A Trip through Zimbabwe with Good Friends and a Trusty Vehicle!
Crossing into Zimbabwe at the Plumtree border post, our first stop was at Big Cave in the Matopos. A rustic, but comfortable campsite for the night, but unfortunately no time to explore the surrounding granite hills or visit Rhodes’ grave.
Time to restock at this very modern, clean and secure shopping mall in Bulawayo. Wherever we went in Zim, locals would recognise our registration plates and come across for a chat.
A short hop to Gweru where we spent the night at Antelope Park. “Here be lions”, but fortunately (or unfortunately) they are confined to cages. Antelope Park is home to ALERT (African Lion and Environmental Research Trust) which is dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of lions back into the wild. It seems to be a popular destination for many Zimbabweans.
Continuing eastward, we headed towards Nyanga National Park in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. The Worlds View lookout tower provides a stunning view over the Nyanga valley on a clear day.
There are many dams like this around Troutbeck all teaming with trout just waiting to be caught. Seems that they had decided to wait a little longer when I arrived and fishing was, to say the least, a little disappointing. However the surroundings were beautiful with lovely walks and fresh, clean air.
It was a chilly morning when we left Troutbeck and we had to scrape the ice off the windscreen before we could see out. It took the heater quite a while to bring the car up to a comfortable temperature.
Heading to Mana Pools National Park, we made a one night stopover with friends of Nic & Adele who had a farm on the outskirts of Harare. Another example of Zimbabwean hospitality as we took over the children’s rooms and were treated to a sumptuous braai by people we had never met before!
In the bush at last – we found ourselves a prime campsite on the banks of the Zambezi and wasted no time in making ourselves comfortable. No wonder Nic has a huge smile on his face – not everybody gets the opportunity to celebrate their birthday in this awesome setting.
After four days of camping we moved into Muchichini Lodge. This palatial dwelling used to be home to the Selous Scouts, but now serves as accomodation for visitors to the park. Although pretty basic, it housed nine of us without any trouble.
Sitting out on the patio, we were treated to a passing parade of local wildlife. A timid bushbuck ram picks it’s way past us whilst a rather wet and soggy lion pauses to guve us a baleful glare after taking to the river rather than disturb our morning coffee.
These two chose to cross the river exactly where I had been fishing the previous day.
During the day we would navigate along the shoreline observing the various points of interest. We were disappointed to discover that Sanyati gorge is now off limits unless you have paid the additional fee, but one is free to observe the many animals that frequent the shores of Matusadona and pay no heed as you sail serenly past.
Towards evening we would find a small bay or inlet in which to shelter for the night. These were the special times when one could sit back and soak up the atmosphere of the lake with all it’s beauty and watch the sun sink slowly below the horizon.
It was also the time to throw a line and try to catch our evening supper. Although most of us were successful to a limited degree, no-one could compete with our skipper, Titus, who could cast into the exact spot where we were catching nothing and pull in a beautiful bream like this.
Even if we caught nothing, Michael the chef had a well stocked deep freeze from which he provided a seemingly limitless supply of tasty meals for the time we were on board.
Unfortunately, all good things must end and soon it was time to head for home. For the first leg of our homebound journey, we embarked upon the MV Sealion belonging to Kariba Ferries who run a service from Kariba to Mlibizi. The trip lasts 22 hours and takes one the full length of the lake saving over 1250 kms of driving.
One is well catered for during the voyage and there is a fully stocked bar. They were very proud of their wine selection, but were ill prepared for a boatload of Capetonians. We polished off their entire collection of red wines including those which had probably been on their display rack for quite some time. Folding chairs provided a comfortable bed for the night or one could opt for a mattress on the deck – blankets were supplied.
Arriving at Mlibizi early in the morning, we disembarked across a rickety ramp and headed for Vic Falls.
Lokuthuli Lodge in Vic Falls provided us with, not only a comfortable bungalow in which to stay, but also a constant stream of visitors who came to graze on our front lawn
The Neighbouring Victoria Fall Safari Lodge provides a series of viewing decks overlooking the waterhole and although one needs a keen pair of eyes to spot anything at this distance, it is an ideal spot for sundowners and even a meal in the Makuwa-Kuwa restaurant. I can recommend the warthog steaks – really fresh!
The river was full and the falls shrouded in heavy spray so we gave them a miss this time and went to visit the bridge instead. It was difficult trying to prevent Maria from joining the queue for the bungee jump. I finally managed to coax her away with the promise of lunch and a nice glass of wine.
After leaving Vic Falls, we made a quick transit of Botswana and crossed into Namibia via Ngoma bridge. The Chobe river was also running strongly and brought back memories of our first trip to Botswana back in 1998.
We had the bit between our teeth now as we headed for home, but there was still time for another little adventure into the Susuwe Triangle where we found Nambwa Community restcamp and this idyllic campsite on the banks of the Kwando river.