Norma Jean’s campsite had been lovely, beautiful spot and welcoming people. We headed north to Harare and were pleasantly surprised again how little we were harassed by the police. It seems that there has been a slight change of heart and they are more welcoming now! We had lunch at Chicken inn, a version of KFC that was delicious!!! The chips were another story but the chicken made up for it. As always the trip took longer than anticipated so we arrived late afternoon at Lake Chivero ( Mcllwaine) at the Kuimba Shiri campsite about 30 mins from Harare. It means singing birds and there is a bird garden there. The owner Gary Clifford does flying displays every afternoon at 3.30 with raptors who have been rehabilitated which we missed. However we got to see the birds. It incorporates the old Admirals cabin- a favorite childhood haunt for me and a first for Al. Tea at Admiral’s Cabin over weekends accompanied by game drives in the nearby game reserve were part of many weekends out for my family. It’s where I developed a deep love of the African bush. We spent many hours in picnic spots whilst my father brought out his water colours to paint the scene as we played.
One of the highlights of our stay at Kuimba Shiri was the hauntingly beautiful cry of the fish eagles that we heard particularly at dusk and the next morning. They are really magnificent birds and we got to see them close up in the bird garden.
We took our time leaving there the next morning so never made it to Chinhoyi Caves as we headed up North to Kariba. I’ve learned something each day and on this day we travelled on the “Robert Mugabe Highway” to Murombedzi just south of Chinhoyi as this is his home town- I never knew that. There are not many road signs in Zimbabwe so it’s not difficult to go the wrong way, however the locals are used to this. Whenever we hesitated someone on the road side would simply point us on the right direction. In fact in the one town they indicated we should do a u-turn without us even asking for help. Who needs maps with assistance like that!
After the turnoff to Kariba we were in a game corridor with no fences just reminders to be careful when you get out the car. The drive itself is one of great beauty, with the Masasa trees in all their color dotted around and gomos that just went on and on as we traversed the Zambezi Escarpment. Difficult to photograph but we tried! At our campsite, Lomagundi – we had hippos sauntering through the campsite at night, and elephant at the front gate in the morning as they were meandering looking for food. Lomagundi is basically a “boat club” so we used the ablutions at the poolside. I happily had a bath!! Scenes like this bring back echoes of my childhood. We went off to see the Dam Wall, got to walk on it and almost into Zambia. There’s evidence of upgrading as the Chinese are working on generators to increase electricity supply capacity. Many of the road signs were in Chinese. Lake Kariba is magnificent, again difficult to photograph as it is so big. When I was a child people always used to come to Kariba to stay at Caribbea Bay- well we had lunch there. Al had Kariba Sprats for lunch…. Small tiny fish that look like sardines. I gave that a miss.
We went on a sunset cruise on a small catamaran from one of the local hotels and spent two hours enjoying the beauty of the lake and chatting to Justin the captain about life here. Really lovely man. Dinner that night was had a Lomagundi’s pub where right in front of us a hippo calmly got out the water and walked past us- closer than usual as the locals at the bar were also surprised!
Next day Saturday we packed up and headed to Mana Pools- one of those iconic places of Zimbabwe famous for its amazing game and how close you get to it. 32km of badly corrugated road followed by 45km of less corrugated but ‘interesting’ road left Al quite tired. On arrival we discovered a small petrol leak from the main tank of the Sani. Our campsite looks over the Zambezi with Zambia on the other side. The river is full of hippos and crocs and we have been listening to their calls and noises ever since we got here. Last night they were strolling around the campsite in easy view. The lions were also busy roaring just behind us and this morning we found footprints in the sand! In between we heard the sound of unhappy Egyptian Geese. On taking a walk this morning we watched an elephant eating along a nearby river bank, as in Mana there are no game fences and you are free to walk around. On return to our camp site we found we had been over-run by monkeys who had found dustbin bag and collapsed our porch. We had to use the Caties! Hee hee we’re walking on the wild side!!!! We have 4 days here which we will make the most of. Our first road side repair was carried out this morning. Time will tell if the ‘Prattleys patch’ will work!
Now to just enjoy Mana Pools for the next few days
Crossing into Zimbabwe at Beit Bridge is not for the faint hearted so it was with some trepidation that we approached the border on what was a public holiday in Zimbabwe, Africa day. What a delight awaited us! It was one of those really quiet days and hardly anyone was there. We found the border officials pleasant and friendly and we were through in 90 minutes.
Once across we found a kiosk selling sim cards, the people running it were very helpful and happy to sort us out. Whilst the phone works we have still been unable to link with data. Travelling from there to Masvingo which borders on Lake Mutirikwi (Kyle) was again pleasant with no hassles at the police stops, we thought perhaps it had something to do with the public holiday. We stopped for tea/coffee and plate of chips at the iconic “Lion and Elephant” hotel at Bubye River and were transported back to a by-gone era.
Shortly after Bubye we started to see the granite gomos” along the road mixed with Masasa trees and the odd bougainvillea. (Gomo is Shona for mountain). There is a vividness about the bougainvillea flowers and such beauty in the Masasa trees whose leaves are anything ranging from green, yellow, orange to a burnt red that is so synonymous with Zimbabwean bush. Last night we braaied using masasa wood which has a distinctive smell. All these are lovely reminders of our childhood spent here.
We have stayed for the last few days at a place called Norma Jean’s which has a beautiful view of Lake Mutirikwi and is a great place with wonderful ablutions and gardens. On arrival here we were told that the dam wall is only 6kms away and the best place to see the sunset, so after setting up camp we went to see it! The setting of the wall is quite magnificent, as it is between granite outcrops, and the compensation flow pipe causes spray that is felt on the wall. Quite fun! We have been the only people here and the evenings have been silent apart from the hollow sound of the cow bells nearby.
Today we spent the morning at Great Zimbabwe where we had a wonderful guide Alois who took us around for about 21/2 hours explaining the culture and history of the place. He was an interesting young man so we chatted about all sorts of other things as well. It helped when he discovered that Alan was also born in Gweru as he was. Having asked Al when he was born he said “My father is only 12 years older than you as he was born in 1947!” It was interesting to hear the history from a Zimbabwean, altogether a great experience.
Yesterday was D day – Al was up early with last minute adjustments to the tie downs on the roof. We finished off the last of the packing and sat down with Daniel our younger son for breakfast together. Then around 10.30am we left! I surprised myself by being quite emotional as we said our goodbyes and cried until the other side of Pretoria. I don’t like goodbyes.
The trip was uneventful unless you count Al knocking his coffee over me at our first pit stop! Sights along the way.
Tolls tolls everywhere!! They had multiplied since we were last here. The last one was rather fun- known as Baobab Plaza, shortly afterwards we knew we were in Baobab country
We headed to Tshipise a place with hot springs just outside Musina. We had already decided to stay here two nights to give us a chance to catch our breath before crossing the border on Monday. Beit Bridge border crossings are legendary and we’ve done our fair share already, so time in the hot pools at Tshipise chilling can only be a good thing! We had no booking so we just rocked up at reception and took potluck! Potluck is a very nice little two sleeper chalet.
We were wondering where all the people were as the campsite looked full from the road. We ambled down to the pool, and as we got closer heard quite a din…. to discover the pool was full of white haired people chatting in groups in the pool. All floating on pool noodles – Al and I felt quite young! The weekenders had obviously left and it was safe to come out!!!!
Al and I were reminiscing about the last time we were at Tshipise- about 30 years ago when we dropped a certain younger brother off at the border to hitchhike home on a Sunday in order to get to work first thing on Monday. He had left it to the last minute. We left Joburg at 2 am in the morning, dropped him at the border and revived ourselves in the hot pools for an hour then set off home. Day visitors are no longer allowed….
Alan and I are seasoned campers, have had a vehicle kitted out for overland trips for years so how hard could it be to get ready for a 3/4 month overland trip…… Well there are a myriad of little things that turn out to be great time consumers. Small things like inoculations, chronic medication, anti malaria treatment, first aid kit, medical insurance, added car insurance, temporary import permits for the car, police clearance to prove that we haven’t stolen the car that we’ve owned for 15 years and the list goes on. I think it all goes towards getting you ready for life in Africa, where no one except you seems to be in a hurry. Having said that we have already encountered kindness, laughter (police clearance queue) encouragement and helpfulness from unexpected places. God is good!
This reminds me of a trip we did in 2010 to Namibia through Caprivi, Victoria Falls and through Zimbabwe then home. At a road block in Zimbabwe, having traveled over six thousand kilometers a Zimbawean policemen asked us “What is the meaning of driving a car in such an unsanitary condition?” to which our traveling partner replied : “Well first there was the tar road, then the salt road, then the dirt road, then the shale road, the chalk road…” At which point we were waved on……
So here’s to being waved on!
Here’s a snapshot of this past week’s planned and unplanned activities. Hoping to leave on the 20th May was not to be as first there was the prop shaft , then the Sani’s suspension which revealed the perished petrol pipes which has to be replaced. Then the mechanics of the shower were not quite right and the shower bladder burst. Just as we thought we were in the clear the fridge stopped working so we have given up planning and will leave when we leave!