No hugs from Sweden

After 8 overcast days we were treated to a few hours of sunshine!

It is already a week and some days since we arrived in Gotland, Sweden. After a journey without hiccups (wasted so much energy being nervous!) we came to a rainy, chilly, and wet island. And dark. By 3pm. As expected, everything is affected by the covid pandemic, we knew there’d be restrictions, but these restrictions kept getting harder. We didn’t travel here to go to malls and day trips to indoor entertainment areas, we came to see family. But even that has changed. People didn’t pop over for coffee once they knew we’d arrived. They waited until we had shown no symptoms. We won’t have extended family over at Christmas. We don’t take the kids to the shops. And people don’t hug. Swedes hug, swedes are huggers rather than cheek kissers. And when you meat an old friend or relative you greet with a big warm hug. So when you meet and keep at a safe distance it feels like you didn’t actually meet, and I’ve come to realise that the hugs serve as an ice breaker as well. With no hug you just kind of stand and look at each other and the whole scenario just becomes stiff. We met a few family friends the other day when we went to look at a Lucia (who’s Lucia?) procession on horse back in town (a village really). Instead of hugging and asking each other about regular stuff in life we just kind of greeted and well, looked at each other. I never knew that such a brief embrace made all the difference. Sweden is much worse affected by covid compared to Zambia and it has really been an eye opener to see how things have had to change here. Once the vaccine is administered en masse I hope Swedes will go straight back to hugging! It’s just not the same without!

We have made the most of the drab weather and few entertainment options by taking the kids to the sea for little outings or just short walks in the area. Here are a few photos!

Covid holiday

We are travelling to Sweden in December! Normally this would only bring excitement but 2020 isn’t normal, so here we are, watching the news, seeing covid numbers rise, and restrictions tighten. We are in for a very different holiday, but what covid can’t cancel is quality time with the family and after all that is why we are travelling. With two new babies in the family, we don’t mind that we can’t even have a meal at a restaurant together (max 8 people per group). With all the cousins to hang out with, who needs to go anywhere anyway?

For a long time I haven’t felt the need to follow the covid situation too closely outside Zambia, but now my ear is close to the ground for any update on further restrictions and regulations. So instead of excitement it’s a rather nerve wrecking countdown to our flight! It’s a strange feeling to be worried about catching a disease going to Europe, it has always been the other way around, people worried about all kinds of illnesses, whether founded or unfounded, people have been scared to travel to Africa. The tables have turned in the strangest of ways. And as much as I look forward to having a Christmas in Sweden and for the children to see snow for their first time, I am worried about the whole situation.

I will end this post with a few photos from the last couple of month:

Staycation

Besides “lockdown” and “social distancing” one word we will strongly associate with the year 2020 is: “staycation”. I think many have discovered places that were around the corner all along. One such place for us is Mulungushi boat club, though we’ve known this place long before it was a thing not to travel far. It’s a place we used to visit frequently before life got hectic. We used to spend the days on the water, fishing on the good spots, unfortunately the water levels have been far below normal for the last few years and the fish has been netted heavily. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a relaxing weekend here. I started our first day with a run, as I’m used to flat ground the change of scenery also serves up a good challenge a long the dam. The boys climbed down the dam wall, a workout in itself, to fish. As it was my daughters birthday we made time for cake, and managed to visit a friend (though that was a long drive…!). Day two we all hiked down the dam wall and the fishing was a lot more successful than the previous day. I love the rocky terrain in this area, you can if you’re lucky spot baboons in the rocky hills as well as the rather shy rock dassy.

The road has recently been graded, and it now takes about an hour from the great north road to the club. Many club members have built beautiful chalets that are available to rent, you can also pitch a tent as there are ablution blocks. This year’s Mountain bike challenge was cancelled thanks to good old Corona, but that is otherwise a great event for the adventurous that takes place every August. If you’re on a budget or looking for a simple effortless getaway then put Mulungushi boat club on your list.

Kafue getaway

Last weekend we managed to get ourselves out on a three nights stay in the Kafue National Park, Zambia’s largest reserve and one of the largest in Africa. We had booked in at Mayukuyuku Camp site which sits right on the Kafue river about 8 km off the main road. The camp site is very basic and in need of a little TLC. You pay 20$ pppn (plus park fees) to have access to a flushing toilet and hot water in a grass walled ablution block. The site however is very beautifully situated on a rocky bend in the river. Once the tent was up the boys were quick to set their rods to have a go with fishing, we walked just a stone throw from the tent where my youngest spotted a crock a few metres away, sun basking on a rock. And at the spot the boys wanted to fish we found foot prints of lion! We sure were reminded that we are not on top of the food chain.

Day two we crossed over the river in to the main body of the park, we spent over three hours spotting the odd bush pig and warthog, water buck and too many impalas to count and elephants either in the distance or in the thicket. As we were starting to feel hungry and a little bored we made a few random turns and ended up facing a massive herd of buffaloes, possibly a thousand all waiting to get to the water (Shishamba river). Wedged between the buffalo and the water hole was a pride of lions lying in the shade, their mouths watering. This was such a treat to watch. We parked sort of between the buffaloes and the lions for almost an hour, the lions first kept in the shade but soon the two young male lions came out to stretch and warm up in the sun.

Much time was spent fishing from the side of the river (while watching out for crocs and hippos) and by the camp fire. On our last evening we had a close encounter with a mother hippo and her calf. The campsite next to us was now empty and so she saw the gap for her to pass. We heard a big splashing sound and as we shone the torch we saw that she had come up onto the bank below our tent. She proceeded to walk up towards our fire, calf in tow, through the narrow passage, max 5 m from our tent, the children quickly climbed the back of the car and when she gave a warning “snort” my husband and Albin also bolted. I was left under the grass thatch kitchen giving myself a couple of minutes to decide to either run och carry on cooking my flat bread on the gas cooker, I decided for the former and so we spent some time on the back of the car! After she had passed we came down to our fire again, except the two youngest, Emil and Nils, they had their supper on the back of the car!

On the day of packing and leaving we decided to visit some family that have a private camp site near the main road, they had come out just to pack up after having spent almost the whole term there homeschooling by the river. We were just popping by but ended up staying for brunch and the kids had so much fun fishing from the deck, Albin, my oldest, pulled out a big barbel (that he released again). And as elephants were spotted in the distance we were treated to a boat ride to get up close. We saw at least three or four groups of elephants and numerous pods of hippos, both on land and in water all in under an hour. Such a bonus and a great ending to a lovely getaway.