Monday, March 28, 2011

Chimps, Part I

Five young women set of just after lunch on Friday for a weekend excursion. The weekend plans included an over night stay in the quaint mining town of Ndola with an early morning departure to Chimfunshi Chimp Reserve. An hotel was secured in Ndola before setting off for a wonderful meal at Michelangelo's of cheesy pizza and cold beer.

Tors, Annie, Fran and Katie at the old hotel in Ndola
  The sound of sloshing water woke us up the next morning. It was hard to distinguish if the noise was coming from. First it sounded like my roommate for the night was sloshing around in the bathtub, then it sounded like someone sloshing around in the room next door or maybe from the communal showers.  When I got my bags all packed there was water flowing in from under the door.  When I opened the door there was a man frantically pushing water around with a squeegee or a broom or something.  It is still unclear if the bathrooms flooded or if he was flooding the hall way to wash the floor.

Seven am was the push off time to get on the road and to the reserve in time to see the chimps feeding. A stop in Chingloa at the Shoprite rendered enough meat for a braai later that evening and enough water for a break down in the Sahara Desert. Getting out of Chingola proved to be a bit difficult due to the lack of road signs, but confirmation of the roads from a taxi driver set things straight. Set things straight until ending up at a check point just before a border crossing requiring back tracking almost to Chingloa until the turn to the Solwezi road was discovered, somehow it was missed coming from the other direction. 

Road to the Congo
 By this time the Chimp feeding was over and a melancholy feeling took over. The correct turn was finally stumbled across, a  dirt road 15km into the bush with a river crossing and slippery mud.
Accommodations at Chimfunshi Chimp Reserve
 Arrival at the chimp reserve was just around lunch time were a pack of dogs and a distracted msungu lady met the party. Fees were paid, the car was unpacked, lunch was had and back into the car the girls jumped. Turns out that the chimps are fed twice and then released into a vast expanse of bush until the same time the next day when they get their bottle of milk and fruits. 

Ba Augustus feeding a bottle of milk to a chimp
After the chimps had their fill of milk they were released into the 500 acre enclosure to roam around and nest for the night.

It was amazing to just sit and watch them eating fruits and playing in the trees until they disappeared one by one into the bush.

Ba Augustus, the foreman of the enclosure where majority of time was spent told us the story of one chimp who had been rescued from a the abuses of a circus in Cameroon.  Milla was in custody of a circus who gave her beer and cigarettes in exchange for tricks.  One story I heard was that she used to draw water in for people in exchange for beer.  Jane Goodall her about the mistreating of this clever chimp and had her confiscated and brought to her sanctuary in Tanzania.  Milla didn't fit in with the chimps a Jane Goodall's place so she sent her to the small sanctuary in Zambia.  Milla has been at the sanctuary for maybe 15 years now (she is 39 now and I can't remember when she actually came to Zambia).  Augusts gave her a bottle of water with the cap on, she opened it up and started drinking it.  Once it was finished she wanted more so she was given a bucket and was trying to fill the bottle that way. She couldn't quite get the right angle.  Technically speaking we were not supposed to touch her but she is so domesticated that we were allowed to, I greeted her just like a person she pulled me close to her and started grooming me. So amazing!

Milla and Me
 We moved on to the other enclosures where there were more chimps were kept.  Christy was the only chimp that was not behind an enclosure or an electric fence, she never left the area of the enclosure like Milla who would be found pumping water behind a building next to her enclosure if she were let out into the bush area BEHIND the electric fence. 

Christy the chimp eating crisps.
After seeing all the chimps to be seen, most had wandered off into the bush and would not be back until tomorrow.  We started off back to the main area where people stay.  We were warned to drive fast past the enclosures because the chimps liked to throw stones at cars.  We were doing just fine until the vehicle in front slowed down.  A chimp at the corner of the fence seemed agitated by our existence and chucked a stone in our direction, the strongest under hand "toss" I have ever seen, it sent us ducking but the the stone went sailing high over the vehicle.

Our little villa
Back at camp we got settled in, had a lovely cocktail hour and then started our braai.  We spent the rest of the evening chat with another group from a close by mine and 5 young volunteers working at the reserve.  The following day we were scheduled for the chimp walk, so early to bed we went.

The pictures of the chimp walk are a friends camera and I won't get them till later this week so the rest of the story is

To Be Continued...............................

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