Thursday, September 3, 2015

July 20 - School & Village Visit, Elephants at Sophie’s Pan, Sundowners on the Savanna

After our early rise and frentic race to school with the kids we witnessed the head master address the students as they sang both the national anthem and their school song.  They wore maroon colored shorts, button down collared shirts, and hats to keep warm.  

Our group was introduced and welcomed and we spent the next hour visiting with the headmaster, teachers and interacting with the kids in the classroom.  We had a great time as we actually became the students and train to learn the local language with its distinctive click sounds.  What a blast!  

Then we danced and sang with the kids - another very real and authentic experience…Later we went to the nearby village to meet the very sophisticated headman or chief.  We learned how they live, their customs, marriage, dowries, dispute settlement, etc…we then visited the chiefs surprisingly modern home (couches) and met his wife and daughters.  We felt very welcome and they really opened up to us.  
Lunch for the kids at the school is prepared every day. These are Zimbabwen cast iron cooking pots.

Afterwards we went over to a small craft market that had been set up in support of the village and we happily shopped ’til we dropped for beautiful textiles, wooden spoons, carvings, and more.  It was nice to support these people who live in such a remote area rather than shopping in Victoria Falls in the tourist areas.  Another wonderful cultural experience…
Kids are setting up the tetherball we brought with us. They taught the teachers how to play.
Next we had a real treat as we traveled into the bush to a very special water hole that Butch made (most of Hang’s wildlife depend on man made “bore holes” or wells).  The reason that this bore hole, named Sophie’s Pan, was so special is that Butch built a “hide” where we could view the elephants in perfect safety only a few years from where they stood.  

Essentially Butch had buried a cargo container up with viewing slots cut away as windows at ground level - stairs lead down to the bunker where benches are set up so that one can just sit and lean forward to steady a camera or binoculars for amazing elephant viewing.  There is even a toilet which certainly comes in handy of you are surrounded by a herd of thirsty elephants!  The trick is that Butch dug a small fresh water hole just a few feet in front of the hide so the elephants actually can smell the fresh water and come right up to drink only steps away from one’s head.  The perspective is amazing.  

You are looking right at the elephants toe nails and the trunk comes down right in front of you to suck up water.  This is one of the best wildlife experiences one can have and the group was thrilled with close encounters we had. Hwange has the largest population of elephants in Africa at around 40,000 so you can’t go wrong here!

Afterwards we had lunch al fresco by the water hole and watched the elephants from about hundred yards away while we enjoyed a delicious bush lunch and cold beers.  What a treat!

After popping back to the lodge for afternoon tea and cake we set off in search off lions on the open grasslands of the Ngamo Plains.  We saw zebra, impala, elephants, wildebeest, jackals and more but the lions alluded us this time.  The sun set a giant red ball on the horizon as we enjoyed our sundowners to top off a great day.  Safari days can be very long and full so most of us went straight to sleep after another delicious meal served by the fireplace in the main dining room.  A few of us wandered out to the camp fire circle and sat under the brilliant African sky lit up by millions of stars…

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