Thursday, November 5, 2009

Relaxing at Kissama

We decided to have a relaxing visit to Kissama on our early close Friday. It seemed like ages since we’d last been & we were aware that as summer got closer, it would be more unpleasant to go camping. We also knew that it simply couldn’t compare with our safari experience in Tanzania, but the thought of having a relaxing couple of days out in the country was still very tempting.

We packed up the chilly-bin with lunch and the food to cook for our dinner & breakfast & made sure that we had lots of anti-mosquito stuff (which we’d regrettably forgotten the last time). For a single overnight, we sure had a big load of stuff. Because it was a “long” weekend, transport was at a premium, so we shared our 4-wheeled drive with Mara, Rodrigo and Angela who were headed for the Kwanza river lodge & beach for the day. It was a bit of a squeeze, with Angela sitting in the back, but it was manageable.

We dropped the day-trippers off first & then drove on to the park. Although the weather was very dry in Luanda, you could tell it was much wetter this far south. There was quite a bit of road-works on the drive into the park – a normal car would have been able to manage fine, until we reached the end of it. We couldn’t decide what it was all for – whether the plan was to slowly improve the road all the way to the park grounds, or whether something else on the way in was being planned.

As usual, we were the only campers & as the weather seemed a bit dodgy, we decided we’d better get the tent up quickly. We decided we’d do only one safari trip – and that would be the morning one. We took our books and our packed lunch into the big jango and made ourselves comfortable for a relaxing afternoon. We were asked several times by the park guys if we wanted to go on the afternoon safari trip – I think they thought we didn’t understand them as they clearly thought our head-shaking to be quite weird. However, as the afternoon progressed, we were soon glad we hadn’t gone on the truck as big thunder clouds gathered on the horizon & soon it was starting to rain. We got chased out of the jango as the weather further deteriorated & they collected the cushions to keep them out of the rain. We returned our chilly bin to the tent & made sure everything there was under cover and then hit the bar. Hardly a minute too soon – the sky got dark & thunder and lightning became much closer. The rain just bucketed down. We were sooo glad we weren’t sitting on the back of the safari truck with nothing warm to wear & minimal protection from the elements! As it was, the bar was a great place to sit and watch the storm. Visibility dropped right away as the storm got closer & the rain harder. It was quite exhilarating watching it all!

Eventually the storm moved on and visibility improved. It was getting on & we needed to make a start on our evening meal before it got much darker. We were feeling a bit lazy, so we thought we’d check out the restaurant. We asked to see a menu, but of course there wasn’t one – instead it looked to be a buffet – with nothing vegetarian. We resigned ourselves to cooking for ourselves & set about looking for a table to take up to the jango by the campsite. This wasn’t that easy as there were hardly any tables, & they were really dirty. But we didn’t fancy cooking on the floor either, so we took the “cleanest” table and carried it up to the jango. The jango was also noticeably worse for wear – there were large holes in the thatch, but fortunately the light still worked & the jango itself wasn’t too messy. We set up all our food & got out the trangia to make a cup of tea & horror of horrors, discovered that the burner was missing from it! We looked at each other in dismay – we already knew the restaurant wasn’t an option & everything we had needed to be cooked. However, after that initial panic, we looked around at what we had – we decided we’d try putting alcohol in the metal lid of our Tabard anti-mosquito candles. The flame was a bit wild & not the hottest, but we were able to use the trangia and boil our water & then cook our meal. We felt rather proud of ourselves for our ingenuity! (Although we’ll never grab a trangia again without checking the inside first.)

We went to bed relatively early (not much to do in the pitch dark after you’ve eaten) and had a so-so night. Somehow mosquitoes got into the tent during the night & neither of us slept very well. This wasn’t helped by the very late arrival by a group of French guys in several identical cars who seemed to drive around in circles & then put up their tents way to close to ours (why did they do that when the campground was empty?). They took over the jango, so in the morning when we got up we went straight to join the first safari trip of the day. There seemed to be a big group of people wanting to go – but Bill & I have learnt from experience to get on board the second we can so we get the seats we want. In the end, one group went off in their own car with a ranger with them.

We saw an eland early on & then lots of giraffes. We also saw some kudu and lots of bushbuck of course. Then more giraffes, & then not that much else. Definitely no rival to Selous! Bill is ready to never go on another safari there again, but we’ve had much better days (& admittedly worse ones) & I think the randomness is part of its appeal. It’s a shame it is becoming so expensive – around $40 for the tent site (& with facilities getting grottier…) and $30 each for the bone-jarring, skin scratching ex-army truck safari. But the location remains so relaxing and peaceful – maybe we’ll restrict ourselves to day trips in future. It would be sad not to go back!

The jango was free for us to make our breakfast when we got back from the safari & as the weather still looked a bit dodgy, we decided to take the tent down early as we didn’t want to have to take it down in the rain. We set ourselves up in the jango again with our books & waited for the driver to come to take us home. Not much photography this time, but lots of relaxing & we both enjoyed our time chilling.

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