This is a park in the extreme South East corner of Zimbabwe. One day to become one with the Kruger and Transfrontier Limpopo Park.
Lovely night at Chilo Gorge lodge. Stunning views. Slightly, actually very, unnerved by her warning to watch out for snakes as the cobra were very active at the moment and we would likely see them.
They were full the next night so the offered us their off-site , private camping site deep in the bush. She said it was a wonderful offer and that they would be taking guests the next night. We weren’t a 100% what it was but didn’t want to miss an opportunity and we didn’t have anywhere else to sleep the next night. Sounded good and we thanked them. Slightly irritated by the lady doing the dealing as she was very officious and important.
The instructions were – cross the sand in the tracks or you will get stuck, turn left and the just stay on the track. No co-ordinates, cannot be found on Tracks for Africa. We set of thinking it must be highly obvious as to where to go. After a few wrong turns we saw some clear tracks across the sandy dry river bed, they seemed to be leading to a mast and so we proceeded. Even I could tell the car was not cruising. It was a long way and the car was struggling despite being in low ratio and second gear. The sand was a deep as we have ever encountered. Got to other end and we were patently in the wrong place with NO idea of where to go. Heard some hammering so followed the noise and found a lovely bushman man. He was demolishing some huts on that side. He hopped into our car and directed us back all the way along the riverbed again, car groaning. This time we stopped to let air out etc. This lovely man then took us back into the bush an we popped out a little further downstream. Once again another grind in the riverbed aiming to be between the sticks when we had water to cross. We landed on the opposite bank on a track.
He told us to get directions from Isaac the park man a short way down the track. A hefty tip later he hopped out and walked back and we proceeded. Surely from now it must be simple? Not to be. Isaac said it was too hard to show and we must follow the tracks of the Chilo landcriuser that went through this morning. We landed up having to track the way using previous land cruiser tracks for several hours through thick bush, elephants shaking their head at us (a definite warning sign and I think a judgement on our studpidity) at a speed of a maximum of 12km/h, palm trees everywhere and still absolutely no idea where we were headed. I had to sit rIght up in my seat to make sure I was still on the track and Willy had to keep an Ellie watch. All to get about 12 km away from where we had started.
By the time we found the place I had had way too much adventure. It’s a lovely campsite on the dry river bed with herds of wildebeest, zebra, trumpeting elephant around. Apparently night time brings leopard, lion and hyena again. We are here on our own as they bring guests tomorrow. Not absolutely certain why we landed up paying some many USD for this as it is just a patch of grass and this park is so underdeveloped you can essentially stop wherever you choose. However. There was a camp attendant getting some “permanent” tents ready for the guests the next night and he did offer to make a fire for us.
Each place we get to is slightly wilder than the rest.
For now, I am sitting at the edge of the dry river bed watching the wildebeest come across, the sand grouse fetch water in their feathers for their young, the Zebra graze peacefully. It is hot but it’s a warm gentle wind rather than the searing still heat of Mana.
I would love to think that, like our children, our grandchildren will learn the magic of this continent. “With all its problems, injustices, threats facing it (see cartoon) it is still a beautiful place” to paraphrase the Desiderata.
Certainly, one of loveliest being Zimbabwe. This is a country of such proud, kind, well- mannered people. For the first time, I see what my father loved so dearly about the place. There have been many occasions on this trip when I have felt him with us in an almost physical way. I have no doubt that if they can get their government right it will be the best country in Africa. I have enormous respect for all those that settled here for whatever reason as well as respect for these nations indigenous people who have withstood unbelievable tribulations and remain optimistic and honourable.
Tomorrow an 8-hour drive through this park. Roads are absolutely nominal and a 4×4 compulsory. We camp down south of the park and then cross the sandy bed of the Limpopo (more deep sand) the next day to enter into the north of the Kruger National Park. Relative civilisation