Arrived yesterday afternoon after what felt like a brutally long journey – original flights cancelled due to a strike on Lufthansa, a mad dash the airport, a rebooked trip, a red-eye to JFK on Sunday night followed by a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg followed by a two hour flight to Beira, Mozambique followed by a very bumpy 50 minute flight in a eight-seater GA8 Airvan.
But I’m here and I’m relatively awake. I still haven’t quite grasped that I’m on the other side of the world, although it feels about as far away from Colorado as I can get. For those of you who don’t know, I’m somewhere in the Zambezi River Delta in central Mozambique for a story on anti-poaching operations. I’m staying in a hunting camp with a collection of fancy tents, a dining hall, a giant concrete fire pit and slow, but operating, wi-fi.
Set on concrete pads, the tents are constructed from heavy-duty canvas with thick screens for windows and doors. The door out the back of the tent leads into a private, stucco walled, open-air bathroom, complete with flushing toilets and running water. There’s even hot water, although with temps approaching 100 degrees, hot water doesn’t hold much appeal.
At sunset, there are drinks and appetizers by the (thankfully unlit) fire pit and then a big group dinner in the dining hall. At 6am, the staff brings a French press of fresh coffee to your door. There’s laundry done every day. In other words, I’ve stayed worse places.
But it’s not all sitting around in camp, popping bonbons and drinking beer. While I can’t really get too detailed (have to save something for the actual story), this morning’s outing was definitely an adventure. We were up and out by 7am, following some potential leads, bouncing over one-lane dirt/sand roads in a beat up Toyota LandCruiser with a spider-webbed windshield and holes in the floorboards.
The landscape here is sparser than I’d expected (was thinking more tropical forest) – scrubby looking palms rising out of mounds of sand, stubbly grasses. In places, taller trees provide something of a canopy, although in the middle of the day, shade is hard to come by. And it’s the dry season here and there’s a serious drought, so everything looks dry and brown. Flammable. Which it is. People here set fire to the grasses to burn them away for farming purposes. As we were flying in yesterday, you could see dozens of fires, sending up enough smoke that, at times, you couldn’t see the horizon. It’s hazy here and the air constantly smells of smoke.
No elephants or leopards or water buffalo yet. But here’s a list of what I have seen:
- Hooded vulture
- Guinea hens
- 8-inch grasshopper
- Hummingbird-sized black wasp with orange butt
- Wood owl