traffic lights or intersections, just remember to turn right at the hippos and don’t forget about the crocodiles. Both of these species are more dangerous than mini-bus taxis.
We landed on the island with daylight to spare and we felt like early pioneers stepping onto uncharted land. Watching our supper being prepared, we were certain that we would never be able to consume it all. However, all the activity need to be fueled and it all disappeared in a flash!
Fire seems to unlock a primal instinct within us and stories and bonding took place around the fire that night. However, for the sake of sensitive readers, I will draw a veil over what was discussed. Early to bed and early to rise as we still had several km’s to paddle before being picked up by a truck and taken back to the lodge.
I fell asleep to the sound of hippos…or was that one of the party snoring?
We awoke to the sight of an African sunrise. If only I could get an alarm clock that projected that image onto my ceiling. There is no finer way to wake up.
Some of the buffalo we had seen earlier had joined us on the island, but they were not near enough to be on our breakfast menu. We did not really need buffalo steak for breakfast as the meal supplied by our guides Jauris and TK consisted of enough food to keep a small country fed. Then it was back onto the river for the last 5km paddle back to our pick up point.
Here we boarded a 4x4 for the journey back to camp. The road is barely a track, and our 4x4 had to prove itself on several occasions. We got to see a lot of elephant along the way, some up close and very personal.
There was more food on our arrival back at the lodge, followed by a welcome siesta for yours truly and fishing for others. We were also able to go on a short walk to have a look at some of the majestic Baobab trees that abound in the area.
A night drive before dinner rounded off an eventful day. On my way back to ‘my’ tree I got to see a spotted genet. A creature I had not seen before in the wild.

Then it was early to bed for all of us as we had to be on the river for our return journey before sunrise. So no rousing renditions of Kumbaya round the fire!
After an early and very cold boat ride, we found our way back to our bus and back on the road to Lusaka.
Once again it was packed with trucks and lorries, but our driver managed to get us through the chaos, but we arrived at the airport with time to spare.
Back on the plane to Johannesburg it was time to reflect on our wonderful weekend and the experiences we had all shared.
If you decide to visit Kayila, fight for the Treehouse, its well worth it.
Bookings can be made through Safari Par Excellence central reservations in Johannesburg. Phone: 794-8261 or e-mail them on res@saf-par.co.za. You can also check out their web site, www.safpar.net

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