Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Couple's Conference adventure!

Monday, May 24, 2011 
We are back in Blantyre, Malawi after about 10 days in Zimbabwe.  The purpose of the trip was for a Couple’s conference but President Dube agreed that we could add a few days to see people in Zimbabwe that we knew from our last mission there. 
We drove our truck – Malawi through Mozambique and then into Zimbabwe.  The trip took us about 9 hours total with border crossings.  We did get vehicle clearance & insurance ahead of time as well as our double entry visa for Mozambique.  That did speed things up somewhat.  We have to stop at the border crossing at Malawi and get our passports stamped and then several metres away we stop at the Mozambiqu border and get them stamped again.  We always have to get a gate pass so that they will let us through each border.  Lots of paperwork!
When we drove up to the Malawi border several men wanted to sell us currency for Mozambique but we didn’t need any.  We went inside with our passports and when we came out the same men wanted to sell us reflector stickers for our vehicle (all vehicles must have them on the 4 corners).  We said we don’t need them because we already have them.  They pointed to our bumper to show us that we did NOT have any!  The marks where the stickers had been were clearly visible!!!!  They peeled them off and stole them while we were inside.  We told them that we weren’t buying new ones from them after they stole ours.  A young kid came across and told us he would run across to the market and buy us some so we let him.  I’m sure we still got ripped off but they did only cost us 1500 Kwacha ($3.33).  We were annoyed but we still have to smile about it after!!!
The other border crossings were uneventful, but always SLOW! 
Our first stop when we reached Harare was to see Merci!   It was really great to see her even if only for a few minutes.  We did go back on Monday night and spend time and have supper together.  She is doing so great!  She is also in the “Saint to Saint” program where she has borrowed some money to improve her business (restaurant/gift shop).  She has paid back the first part and now has received more.  She is doing well and they are really wanting her to succeed so they can use her an an ‘example’ of how it should work. 
We stayed with another couple that we served with there – The Mayfields.  It was fun to see them again.  On Saturday we went to Masvingo – it was their Branch conference.  We had couples – past, present and future there.  We are the past, Beans have been going there since we left, and now the Eyres, a new couple, will go to that Branch.  Mayfields were also at the conference since he is a counsellor in the mission presidency.  It was really great – they didn’t know we were going to be there and the people were very surprised to see us.  We loved seeing them – lots of hugs etc.   We stayed overnight at one of our favourite places, ‘ The Inn on Great Zimbabwe’, along with the other couples.  We had a nice time together.  We attended church Sunday and then headed back to Harare.  It really felt like we had never left. 
Tuesday morning we left about 7 a.m. to head to “Mana Pools” for our couple’s conference.  It is right at the top of Zimbabwe by the Zambezi River.  The couple coming from Zambia (the Taggarts) were having some vehicle clearance problems so they got there a day late.   The plan was for us to all carpool in the mission van but then realized that they required 4 wheel drives to get into the camp.  We don’t have 4 wheel drives but took 4 trucks and drove about 4 hours on pavement and then about 5 hours on dust roads.  It was pretty slow going and we hoped we were on the right road.  We were driving through a wilderness game park and saw lots of animals.  One elephant trumpeted at us and started to charge  but we kept driving and he turned away.   The people from the camp met us at the airstrip (could hardly tell it was an airstrip!) and we followed them into camp.  We were first in line and we followed the guide through the sandy riverbed (like driving in snow) but the other 3 vehicles got stuck.  Elder Bullock went back with the guides and they managed to push and pull them out.    Jim drove one of the other trucks out after it got stuck a second time.   We finally made it to camp and were assigned our tents.  They were really nice luxury tents!  We were told that after dark an armed guard would walk us to our tent and we were not to leave it until morning.  The tents had screens open to a view of the Zambezi River.  No one was allowed on that side of the tents as there really was not much privacy – even for the toilet and shower.  There was also an outdoor shower but we were advised to not use it at night as someone had been killed by a lion at one time.  We did not use ours as we felt a little exposed using it in the daylight.  The inside shower exposed us more than we liked – with no curtain.  It was really quite neat though!!!  
I went into the public bathroom near the eating area and YIKES! – a person was to sit on the toilet and look out at the river through a huge opening – seemed like no privacy at all but then no one was allowed on that side of the buildings so.....  J.
The service at this place was absolutely fabulous.  We all went on a game drive first thing Wed. morning and saw lots of animals, came back for lunch and then had siesta time for about 3 hours!  After that we had ‘afternoon tea’ and then went on a boat ride and saw lots of hippos, birds, crocodiles and elephants.  We then returned to camp and went on an evening game drive.  The driver had a red light that he shone into the grass/trees and the animal’s eyes would show up and we could watch them.  There really weren’t a lot out that night though so it wasn’t too exciting.  At one point he pointed the light at the water and there were a lot of eyes – he said that they were crocodiles!  We returned to camp and had a late dinner and then were escorted to our tents.  We hadn’t been in our tent long when we heard a noise outside and there was a huge hippo eating grass right in front of our tent.  The hippos come up out of the river at night and wander around the camp.  Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals – they kill more people than crocodiles. 
We got up the next morning and had to leave by 7 a.m. to go to Kariba.  The camp people said that they would guide us out on a shorter route than we had come in on.   First they took some air out of our tires to make the tires a little wider and had us put on the ‘differential’ in our vehicles.  By now we had 6 vehicles in our party and we followed behind the camp ‘land rover’.  We drove a LONG way down the river bed and did pretty good until close to the end of it.  Some vehicles got stuck but we were told not to get out because there was a LION in the area.   We all got on our way again and further down the road we all stopped to wait and make sure we were all together.  We were out of our vehicles and some women needed to find a bathroom spot behind a bush.  We saw some tracks and ask what they were and he said that it was a leopard track.  He suggested we move on before we relieved ourselves but then said it should be fine.  As some women were in the bush another Land Rover showed up (Park rangers) with about 6 men on it and said to get in out vehicles and get out of the area because they had leopard bait close by!   Needless to say we didn’t waste any time!  Poor Sister Dube was the most scared – I don’t think she slept the whole time she was there.    We carried on and finally came to a junction and the camp guides said we should be fine from that point.  They put air back in all the tires and they left us on our own.   We don’t think they realized that the road was not any better.   It was slow going – down steep slopes and through creek beds and back up again.  There was still a lot of sandy areas and several times some of the vehicles got stuck and the men all had to push.   We are so lucky (blessed) that we got through the area all in one piece.   We told President Dube that he was our leader and if a lion or leopard came he had to be the last one in the vehicle!    The shortcut turned out to take just as much time as it would have taken to go the other way because of all the trouble we had getting through.    BUT – what an adventure!!  We found out later that the area has the highest population of Lions etc. in the wild!!   We are lucky we didn’t see one!  We also found out later that the travel agency did not inform us that we could have gotten into the area by boat (1 hr. ride) and saved us all the time fighting the roads.  It took us about 5 hrs. to get out to the tar road.
It was President Dube’s idea to go to this camp but he had never been there before and did not realize.   Sister Dube says she will never go there again.  I think it was perhaps a little more dangerous than anyone realized. 
We then drove to Kariba Lake (another 2 hrs. or so) and we were booked on a boat to take us 40 Km. to an Island where we spent one night.  We all wished we had just stayed one more night at the first place because it was so nice there and we would have been able to relax more.  (Even if we were in the midst of wild animals J).    The Island resort looked nice at a distance but there was an abundance of little ants and the places were not really very good.  We all felt a little ‘crawly’ and were glad to leave the next morning.   We then drove a few kilometres to  see Kariba Dam and then we found a place and had our lunch and headed back to Harare (4 hrs.).    It was good to get back.   In the midst of all this we did have a couple of meetings together and talked about helping get members prepared for the temple etc.  and Elder Taggart gave an excellent talk about marriage and relationships between couples.
We got back to Harare and we managed to spend some time with Dzikamai, another of our special people that we baptized on our last mission.  We saw others as well on Saturday as they were having a Ward conference at Highlands.  Sunday we drove to Kadoma Branch and totally surprised them.  We baptized the Murenje family there about 10 months ago and were able to spend some time with them.  He also took us out to the school where we had put in a grinding mill  (Latter Day Saint Charities) and showed us how they have spent the proceeds from the mill.  We were very pleased with what we saw.  When we first went to that school they had absolutely no desks, tables, chairs – nothing.  Now they have 30 desks (2 students to a desk), tables and chairs for the teacher in each classroom, and a desk and cabinets in the head master’s office.   It was so good to see that they are being self sufficient and operating the way the project was intended. 
We spent the evening with Elder & Sister Bowen and had a good visit and we got up early Monday to drive back to Malawi.  Our trip back went well.   At one border, as we were about to drive through the gate, we were stopped and the guy said, “you are wanted by the police”!  YIKES!!  However, we had just missed stopping at their desk that was under a canopy to show them our vehicle clearance papers.  It is a little startling though the way they word things here sometimes.  
We are back to work today and feel rather tired.  We are having a bit of trouble with the computer/printer.  If only we were computer whizzes our life would be easier!!!  It is so frustrating!  We need our kids here to take care of computer issues!!!!
We are off to Immigration in the morning to apply for 5 TEP’s.  We have 6 new missionaries that came to Malawi with the last transfer while we were gone so we will have to start worrying about their visas/TEP’s next.  It never ends.
Must get myself off to bed.  Love to all,  Elder  & Sister Bullock

1 comment:

Michele said...

What a great adventure! My parents used to let us swim in the Zambezi river when we were little. Did they love us or what? Lots of crocodiles that's for sure.