I write this from Pioneer Camp, where I am staying during my limited time in Lusaka. Actually, Pioneer Camp is just outside of Lusaka, northeast of the city. I arrived with fellow baboon researcher Monica yesterday night, after a fairly smooth trip starting in St. Louis and passing through Atlanta and Johannesburg.
Living conditions in our cottage at Pioneer are pretty luxurious. We have two rooms with three beds each. There is a mosquito net above each bed, which drapes over each edge like a curtain. This is my first experience with mosquito nets, and sitting in bed shut in by the mosquito net talking to a cloudy-looking Monica makes me feel rather like a Roman princess. This carried over to my sleep, in which I was reportedly uttering . . . well, we will keep that area private for now. Surely there will be more Lariam-induced adventures later on!
Outside of the cottage, you can see a glimpse of the Miombo woodland environment that is well-represented over all of Zambia. One botanical book here says that 80% of Zambia is Miombo environment, the most for any country in Africa. This is my first time in southern Africa and savanna country, but it certainly looks different from anything I’ve seen before, with tall grasses and lots of trees that are not quite dense enough to be a forest. You can almost imagine monkeys and other large wildlife passing through here, but an electric fence surrounding Pioneer Camp, presumably to keep out livestock, makes that difficult.
Nights here are cold and days are hot. Mid-day recorded the highest temperature, which was probably around 80 F. Outside of those times, however, the weather seems to strike the perfect balance between hot and cold. There is ample sunlight and shade here, so there are few excuses for spending time indoors!
For the next few days, we will be in Pioneer and Lusaka waiting for the last member of our baboon team and planning some logistical details for our trip to baboon camp in the Chunga area of Kafue National Park. Our camp site appears to fall near one of the major roads in Zambia about 1-2 hours outside of Lusaka along that road. The traveling time once offroad, however, is impossible to say and we’re expecting several hours tacked on before we reach Chunga.