Zimbabwe Trip Report Sept/Oct 2010

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    Default Zimbabwe Trip Report Sept/Oct 2010

    ZIMBABWE (Via Botswana) Trip Report :15/09/2010 to 8/10/2010
    Author: Stan Weakley.

    Payback time! I have decided that I owe this forum a detailed trip report. Much of my planning for this Zim trip was based on information posted by the members of SA 4X4 Community Forum.
    PARTICIPANTS: Terry (Coun) and Wendy Counihan (thanks for initiating the trip and for most of the photos)
    Stan and Anne Weakley
    Peter and Rhonwyn Counihan (3/10 to 7/10/2010)
    EMPHASIS: Game reserves, Wilderness areas, Game viewing, Birding and Mana Pools Game Count.
    VEHICLES: Toyota Prado TX Diesel 2010 (Terry)
    Toyota Landcruiser 4,2l Diesel 76 Series SW 2009 (Stan)
    My vehicle has been fairly comprehensively kitted out with; long-range fuel tank (180l); O M Emu suspension; water tank; roof rack; dual battery; drawer system etc. It carried a heavy load as we had to be totally self-sufficient in many of the areas visited. We prefer camping in ground tents.

    Weds 15/09/2010: 14H30 depart East London to Bloemfontein.
    16/09: Bloem To Francistown via Martin’s Drift .
    17/09: F’town to Harare via Plumtree.

    18/09: Harare to Mana Pools (Chitake).
    19/09 to 21/09 Chitake.
    21/09 to 24/09 Mana Pools( BBC Exclusive Camp.)
    24/09 to Sunday 26/09 Game Count (Sapi Pan.)
    26/09 Mana to Karoi.

    27/09 Karoi to Matusadona, (Tashinga.)
    28/9 to29/09 Tashinga.

    29/09 Tashinga to Chizarira, (Mucheni View)
    30/09 to 1/10/2010 Chizarira.

    1/10 Chizarira to Hwange (Kennedy 1 “Picnic spot”.)
    1/10 to Sunday 3/10 Hwange, Kennedy 1
    3/10 Kennedy to Masuma dam, Hwange
    3/10 to 6/10 Hwange, (Masuma Dam “Picnic spot”.)

    6/10 Hwange to Nata Lodge via Pandamatenga.
    7/10 Nata to Zeerust via Tlokweng/Kopfontein border.
    Friday 8/10/2010 Zeerust to East London.

    Total kilometers; 6558
    Total Diesel; 953 l
    Total Cost Diesel; R7547.00
    Consumption; 6.88 km/l
    14.5l/100 km (Heavily loaded, roof rack, headwind.)

    Price Diesel:
    Francistown P6.32/l
    Karoi US$1.03/l
    Makuti US$1.10/l
    Dete US$1,15/l
    Zeerust R8.16/l
    East London R7.88 (Low Sulphur 50 ppm Sasol)

    *East London to Maselspoort (Bloem): 7h30min 590km

    *Maselspoort to Martins Drift: 10h 840km
    Time to pass thru border: 26min

    *Martins Drift to Woodlands(F’town) 4h 290km(most after sunset)

    *Woodlands to Plumtree: 1h10min 98km
    Time to pass thru border: 35min

    *Plumtree to Bulawayo: 1h30min 112km

    *Bulawayo to Harare: 5h30min 470km

    *Harare to Makuti: 4h 284km

    *Makuti to Chitake (Mana Pools): 2h15min 68km

    *Chitake to Nyamepi Camp: 1h15min 55km

    *Nyamepi (Mana) to Makuti: 3h 125km

    *Karoi to Matusadona(Tashinga): 7h20min 252km
    Karoi to Tashinga turnoff (i.e.off Karoi-Binga road) 3h10min 173km
    Tashinga turnoff to Tashinga camp: 4h10min 79km

    *Tashinga to Chizarira: 7h20min 207km

    *Chizarira to Hwange(Main Camp): 7h 290km

    *Kennedy Pan Camp to Masuma Dam Camp: 4h 138 km

    *Hwange(Robin’s) to Pandamatenga Border: 2h20min 54km
    Time to pass thru border: 40 min
    *Panda.to Nata Lodge: 3h20min 208km

    *Nata Lodge to Tlokweng Border: 7h15min 640km
    Time to pass thru border: 20min
    *Tlokweng/Kopfontein to Zeerust: 1h 106km

    *Zeerust to East London: 11h40min 1027km
    - Although these times and distances were carefully recorded, other travelers will have variances because of differing times taken for sightseeing, game viewing, fuel and P stops, brunches etc.
    -I realize these stats are tedious reading but perhaps they will be of help to someone in planning a similar trip.
    -It must also be appreciated that this trip was during the dry season; in wet conditions travelling times in many areas will be much longer.

    590 km 7hr30min
    We planned to leave at about lunchtime, but were delayed when Terry’s newly “fitted” National Luna fridge began blowing fuses just prior to leaving, fortunately sorted out by fitting a new Hella plug socket. To my credit I refrained from any “I told you so’s’’. This was the fridge dedicated to keeping our “bottled sandwiches” cold. We would have suffered very badly without it, some more than others!!
    We left at 14h30, unfortunately directly into the teeth of a westerly gale. This did not help with the cruising speed of my aerodynamically challenged, heavily laden 76 series ”tractor”.(To be fair, throughout the trip we did not seem to hold up the “spunkier” Prado much at all.)As a result we spent a couple of hours travelling in the dark, something to be avoided and not only north of our borders.
    We had booked a 4 bedded chalet at Maselspoort resort just north of Bloem. We knew we would be arriving late and were able to arrange that we pick up the chalet keys from the security guard on duty. If you arrive during office hours out of peak holiday season, I am confident you will find space is available. We prefer to stay in places like this when on the move for a number of reasons. The fully loaded vehicles with loaded roof racks are reasonably secure, which does not apply to many hotels or B+B’s. Avoiding having to pack up camp for a very early start is a real bonus. Self-catering means that one can take along a precooked meal and if delayed don’t have an arrival time deadline. The resort was almost empty.
    That said Maselspoort seems to have reached its sell by date. Over the years it is looking more dated and run-down. The oven in our chalet did not work very well and there was only a bath, no shower. Braai facilities are provided for each chalet.
    CHALET COSTS worked out at R150 per head, not too bad considering the chalets are completely self-contained and all we had to unpack were our personal bags. I used the opportunity to run the vehicle freezer overnight at maximum setting via an electrical lead from mains. We think in the future we may have to relook to see if there is other suitable accommodation in the area.
    Maselspoort is on the N8 past the airport on the road sign-posted Airport, Botshabelo and Maseru. Just be sure not to miss the sign-post for the turnoff. When leaving Maselspoort there is a shortcut to the N1 by turning right at the T-junction off the access road, along a dirt road signposted Glen. Note that Maselspoort does not appear to be on Garmap. GPS S29 01.908 E26 24.282
    CONTACT NO’S: Ph. 051 4417848 Fax. 051 4417865

    1130 km 14hr
    Far too long, but at least we had broken the back of the long trek north and could now begin to enjoy our holiday.
    We decided to travel to Zim via Botswana and the Plumtree Border Post to avoid the apparent chaos of Beit Bridge .We chose to travel via Jo’burg on the N1 to Martin’s Drift. In retrospect the better route seems to be via Bultfontein, Hopetown, Lichtenberg, Zeerust and Kopfontein/Tlokweng border post to Gaberone onwards. This is the route we took coming home. We struck a very slow and frustrating traffic gridlock between Jo’burg and Pretoria which may have added 2 hours to the days travel.
    Left M’poort at 6H00, arrived Martin’s Drift border post 16H00.Smooth transit through border. I had a pre-typed list (with serial no’s) of most of our dutiable items such as cameras, binoculars, GPS, freezer, cellphones etc. which I asked the S. A. customs to stamp. I think this eased our passage through customs as our journey progressed.
    BORDER COSTS: Pula90 -Road Permit( double entry), P20 -Road Fund, P50- Motor Vehicle Insurance. (P160 Total)
    Botswana speed limit 120 km/hr on main roads. Once again we travelled a couple of hours in the dark which was not very clever considering all the stray livestock around.
    Woodlands Stopover was a joy and we wished we had arrived earlier as the surroundings were impressive and I am sure would have delivered some good birding. We had booked 2 semi-detached double-bedded “Riverside Chalets” with en suite shower/toilet and small kitchenette with kettle and microwave (no stove). The cheaper chalets were booked up. Our’s were very smart and new with exemplary décor. Security appeared good. Once again heated a precooked meal and I ran my vehicle freezer off mains on maximum setting. Braai places available. In contrast the campsites appeared to be pretty Spartan to my brief inspection.
    CHALET COSTS: Pula560/Riverside Chalet (2 person)/night. Not cheap but worth it as a treat(Cheaper chalet options available).
    DIRECTIONS: Travel north of Francistown on A4 to Nata. 10km after F’town and 2km after Orapa turnoff, turn right onto sign-posted dirt road continue for 7km.
    Woodlands turnoff off A4 GPS S21 07.194 E27 26.749.
    CONTACT EMail: Riverbend@botsnet.bw
    Website www.woodlandscampingbots.com
    Ph +267 2440131
    Fax +267 2440132
    Cellphone ANNE +267 71302466
    MIKE +267 71302906

    DAY 3: FRI 17/09/2010. WOODLANDS TO HARARE.
    680km 8hr10min
    Left at 07H00, filled up with Diesel at F’town. P6.32/l
    The road from F’town to Plumtree border post is under reconstruction. The speed limit varies between 60 to 80 km/hr with intermittent speed humps. When the new road is completed in a year or two it will be fantastic. We arrived at Plumtree border post 1hr15 min after leaving. It is 68km from Francistown. It took us 35min to pass through border formalities, not at all busy. Officials on both sides were very civil. There were NO enquiries as to whether meat was being taken into Zimbabwe.
    BORDER COSTS:Total cost through Zimbabwe border US$ 7O. Insurance- 30 US$, Carbon Tax-30 US$, Road Access Fee-10 US$.
    We had bought our Zim 3rd Party Insurance from the AA in South Africa prior to departure, as advised on this Forum, at a cost of R200. (Did we really pay this twice?)
    Speed limit in Zim on main roads 100 km/hr
    1 DOLLAR(US)ROAD POLL TAXES. These are fairly new; the officials are usually friendly and always give little tear-out numbered receipts.
    Located at -X km from Plumtree
    1)87km (at Figtree)
    2)264km (near Gweru)
    4)513km (38km from Harare)
    Officials were very laid-back and very keen to engage one in conversation. We followed the very good advice given on this forum and made sure we had enough 1$ notes and thus avoided getting really soiled, filthy $ notes as change.
    POLICE ROAD-BLOCKS. Located at -X km from Plumtree
    1) Road-block at 102km near Bulawayo. Just a cursory glance.
    2) Road-block at 132km just after Bulawayo. Very neat. professional and friendly which was to prove the norm. Wanted to see driver’s license, Vehicle Temporary Import Permit and asked if we were carrying any arms.
    3) Road-block at 272km near Gweru. Driver’s license only.
    The roads are fairly narrow with no shoulders or yellow lines and they are fairly bumpy in places, but they DO repair potholes in Zim. Throughout Zim it was remarkable how little traffic there was, other than the long-haul heavy trucks heading up the Route to the North.
    We experienced a startling insight as to how the political land lies about 20km. from Harare. Traffic was fairly heavy leading into Harare, when suddenly 5 speeding motorbikes overtook us with sirens blaring, gesturing wildly. Only once we noticed the other traffic diving for and halting on the verge of the road, did we twig and follow suite to the visible displeasure of the motorcycle police. They were followed by a cavalcade of presidential proportions travelling at breakneck speed. Leading the charge were 3 black BMW’s, just ahead of a Mercedes Limo, flanked by a further 2 Mercedes’s. Hot on their tail were 2 troop carriers full of heavily armed troops. Bringing up the rear was an ambulance with sirens also going and lights flashing. As wild as anything we saw in the bush. Terry was tuned into a local radio station and it transpired that President Mugabe had just finished officiating at the graduation ceremony of an agricultural college we had passed earlier.
    To top the cake, later the same day we encountered the same cavalcade screaming down Borrowdale road in Harare at a completely inappropriate and dangerous speed. It was with amusement and some trepidation that we observed the speeding vehicles nearly colliding with a broken down vehicle that a hapless and clearly terrified citizen was trying to push out of the way. (If only…..) Not just the impression of a banana republic, but the full fruit salad. This was belied by the courtesy, friendliness and professionalism of both the man-in-the-street and government officials. There was never any hint of corruption and at no stage did any of us feel threatened or unsafe. I am pleased at the timing of our trip as I am confident that Zim will be over-run with South African and International tourists soon, under an inevitable new administration. Anne felt very saddened at the apparent poor infrastructure and the run-down appearance generally.
    We were fortunate to be able to spend the night at the town-house of friends of the Counihan’s, they were away. Because of frequent electricity cuts in Harare most people have generators and shop daily for food as they can’t use their freezers. Most laundry has to be done by hand. But otherwise life seems pretty upbeat in the capitol since abandoning the Zim Dollar. Supermarkets carry the same sort of stock as in South Africa albeit about 20 to 30% more expensive. These prices seem to apply to small rural general dealers as well. We had a very good meal at a local restaurant that night.
    We hardly encountered any filling stations without diesel. We followed advice on this forum and used US$ rather than Rand because of the better exchange rate. They offer 10R to the $, rather than 7 to 1.

    PART 2 TO FOLLOW (at http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...ad.php?t=70131)
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2012/04/10 at 06:02 PM.

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