Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Wilson Turners on Safari!

I rely heavily upon the Bradt Guide for my information about Angola.  So when planning my trip to Kissama National Park I read that it was not that impressive.  So, with expectations firmly set at low, I was really pleased to hear myself say, on numerous occasions : "This is SO MUCH FUN!!!".

Dawn near the Kwanza River

Saturday morning we set off around 6:30 am.  Unfamiliar with the place, we turned up just in time to miss the 9 am tour.  We left Luanda province and entered the the Bengo province to reach the park. About 10 minutes over the Kwanza Bridge (and this time our annoying car alarm did not go off) you turn off onto a marvelously red dirt road.  The ocher is beautiful and so very fine.  I was wearing socks and sneakers and, when I took off later that night, my feet were a brilliant orange.

From the main road, the dirt road stretches about 60 km into the interior of the park.  Along the way the you see enormous families of Baobabs, Acacias, Palms and scruffy woodland with tall rustling dry grasslands.  We saw lots of (and I can only make a guess at some of the species) small Dik-Diks as well as monkeys.

The parks inner fence and control point for vehicles.  There was a 10USD vehicle "fee" to enter.  Poaching is a very very big problem in Angola, and protection comes in the form of an electric fence.

While waiting for our tour to began, we got to walk around the Pousada Caua, huts built for those wanting to lodge over night in the park.  They were circular huts, fashioned after traditional ones, except they had ac units.  There was also a large restaurant, which looked like it hadn't been used in 5 years, full of bugs. or mice, or both.  I think there may have been an area for tenting as well, and I bet that would be much more exciting.  Marcus and Christian found the local gym.  It makes you realise how spoiled we are.  Never again should you use the excuse,  I can't afford to go to a gym!
Lead has been melted down and poured into tin cans to make these dumb bells.

Cogs.  Brilliant.

Well Bruce Cockburn, now you can have one. A rocket launcher from an aircraft.
Much to the delight of Christain and Marcus, the tour was held in a Mercedes Unimog, which meant nothing to me, but took up seemingly hours of discussion and investigation for the two boys.  Its basically a large military vehicle that can go into 1.2 m deep water, climb very steep terrain and make lots of noise.  It cost us about 30 USD each for the tour (kid were free). 

Apparently this was once a really great national park, but thanks to the civil war, where animals were poached, killed as food, or target practice for soldiers, not to mention the urban sprawl that is quickly encroaching on its boarders, with the problems of over population and pollution bring, this park has has its challenges.  The park rangers were well turned out, and from what I read, very passionate about trying to return to park to its former glory.  The WILD foundation is currently working on reintroducing native animals to this spot to increase some of the now endangered species that naturally roam there.  We were lucky to see so many wonderful examples of African wildlife.  Watching the girls was even better - they were so excited.  Emma let out with a few "Who-hoo!"'s (a-la-Bear Grylls) during the tour, which was said on behalf of all of us.  It really was a wonderful day. 
We saw 6 giraffes, two juveniles.

Can you spot her?  She was in the brush with her baby.
The Kawa River, a tributary to the Quanza River.
The fabled Sable that nearly became road-kill!
We did see an ostrich, which quickly darted out of sight and out of lens.  They are really incredibly fast and seem to be able to switch directions on a dime. My favorite was the Sable, which nearly hit our vehicle.  It was massive and larger than any horse I have ever seen.  Marcus managed to snap a pic of his flank, but again, it doesn't do him justice.

As we left the park later that day, Kinnino, our driver, stopped to help us knock down some fruit from the Baobab.  For me, this turned out to be the best part of the day.  Everyone was out of the car, scrabbling around the brush, climbing trees...  I got some gorgeous fruit and have made a few jugs of this tangy juice which, I prize very much.  The Baobab will have her own post later on, as she is that important!

Kinnino with the fruits of his labour!


Laura Kasemervisz said...

Love reading about your your family's open spirit!

Hilary Hynes said...

Lisa, thanks so much for doing this for your friends that are not on Facebook! My boys ask me to tell them this story over and over again! What an adventure!


Jordan Hood said...

Going to a safari trip is certainly a great way for you to bond with your girls. And from the looks of it, the experience is certainly memorable for everyone! I think the people at the park really put out quite an effort to make the place great despite of the challenges.