Arrived today on a prop plane; the total flight time was only about an hour from Johannesburg and went very smoothly. Once at the Bulawayo airport, I had to go through customs and have my bags searched. They ended up charging me for the supplies I brought for the lions but I think i came away fairly well, paying only $8. Of course, that's probably because I placed the value of all the supplies at a measly $15 to avoid being gouged and giving away half the money for my trip. I overpaid and instead of being refunded the money, the customs official just said, "thanks for the tip" and pocketed it with a smile. I acted as thought I intended the tip (and it wasn't much anyway) so I was successfully through customs and now needed to make my way to the lodge where I'd be spending the night. I was picked up at the airport by Rodney, who had a lodge in Bulawayo where I'd be staying the night. Beautiful huge house with a pool, rooms with private baths, etc. He estimates the house was built around 1901; really gorgeous place. Rodney's cook Gracie cooked us a delicious dinner of beef stew with rice and a salad, which was absolutely delicious. I was so tired and jet lagged that I wasn't that hungry surprisingly.
This morning we got up early in order to catch the bus to the park, but not before Gracie prepared a wonderful breakfast of friend eggs over toast; all of which I scarfed down. A couple cups of coffee and I was good to go. We had a bus to Gweru to catch that left at 7 am and it was about a 1 1/2 hour drive. It was a very rural run-down bus and I was surprised to see that they have a DVD player and were set up to play movies. They played one of those Mr. Bean movies, which normally would be quite lame, except for the subtitles which were absolutely hilarious! There were several times throughout the movie in the subtitles where apparently whoever was doing the subtitles just decided they were tired and typed "etc. etc."
After about four roadside police stops (typical for Zimbabwe), we finally arrived at the reserve around 9:30 this morning. Finally - at the reserve! The first animals I saw inside the reserve were zebras, then some impalas. By the time we had a tour around and put our bags in our rooms, it was time for lunch. Served in a huge pavilion on the lake, the setting is absolutely gorgeous. And the food is delicious; everyone says that you actually gain weight here instead of lose it.
Clare (a Brit who was also a volunteer last year) and then were invited to bottle feed the new (3 week old!) cubs! And let me tell you, after spending about two hours with those little guys (and one girl) I was absolutely smitten. I've already taken lots of photos and hoped to include some in this blog entry, but the computer resources are a big slow and the USB drive doesn't seem to be working so I'll have to try again tomorrow.
Later today, Clare and I met the 3T's as they're known. They're Tsavo, Thulani and Meggie (whose name used to start with a T but was later changed; long story). I think I actually got some great shots! Honestly, it's hard not to get fantastic shots with these gorgeous lions. Tsavo walked out of his enclosure making this low groaning kind of sound in this throat (a happy sound) and rubbed the entire length of his massive body against me, pushing up against me in greeting. He quickly became my favorite. He's the largest of the three and has his own very distinct personality that I love. He likes to roam off (and usually lags behind) and I find that very endearing. He's a rebellious lion who's constantly getting reprimanded by the lion handlers but I think he sees it as a game. Once I can post some photos of Tasavo, you'll see what I mean about how absolutely beautiful this big cat is.
That's it for now. I just had a hot shower and am off to bed. Early start tomorrow; up at 5:30.