BLOG # 6 – 9th August 2012
Trip to Shoebill
Evidently having erased the torturous memories of the bike race from my brain, I decided to get back on my bike again for another long-distance trip, this time to Shoebill Island in the Bangweulu wetlands.
Along with Jesse (the local Peace Corps volunteer) and our local ‘guide’ Mwape, we set off from Kasanka at 6.20am on the 2nd August. Being not quite sure how far away Shoebill was we decided to go with the general consensus of 80km, and optimistically decided we’d easily get to Shoebill by 3pm the same day.
The first 60+km were pretty comfortable cycling, starting with the 36km cycle to the Livingstone Memorial, followed by a boat trip across the … river, and the start of the plain crossing. Feeling we were doing pretty well with around 26km left by 1pm, our goal of reaching Shoebill by 3pm still seemed within reach.
Our next big landmark was a patch of forest the other side of the plain called Namushitu, which appeared to be around 20km from Shoebill. The terrain got a lot tougher with extremely sandy bike tracks; poor Mwape must have got sick of pulling my bike up off the floor whilst saying the obligatory ‘sorry sorry!’, and combined with the heat of the midday sun it felt like we were cycling backwards. However, the landscape truly made up for the lack of hard road, with beautiful uninterrupted views of the plain with its mini termite mounds, and rarely another person in sight.
After mostly walking down an even worse track which was virtually un-cycleable, home to millions of mosquitos (at this point we were convinced our guide hadn’t actually gone to shoebill before and had taken us down the wrong path) and Jesse starting to suffer from severe dehydration (his water had run out at 7.30am, and I was now on rations) we finally reached our destination at 5.15pm. 86km and 11 hours of cycling.
Chikuni; harbour to Shoebill Island
After another 40 minute boat ride and a beautiful sunset we stepped onto Shoebill Island, our home for the next few days.
Apart from saying we cycled to Shoebill, the main reason for going was obviously to see a Shoebill. Fortunately we were extremely lucky, and after navigating our way round a hippo and literally walking on water we were treated to a great view of a truly wild shoebill.
View of the swamp