Monday, November 11, 2013

Norman Carr guide Innocent's Great British Columbia Adventure

As Northwestern-ers from Seattle, we loved this story about Innocent, a bush guide from South Luangwa Zambia and his travels to the evergreen mountains of British Columbia, Canada!
Every other year Norman Carr Safaris and Knight Inlet Lodge in British Columbia swap guides for a few weeks. Earlier this year we welcomed star guide Moira le Patourel and her partner Eamon for a Luangwa adventure. A few weeks ago, Innocent Tembo – Guide Manager at Nsolo Camp, migrated to Canada for a taste of a British Columbia spring.
Innocent told me some tales of his adventure - thanks to Moira for some of the accompanying pictures…….. 
“You hear stories from others about travelling to British Columbia – but when you are really going – it is so exciting! The most important thing for me was to learn how people live in different countries and I was very much impressed to learn how much it takes to come to Zambia – it is such a long way. Our guests come from far and I now realize how exciting it is, even something simple like hearing a ground hornbill which we hear so often here – other countries just don’t have that noise! Even our very common impalas are exciting for our guests – the smell, the feel, the sights – all these things are so different.” 
The plane journey was an eye-opener. Innocent travelled with 60 Scotsmen in kilts and sat next to one of them – they talked all through the journey about our guide exchange and Inno learned all about Scottish traditional dress – even the slightly alarming bit about no underpants!  This kind (and thankfully, underpanted) Scotsman showed Inno how to work the TV screen, the tray table and all the various tips to enjoy the long flight. His 4 hours at Amsterdam waiting for the onward flight to Canada was just as full of new experiences as a first time safari go-er!
Flying over the Atlantic and too wired to sleep or concentrate on the movies – Innocent stifled feelings of anxiety and read his ancient copy of Return to the Wild – Norman’s book about raising the two male lion cubs in the Luangwa Valley. 
After a short flight from Vancouver, arriving to huge hugs and the warmest welcome in Campbell River – he was given the choice of sleep or visits to the harbour, an aquarium and a fish restaurant – Inno of course chose the visits – “I’ll sleep when I die!” 
Seeing the fish in the aquarium was extraordinary, he said “I’d seen these creatures on National Geographic – but now here I was seeing and touching them in real life...... I wish I had eaten in the fish restaurant BEFORE I’d seen them in the aquarium – I felt so bad about eating them after having met them!” 
The sea plane flight to Knight Inlet started with a briefing on what to expect – “Just like my briefings before my Nsolo Safaris – to brief guests and let them know what to expect is so important”. 
The pilot and other guests generously insisted that Inno sat in the right hand seat up-front; the sight of snow capped mountains, immense lakes and forests and landing on the water were awe-inspiring. The pilot – whom Inno was happy to see was “old and experienced, the same age as Adrian’ was also very informative and talked him through all these wonderful new sights. 
They were met by Bella – a habituated but wild grizzly bear who seems to feel comfortable around the lodge with her two cubs "she made me think of Alice the leopardess with her cubs at home in the Luangwa Valley”. 
After a warm welcome and settling in to his ‘fantastic room’ – Inno met all his fellow guests for a meal – “everyone wanted to know what it was like to be an African so far from home - they were all so friendly and fascinated by my life – I felt like a big celebrity!” 
Innocent experienced life not only on the other side of the world but also from the other side of the guide/guest perspective. He was taken on boating tours into the Pacific Ocean seeing humpback and killer whales breaching, sea lions, dolphins - and so many birds. 
On land he had great bear sightings, saw white tailed deer, learnt about the local fish and wildlife conservation projects, went kayaking in the inlet and hiking in the mountains. Humming birds were an unexpected delight "they were attracted by my bright jacket!” 
He was immensely impressed with the Knight Inlet staff – it’s a young team – but they are all extremely well qualified – there are PhD’s amongst them and it’s a team of mostly young women – it was surprising for Inno that there was only one male guide in what’s considered hereabouts as a very male dominated profession – I am sure our very own Miss Patience Zulu – trainee NCS Guide will have something to say about that! 
Each night the Knight Inlet team do a presentation – and one evening Innocent Tembo presented on Norman Carr and Chongwe Safaris and the Luangwa and Zambezi Vallys. “I was so nervous – I am used to talking to people with my guiding of course  - but presenting to over 80 people is a different story. In fact I really enjoyed it and I was even asked to do a second show for other guests later in the week!" 
After a too short 8 nights experiencing the wonders of Knight Inlet, Innocent waved goodbye to his new friends – or so he thought – in fact – the whole staff surprised him with a huge farewell barbecue back at Knight Inlet base on his last night and everyone went to the airport to wave him off! “I was so sad to leave – to see all the faces I was leaving behind brought some tears.”
 The trip back was a long one – with a fresh perspective on the world Inno noted;
“I realized that the world seemed to grow and expand as I left Mfuwe – I left my home in a small car, flew in a small plane to Lusaka, then a bigger plane to Nairobi – bigger still to Amsterdam on to a huge Boeing 777 with 425 passengers to Vancouver! On my way home I noticed this even more and knew I was back in Africa when a tractor was pulling the plane along in Nairobi! Back in Lusaka it was sunny and hot and I got back on to the tiny plane to Mfuwe  - now I knew how our guests feel after travelling for days and feeling excited but also nervous and very very tired! My tiredness disappeared as we landed at Mfuwe and as I got off the plane – all my family were at the airport and my kids could not contain their excitement and ran to meet me – even the security guard could not stop them!" 
The highlight for Innocent? “I went to learn and experience what guiding was like in another special wildlife area – to see the bears, the whales – to differentiate the wildlife, the environment, the eco-system and the variations between here and there. There are so many comparisons – the whales are the elephants of the sea, bears the lions of the forest but every moment exceeded my expectations. I want to see all the places in the world – but if I only had one place to go to – I’d go back to my Canadian home and family at  Knight Inlet any time” 
Thank you again Knight Inlet – and thank you Innocent for being such a great ambassador for Norman Carr Safaris, Chongwe Safaris and Zambia. The exchange project looks set to continue for years to come.

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