Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016





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  1. #1
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    Default Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    My "brief" trip report promised in another thread this morning is turning out to be not so brief! I'll break it up into a couple of sections. This post just with our travel details and the next with some detail of our experience at Mana and Kariba (which will include some photos). Apologies for being a bit long-winded! :-)

    Route
    Beaufort West (Teri Moja Game Lodge @ R R545/double - self catering) 1 night
    Vryburg (Lavender Lodge @ R800/double - B&B) 1 night
    Selibi Phikwe (Phokoje Lodge @ R 998/double - bed only) 1 night
    Harare (Family) 3 nights
    Makuti (Makuti Lodge @ $63/double - B&B) 1 night
    Mana Pools (Mucheni #3) 7 nights
    Kariba (Osprey houseboat) 3 nights
    Harare (family) 5 nights
    Louis Trichardt (Lalapanzi Hotel @ R650/double - bed only) 1 night
    Colesburg (Merino Inn @ R850/double - bed only) 1 night

    Total distance travelled was just short of 6500km. Diesel cost was about R 10 000. Ouch!

    There’s nothing major to report on our travelling up to Mana Pools and back. The accommodation at all our over-night stops was comfortable with Lavender Lodge in Vryburg being the stand out stop-over in terms of hospitality and value for money. Makuti Lodge was also very good even though there’s still some work to be done to renovate the furnishings and some of the buildings. Beautiful views from the Lodge and the staff fell over themselves to make us feel welcome …. They deserve more support from travelers to help them get up and running properly again.

    I didn’t enjoy the travelling through Botswana. That section started off badly when we were pulled over at a police road block 10kms from the border. The group of policemen (and woman) were standing about 5 meters beyond their stop sign and as I was about to stop at the sign they gestured for me to move forward to them. Net result ….. I didn’t come to a complete stop at the stop sign and they wanted to fine me 1000 Pula for not stopping and another 500 Pula for negligent and reckless driving! I of course was very remorseful and apologetic for “misunderstanding” their gestures and told her that we were transiting to Plumtree and so didn’t have enough cash to pay any fines. She wasn’t having anything to do with my apologies. Fortunately during her rant I noticed a local car come through the checkpoint which hardly even slowed down, never mind stop. He was waved on with big smiles. I politely asked why I was pulled over and asked to a pay a fine for not stopping and the local driver was waved through with a smile? This of course elicited a stream of foul tempered abuse and threats but fortunately turned the tide and after listening to her ranting for another 10 minutes we were sullenly told that we could go. Hopefully all her venting released some pent up emotion and the rest of her day was stress free!

    Lobatse through to Gaborone was busy and slow going and the continuous change in speed limits from Gabarone all the way up to turn off to Selibi Phikwe meant a long day on the road. As much as I love Botswana I don’t think I’ll do that route again in a hurry!

    Plumtree border was a breeze although a bit disorganized on the Zimbabwe side. We had no problems and the staff were all very polite and friendly.

    Road blocks on the Zimbabwe road have been well documented on this forum. It is frustrating to have to slow down and stop so often (about 17 between Plumtree and Harare) but we found them to be mostly very courteous and friendly. At one road-block between Harare and Makuiti a policeman tried to fine us for not having honeycomb grade T stickers on our trailer. I showed him the documentation we’d printed showing the various requirements. He insisted that our interpretation was wrong but that he’d only fine us $10 for the one sticker and let us off for the other…… All done very pleasantly I might add! I smiled politely and suggested that I phone one of the numbers on the document to contact a supervisor to check whose interpretation was correct. His response: “oh … you’re tourists! You carry on then, we want you to come back!”. In retrospect the incident was actually a lot of fun although I’m sure I would have been less amused if I’d backed down and paid the fine.

    Road conditions vary in Zimbabwe. Plumtree to Harare is good but Harare to the Mana turnoff is not great ….. from Chinoyi especially it is breaking up quite badly. Harare to Beit Bridge is also not great with stretches where there are severe undulations. Drive with care!

    We left Zimbabwe a few days after the unrest at Beit Bridge and the day before the 1st planned national stay-away. We were a bit apprehensive about having to travel at the time but as it turned out it seems to have been a blessing. Beit Bridge was virtually deserted and we were through both sides in just over half an hour. From there back to Cape Town was plain sailing on the N1.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Thanks for that.
    Seems that mostly the cops in Zim are being told to be more friendly
    And allow us to report good trips and come back to Zim Well Mana pools that is

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Mana Pools

    Pippa and I met up with my brother John and his family and friends at Makuti Lodge. They had travelled up from Durban. We had a good evening there catching up on our respective trips. Something special about having a few drinks on the verandah of the lodge with such a beautiful view. We had a very decent breakfast there the following morning before setting off for Mana at 8:30.

    We got to the Nyamepi office at about 11:30. The section of the road between the 1st and 2nd gates was rough but didn’t seem to be as bad as we remembered it from our trip 3 years ago. Maybe just the excitement of finally getting there? The section between the 2nd gate and the office was in good condition though ….. looks like it had been graded fairly recently. We spent a bit of time checking in and buying wood and only got to our campsite at Mucheni #3 at lunchtime.

    The afternoon was spent getting our tents and camp set up in good time to relax and enjoy our 1st sunset on the banks of the Zambezi. As always it was magnificent! Lots of Hippo starting to move noisily towards the banks for their evening browsing, camp fire burning and Mopani coals being prepared for our 1st braai, a decent sized scotch in hand …… who could ask for more?

    I won’t give a day-by-day account of what we did during our week there. It was pretty much the same routine each day ……. Morning drive, back for a brunch cook-up, lazing around the camp until about 4ish watching the passing parade of Elephant and Waterbuck and Impala and Kudu and then going out for an afternoon drive before coming back to enjoy yet another beautiful sunset with drinks in hand and cooking and eating a delicious dinner. Into bed mostly by about 9:00 and listening to the wonderful night sounds of the grunting Hippo browsing next to our camp and the Hyena who were ever present on the fringes and came foraging for leftovers as soon as we were in our tents. They must have been disappointed not to find any! We heard lion virtually every night as well but never close enough to cause any excitement.

    So what’s so special and exciting about Mana? The atmosphere, being able to camp in the wild with your nearest neighbor far enough away not to know they were there, the sunsets and sunrises, driving through different areas of the park with open spaces and dead Mopani trees in one area and the beauty of the dense Mopani forests in another. Parking next to the various pools and enjoying coffee and rusks while watching a variety of birds and animals moving about. Driving down to the Trachelia Island viewpoint through the Albida trees in the late afternoon …… hoping desperately to get one of those iconic shots of Boswell up on his hind legs reaching for a juicy titbit against the setting sun. Finding fresh Lion spoor on the road near Chine Pool and combing the area between there, the Wilderness entrance, Mana Mouth and the Nyamepi campsite trying to find them. Driving up toward Vundu Point to look for the Wild Dog that had been seen in that area and coming across a small herd of Buffalo crossing the track. Being held up on the way back to camp by an unusually skittish herd of Elephant close to the road ….. The youngsters were being very protective of a baby in the group.

    We never did sight the Lion or the Wild Dog or Boswell on his hind legs ….. Disappointing yes but we still enjoyed the drive with the anticipation of seeing them around every bend. I guess we’ll just have to go back and try again!

    Our time there flew by and it was disappointing having to pack up and leave. The road out seemed a lot rougher than when we came in. We were supposed to board the houseboat at Kariba at midday but only got to the last gate next to the Chirundu/Harare “highway” at that time. We inflated our tires and contacted the booking agent to tell them we were only likely to get to Andora Harbour after 2:00.

    As we hit the tar road I heard an ominous noise behind us. We drove on with a scrapping sound until we could pull off into a lay-bye. Pippa got out to see what the problem was and John and the others pulled in behind us. The leaf spring bracket on the trailer had broken. Fortunately the leaf springs had slipped into a sleeve preventing the box from dropping onto the wheel. The axle had shifted though and the right wheel was rubbing up against the back of the mud guard. After discussing options (I was sorely tempted to push it off the escarpment!) John and his friend Tim hauled out the tool kit and set about unbolting the mudguard while I sat there feeling like Jimmy-the-prick, puffing furiously on a few Camels! It took a while but they were able to loosen the back section of the mudguard enough to pull it away from the wheel and we were able to travel the 100 or so kms to Kariba like that. It was slow going and we only got there after 4:00.

    Kariba trip to follow.
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  7. #4
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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Enjoying this a lot Dave, thank you. I am so glad to hear that Makuti Lodge is functioning well. There is a great shortage of decent stopovers along this section.
    Your pics from Mucheni are great!
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Awesome reporting Dave, thanks,
    this really gives us a bit of a kick in the pants to grind through this last week of work, work, work.
    Nice to see as we will be in Mucheni 3 in the next few weeks then Nyamepi 27

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Thanks for your comments Stan and Greg. Not as detailed as the trip report I posted here 3 years ago but there wasn't as much excitement and activity this time. Pippa and I were discussing differences between the 2 trips and both of us agreed that in spite of the lack of predator sightings we both enjoyed this trip more. We felt that we spent more time exploring and taking in the beauty of the diverse terrain and trees.

    Enjoy your trip Greg ........ Mucheni #3 to my mind is the best campsite in Mana. The daily visits of the Elephant are especially enjoyable. We had the "scout" arrive on our 2nd day there and every day after that there seemed to be more and more of them browsing next to us or passing through. I'm sure he put the word out that there were people back in camp and he brought the family down for a human viewing expedition!

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Great report Dave.

    Mana is an incredible place and you hit the nail on the head about spending extra time there to unwind.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Last edited by global traveller; 2016/07/27 at 06:30 PM.

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Excellent photos and enjoying great report,thanks. Another 2 years before Mana is on the agenda again for us.
    Malcolm
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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Lovely report thanks Dave, brings back great memories of Mucheni. Been too long since I was last there.

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Kariba

    When we finally pulled into Andora Harbour to board the Osprey we had a very anxious welcoming committee waiting for us …… the owner of the boat, his manager, 4 crew and various others whose functions I still haven’t worked out. We apologized profusely for being so late and explained the mishap with my trailer. “No problem” said the owner ….. “I own an Engineering business so leave the trailer where it is (half way down the slipway so we could offload what we needed for the next 3 nights), let’s get you onboard and when you get back the trailer will be fixed”. Problem solved!

    Fortunately we’d pre-ordered all the fresh food and ice that we’d need from a company in Kariba called Crispy Fresh and they had delivered it earlier in the day. It still took us a while though to unpack cars and trailer and to load what we needed on board so by the time we got going it was after 5:00 which meant our mooring for the night was Antelope Island, close enough to get to before 6:00 (the cut off time for houseboats to be sailing on the lake).

    The Osprey was advertised as being wheelchair friendly. I was keen to see how true that was. Too often in the past I’ve been to places that make that claim only to find major exaggerations in the advertising. Well, Keith (the owner) was very proud of the boat he’d built and was quick to explain what he’d done to make the boat accessible. Pippa and I would be housed in a cabin on the top deck (which was the main entertainment area) and there was a toilet and shower up there built to suit wheelchair users. He’d built ramps on each side of the very steep staircase and the crew set up a winch at the top from which they hooked a strap onto the frame of my chair. They then had a crew member in front of me and one behind to support the chair while a 3rd crew member wound the winch to haul me up. Magic! The upstairs area was perfect for my needs and I was as happy as Larry!

    We hadn’t even left the harbour before the crew had unpacked our booze and set it all up on the bar counter with glasses and a bucket of ice. What a pleasure sitting up there with a healthy glass of scotch in hand and the boat cruising out onto the lake with the sun setting behind us. The stress of the day was history!

    Our 1st evening was great with everyone in good spirits and beers, whiskey and wine flowing liberally! Zach the chef served a superb dinner of bream fillets, chips and salads and then ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. Nice to have the luxury of being looked after so well by the crew after 7 nights camping.

    The next couple of days and nights followed a similar routine. The skipper would fire up the diesels early in the morning to get going and we’d chug along for 3 to 4 hours to our next mooring point and tie up to the shore for the rest of the day. The views of the sunrises and scenery with the shoreline and hills in the background and Kapenta boats in between were stunning. Later in the afternoon we’d get onto one of the small tender boats (also built to accommodate wheelchairs!) and do a sunset cruise and a bit of game viewing. Lots of Hippo, Crocodile, birds and Elephant but not much else close enough to be of interest. The youngsters used the other tender boat to go out and do some fishing ….. They didn’t catch anything significant but a lot of fun was had none the less! Then back to the Osprey for drinks and dinner and lots of chatting and laughter about our time together at Mana and on the boat.

    Our 3 nights and 2 days on the lake passed very quickly and we docked back in Andora Harbour fairly early on our last morning. True to his word Keith had repaired the trailer ….. I guess if you can build a boat you can weld a suspension bracket back in place without too many problems! We offloaded our gear, packed cars and trailer and said our goodbyes. Pippa and I went back to Harare for a few more days and John and his family and friends headed off for a night at Antelope Park on their way back to Durban.

    Our time on the Osprey was fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble for the crew and their friendliness and helpfulness went a long way to making the cruise so enjoyable. It was also great that we got on so well as a group. Things can go wrong very quickly if tensions arise but there was none of that and everyone got on well and enjoyed each other’s company and the time together. A great way to end off a memorable holiday!
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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Looks like you really had a great holiday and thanks for sharing your trip. One of the most exciting things to do in Kariba is to hire a boat for a few nights and get on the lake. Some of the best sunsets and sunrises I have ever seen from lake Kariba. Magic Place.

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    Red face Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Dave,

    Thanks for your report and also the first rate images. I agree about the majic of Mana- long may it continue.

    Like you I also visited Kariba but unfortunately not on a houseboat. I may do this if I return to Zim. Last time I travelled on the Kariba - Mlibizi ferry-aka the Karibian booze cruise. Although expensive it was worth it.
    Last edited by ronpon; 2016/07/29 at 10:36 AM. Reason: Grammar

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    Thanks Dave, very crisp, sharp images. Got to do the houseboat thing one day, I quite fancy the idea of sitting with a large scotch in hand whiling the day away.

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    Default Re: Trip report Mana Pools and Kariba - June 2016

    thanks for the report ; botswana police not that friendly so it seems ; been to mana pools years ago ; we crossed the kariba at milibizi ; drove the hilux into the bellow of the sealion i think it was ; hey that was very good ; gin and tonic , zambezi lagers and lots of capenta protein ! hopefully will be back to zim once the mad dog bob mugabe is toppled or leaves naturally ...;

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