Visiting Popa falls was one of my favorite places and was an experience like we had never had before on our trip. I was looking forward to seeing the falls for sure, but I was looking forward to visiting this camping site so much because it was a community run ‘resort’ run by the San people themselves and I have a special interest in the San people. It was something like a social upliftment program for them because many of them have been displaced. They were being trained up to run their own tourist organization and I wanted to support them.
We were worried about the roads as they were dust roads leading off into the middle of nowhere. To find the place we followed the sign board down a dusty dirt track; bumpy and winding. We thought we might get stuck as people had said it was only for 4×4 driving (maybe this was true in the rainy season in summer). We did wonder how we would turn around if we needed to. Also there was nowhere to pull over for oncoming vehicles. I was convinced we were getting lost; later I wrote in my journal, ‘they really need to put up more signboards but we got there by Derek’s guesswork’.
We made it to the reception. It was like no other reception we had seen before: a kiosk. No one was there and it had a notice saying ‘Hoot for help.’ We were surrounded by bush; we could see nothing. I was really nervous that I had asked Derek to drive all this way for nothing special. Finally the manager came and we were told we could go to Bay no 1.
It was amazing, so different to what we had seen before. The kitchen had a kitchen sink and two wooden tables made from railway sleepers. The walls and roof was made of reeds and the floor was cement.
The deck was high up in the big trees. It felt like a tree-house. From there one could see the rapids and the other side of the river. It was beautiful and peaceful. I found the ladder a bit scary. It was like a ladder for a double bunk, or our roof top tent. I might have mentioned before that I was already having difficulty climbing up our ladder because my pectoral muscles were still week from the surgery. It was definitely making me fitter, all this climbing.
When we entered the tent the first night we found dozens of miggies* flying around the light. This did not please me. I was worried that maybe we would have mosquitoes too as we were now entering the latitude where malaria is found. I had been told to bring insect spray. We sprayed and waited; when we went back the miggies were dead. (*Muggie or miggie with a soft g that is pronounced like ch as in the Scottish loch is an Afrikaans word which means gnat, midge or midget in English.)
The noise from the falls was relentless. Sometimes I thought it sounded like waves breaking continuously; other times it reminded me of a really loud downpour of rain on a corrugated tin roof. That night I lay listening to it, as I fell asleep, and I thought of all that energy that was coursing past us in the water. I imagined it filling me up and I felt emotionally charged within. The next morning as I surfaced, in my half asleep state, I thought it was cars driving on the highway.
The other insect encounter was in the bathroom. It was a quaint rustic bathroom, all made of reeds. And thatch roof.
We bought wood for the donkey boiler and had a shower in the morning but mostly they used reeds to make the fire, as the man, showed us how to stoke the fire for the donkey boiler, had said and further went on to say ‘it doesn’t get very hot because they use reeds for the fire but we don’t need hot showers here.’ After that we would refer to the temperature of the water as reed hot .’How is the shower?’- ‘oh it is reed hot’ or ‘oh it is wood hot’ if it was hotter. The showers were generally not hot at all but then it was so hot anyway that it felt quite refreshing showering in cool water. It was fun.
That morning as Derek was stoking the donkey boiler I decided to use the toilet. The toilet was another story. It had wasps hatching out of a nest right above the toilet. I was first a bit annoyed because, ‘how were we supposed to go to the toilet with wasps dropping down on us,’ and I wanted Derek to complain. He asked me what I thought they should do as this was the wild and we were in the wasps’ territory. Well I came up with a workable plan. I fetched the umbrella and sat holding the umbrella over me while on the toilet. The wasps dropped onto it and slid down next to my feet. This only happened while they were hatching. After that they disappeared. Derek thought this was hilarious and wanted to take a photo as evidence of his crazy wife but needless to say I vetoed that idea.
We liked poppa falls, the view from the deck and the rustic facilities so much that we asked if we could stay another day. This gave us time to unwind and relax. From this time onward we started the fire for the evening meal at 5 0r 5.30pm South and ate, packed away and were in our tent by 7 or 7.30 as we didn’t want to be bitten by mosquitoes.
The next day we were leaving for Zambia. Just as we had packed up our tent and were finishing our breakfast the resort manager asked if Derek could help the guests in Bay no 4 who needed a jump start. As he had to drive there he left me at our camp site to pack up the last few things in the kitchen. After I had finished and Derek had not yet come back I decided to take some more photos, I wondered around in the bush for some time.
I hoped maybe I could get to the other camp site as I thought I could hear their voices and cars revving. I didn’t like being on my own but I couldn’t get there and then I remembered that the manager had warned us to be careful as there were kids that sometimes came and helped themselves to things if left out in the open and unmanned. So I was concerned not to go too far. I became scared because I was all alone. I paced up and down but still Derek didn’t appear. I waited and waited. Then my mind began to go crazy with scary ideas. One was that I began to think that maybe it was a trick and that he had been hijacked and I had been left all alone in the camp. I felt like I was stranded. There was no phone reception so I couldn’t get hold of him. I was beside myself with worry and fear.
You want to know what happened? Yes? I will tell you in next week’s installment.
Take care. Till then.
If you want to read the other posts from this series you can check them out here:
Poppa Falls: The ups and downs