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  1. #1
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    Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    Kafue National Park River Trip

    Last weekend Idos, Lex (two of our excellent field guides) and I took a land rover and headed north to see how far we would get. Zambia generally has very high rainfall and a lot of the bush is completely inaccessible to vehicles through the rainy season (December to May generally speaking). Amazingly (still being March) we actually drove all the way from Lufupa Camp to Musanza Camp - although we got VERY badly stuck a few times and it did take us about 6 hours.



    In the dry season when the roads are graded the trip takes about an hour! But at this time of year all the dambos are flooded and it means lots of diversions inland. The road basically follows the Lufupa river and the open dambos fill up as the river backs up the small streams feeding into it. Rains this year though have been a lot less than normal so things are relatively dry. We got back quite late on the Friday night - but in lashing rain. The plan was for Julia and I to then head up on Sunday by vehicle based on how it was fairly easy. Unfortunately it lashed down for 24 hrs so on Sunday morning it was into the Banana boat and on up the river. A Banana boat is basically a massive fiberglass canoe – in our case with a 40hp Mercury two stroke on the back. They are quite lengthy things and navigating a dense, thicket infested river in one can be tricky. The first time I did this trip last year it took 10 hours – getting lost in channels as the river spreads out.





    I had been warning Julia how tough this trip can be, but it gets easier every time! This time was maybe the easiest yet, and it was actually all beautiful - trees and birds and peaceful motoring. Having marked a lot of the way previously made things a lot easier. The bird life on this river is absolutely stunning – last time I did this trip I saw four Pel’s Fishing Owls. This time there was only one Pels but at least 8 African Finfoots and various others – Fish Eagles through to Reed Cormorants. The wildlife on the river is largely Hippos – lots of them… it’s less than ideal to be stuck in a thicket in fast moving water near Hippos, so as we approach them we smack the water surface hard to scare them away – a startled Hippo or cow with a calf is a serious business!

    This was taken on a previous trip and is a Pel's chick - a birding rarity to say the least!



    We reached Musanza Camp and met up with 9 of our staff who I had arranged to meet there to start ground works on what is basically going to be a completely new camp. Of course an additional 5 guys had walked in with the staff to see if there was any work... to put this in context it is a two day 60 km walk through a National Park with large amounts of dangerous game (Buffalo, elephants, Lion, Leopard, Hippos)! The guys were absolutely exhausted - thigh deep water and so on on the way. Sadly we could only take 3 of the extra guys due to work load and tools and food although we could at least promise some casual work in a few weeks – manually slashing the grass on a 1,200m grass airstrip!

    This is what I am talking about:


    We worked damn hard through the week and had a great time - pipe trenches, designing new 'bush craft' guest toilet. The bushcraft toilet is Julia’s design, with the construction being based on local chicken house constructions and from all natural materials. The outside will be grass thatched:



    So knifes/kit and all that sort of stuff:
    1) Cheap and cheerful local Panga (Machete) – absolutely invaluable for on the river and building the toilet, cutting poles and thorny acacia at arms length! Of course crap blade lost it’s edge very, very quickly.
    2) Local axes – such a simple design… a triangle shaped piece of old leaf spring steel that is hammered into a tough wooden handle with a big gnarled bit of root. You can just see one in the boat in one of the above pictures.
    3) Spyderco Resilience – big, rough tough folder. Tactical use on hippos (yeah, in my bad dreams…). Otherwise for just about everything. Very happy with it and not a big outlay for a beater type knife.
    4) Spyderco Squeak – now given to Julia and used for carving faces on toilet poles, toilet roll holders, stripping bark, cutting yards of string. We are very impressed with how it stood up to pretty hard use! So now I will be looking for a small EDC replacement – ideally one with liners and bushes as the only thing about the squeak is that it gets a bit gritty on opening and closing. Of course this is hard bush use and really not the intended or normal use for this little tool.

    Wishes:
    - A decent Machete…
    - A decent Axe
    - Something with a fixed blade capable of very hard use. I am thinking about a ESEE 4 or similar.

    Other things that worked really well:
    - Malkoff 2 x AA with M31LL drop in. Great torch that you know won't suddenly die on you after an hour or two.
    - Peak Eiger 1 x AAA for reading and back up.

    I will try and write up more on what works and what doesn't in our environment as time goes on.


    The weather really settled and we had a week of dry weather and so a vehicle quite easily made it up to pick us up on Saturday afternoon. Another downpour on Sat night, but it looks like the end of the rains now!

    Lots of birdlife and lion calls at night around Musanza and two of our new casual workers walked into a big male lion while they were out gathering bush poles for the toilet construction! Fresh and not so fresh spoor of Lions and Leopards everywhere.

    The pictures were all hurried affairs due to dying batteries, but when we get back up there we will get decent ones of all this type of fun and games and bushcrafty camp construction/local tools and hopefully a bit of wildlife!

    The only disappointing thing is that I got a report of 10 guys with AK47s up in the northern plains killing antelopes and Hippos for the bush meat trade, so hopefully they can be intercepted and arrested...

  2. #2
    RIP Maarten
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    Thank you for sharing these pictures, what a completely different world!
    What sort of small planes do you have landing on that strip?
    Be safe out there.

  3. #3
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    Awesome, thanks for sharing

    if you don't mind me asking, what do you do?

  4. #4
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    We get Cessna 206s, 208s and 210s normally. There is occasionally a fancy pressurised Pilatus that brings well heeled types that comes in now and then. The best thing though is the chartered Eurocopter EC 120 that we have up in the plains when operating up there. Two seasons back we chartered it on a 'guaranteed hours' basis... come the end of the month with 5 hours unused on the clock (but bought and paid for, fuel inclusive) it meant a LOT of fun. It's a drag from a cost perspective to say the least, but well heeled guests and seasonal flood plains are like oil and water! The alternative is 5 hours by car/boat/canoe. Fun for most, but not all.


  5. #5
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    Don't mind at all Ben - I sort of do all varied things, but basically it boils down to trying to build, run and manage camps for a company called Wilderness Safaris. That means photographic safaris in places which are a 'wee' bit remote. It's fun

  6. #6
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    What a fantastic job!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. #7
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    dull job then, I can see why you need BB for a bit of excitement

    seriously, great photos and facinating update!
    thanks

  8. #8
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    Amazing stuff...The terrain, wildlife, weather...everything about it!

    I hope ill be able to visit Africa one day...Its one of the things thats pretty high on the bucket list. Thanks for posting and allowing me to live vicariously through your thread.

  9. #9
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    Re: Kafue National Park River Trip (and a bush craft toilet!)

    Pretty cool. I can send you some decent axes and Tramontina machetes. Got any wonderful African things to trade that will get past customs?
    Whoever dies with the most tools wins.......Now accepting donations.
    I buy old folding and fixed blade knives of all kinds. Especially Case. PM Me.

 

 

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