Kerrys trip report-part two





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  1. #1
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    Default Kerrys trip report-part two

    Sorry its taken so long but any-way here goes:

    Having left Chitake Springs after lunch time, we made good time and arrived at Kariba at approx 15h30pm and on the advice of fellow local campers (thanks for that!) at Mana Pools, we headed straight for the Shell garage, where their little shop sells divine ice-cream and homemade pies - heaven! After fulling up with diesel, we headed to the TM Supermarket to re-stock supplies. We then decided we would have a break from camping and spoil ourselves at the Cutty Sark Hotel for one night at the reasonable rate of $100.00 for bed and breakfast.

    Unfortunately having been spoilt at SA hotels, we were a little bewildered when we could not get towels for the swimming pool. The Savana lights were off and had to be returned and our first two choices from the menu for supper were unavailable. 3/4 of the hotel had been booked by the Department of Education for a conference which included a House boat trip, braai and lots of booze, while the local schools do not have books, equipment, electricty, uniforms etc etc. Some things in Africa never change! By the way the two things available for supper was braai and fish with veg and chips - very nice anyway.

    Anyway, we organised a packed breakfast and left at 5am for Karoi, rather opting to take the longer but more tarred route as apposed to Chazirera, as we had heard that the powerline road was in a bad condition.

    We stopped at one of the picnic sites on the Kariba-Makuti road and could not help but comment on the litter problem - every picnic spot was filthy and full of litter. Anyway we continued and just before Karoi we turned off onto the Bumi Hills/Binga road. The tar road continued for approx 20km, just before the Sanyati River, and then on to the Tstse fly control boom. Up to this stage the road was not too bad, but from here onwards it got bad, really bad!! I would note take a trailer on this road, it would fall to pieces. You need a sturdy bakkie with good clearance as in at least two sections the road has washed away and the detour is pretty rough. But you can do it. It is the most scenic and wild route, you leave behind the tribal trustlands.

    Some of the bridges we crossed were unbelievable and apart from the searing heat, I could have spent more time exploring the Ume River Bridge and the Mashonaland West Bride, these were spectacular and worth stopping for. In the distance at the Mashonaland West Bridge we noticed about 100 locals in groups of about 8, minning or excavating in the river bed - not to sure what they were doing? We also passed many villagers with sacks of what looked like wild spinach on their heads. This area was extremely dry and harsh, but is sparsley populated.

    Since leaving the tar road and getting to Chazirera we passed no more than four vehicles.

    Fortunately with my tracks for Africa GPS, I found the turnoff to go up a steep escarpment to the enterance of the park +/- 15km. While driving up we noticed a lovely lodge situated on the top and decided to see what it was like. We entered the entrance and then turned left and followed the 4x4 track to the lodge. It was evident that it had not been used that much.

    We arrived at the Chazirira Wilderness lodge to find it closed, but decided to get out and walk around. On our inspection we bumped into the caretaker by the name of "Taai".

    After the long dusty and hot road, I was not in the mood to put up tents for one night, so I asked Taai if he would be able to accomodate us for one night. No problem he said and promptly requested $50.00 for a nights accomodation. He showed us to the "honeymoon" suite, which was perched on a cliff top with the front section completely open and leading onto a wooden deck situated about 20m on a cliff face with a dramatic drop into a valley, leading down to the villages far below - hopefully I can post some of these photos!

    The bonus of staying at the Lodge was that it was situated in the National Park and that we could come "home" later, enabling us to do some night driving!

    By the way we arrived at Chazirira at approx 3pm, after having a 5am start from Kariba, with a sit down breakfast and frequent photo stops along the way. Travelling around 40 - 60 km per hour it would take you a good 12 hours straight trip from Kariba to Binga in dry conditions.

    We left the lodge at 4pm and drove to the Chazirira Headquarters to pay for a day pass. We passed some local villagers walking down the road with a bag on the one chaps back, obviously there was no strict control to access the park. Wildlife was very scarce and we did not see much. The headquarters did not have a map to give us and according to ours there was only really four campsites to visit in the immediate area. We decided to investigate two of them for future reference and decided to start off at the Platform camp situated next to a natural spring. Here one lonely white guy was camping in the platform. He was the only entry in the register that week and before him, not more than 20 since 2009. So Chazirari was definately not a well visited park.

    This single white chap from Bulawayo, had been camping for two nights with one to go before leaving to go home. Apparently he was checking out the place before bringing his wife? He said the game was very shy, but had seen some species of buck, impala, waterbuck, kudu and 5 elephants the previous night. Anyway, we left him to his own problems and proceeded to Kaswiswi Camp on the banks of a small stream, which had flowing water. The camping area was upsetting, as there was rubbish left from previouse campers - tins, glass, plastic, some of it was recent while other rubbish had been there awhile! We had a picnic away from the camp, while watching the sun go down over the cliffs near the stream. I tried some fishing, but the bream were too small to take a Meps. Finished our supper and headed back to the lodge in darkness.

    On our way back, we came across two seperate Honey badger, with one in particular being very entertaining, this was the highlight of our trip in the park, it made up for the lack of other animals. Unfortunately looking at the tracks we went on, I do not think much Ranger monitoring takes place? I got the feeling, talking to the lodge staff and locals and the guard at the first gate, that Chazirari was not a park of animals as much as for birds, with the Taita Falcon and Angola Pitta, both rare, being the main attractions to the park. We were not so lucky to see them, but the Lodge does have a stuffed Angola Pitta on the bar counter - so at least we can say we saw a dead one!

    We went to sleep listening to the sounds of the Village drums way below us and the odd dog barking, but heard little from the animals. I have to say that we did not sleep much that night, not because of any noise, but because of the heat, we felt like we were cooking from the inside out - those rocks stay hot all night long!!!

    Next morning we were up early and left the park on our way to Hwangi, but first I wanted to stop at Binga to see what it looked like. The dirt road from Chizarira to the Binga road was shocking and extremelly dusty so I can imagine it would get very muddy after some rain. When we reached the tar road, we turned right and went +/- 20km down to Binga, we were stopped again at one of those famous road blocks that you get at most towns/cities in Zimbabwe, and once again the rooftop tent was a focal point!

    Binga was pretty clean and tidy in comparison to Kariba and we drove around exploring. The crocodile farm seemed to be closed and the only place that appeared to be opperating was Kulizwe Lodge. Here you can camp or hire a chalet, and they have a lovely pool with nice gardens and clean abblutions. We got permission to have a breakfast next to the pool, where we proceeded to have a fry-up on our skotel, with all the trimmings.

    After a relaxing breakfast/brunch, we hit the road again to Hwange. We were stopped at 3 seperate road blocks on this road and they seemed a little more intense than before, so we had to keep our sense of humour! Between Binga and Dete is the Gwai River Bridge, a little oasis in the middle of a very dry October landscape - what a sight. The tar along this road in patches was shocking!

    Before entering Hwange, we stopped off at the Hwangi Safari Lodge to full up with diesel and grab a cup of tea. Surprise, the Hotel was busy with another government conference with officials enjoying tons of food from the pool area! I wonder who was paying for this one - found out that it was the Department of Health, conference on HIV treatment at the rural clinics - sure it must have been some Western donor?!

    So off we went to the main camp to see where they could accomodate us, as we had not made any reservations. The reception lady was very friendly, but informed me that all the picnic sights were booked for the weekend. I insisted that she check up on Robins camp and Sinametela Camp, but she did not get an answer from either of them. I then suggested that she phone Christina, my contact for Mana Pools, can you believe it, their phones were working and Christina was still at work at 3pm on a Friday afternoon! Some SA departments could learn something from this!

    As it so happened the group who had booked Masuma Dam for the weekend had cancelled and by luck and a bit of determination from me, we had managed to get one of the best picnic campsites in Hwange! So we set off for Masuma, first on badly pot-holed tar and then from Shumba picnic site onward, on a good dirt road. We arrived at Masuma just after 5h30pm to witness the most unbelievable spectacle of hundreds of Elephant herds coming to the dam to drink.

    The Elephants came down in their seperate families, all in well manered, organised convoys of between 12 and 40 family members. They came from all directions, quietly but quickely, they were very thirsty. This was one of the most amazing wildlife scenes ever!!

    The 2 catetakers came over to introduce themselves and to help us set up camp, their names were "Mixture and Surprise", what truly excellant ambassadors for Hwange National Park!

    After a light supper, we moved down to the Boma and quietly sat less than 10 meters from the Elephant - what a privilage to have this camp all to ourselves and witness this wonder of Africa, almost as nice as Mana Pools?! Eventually we climbed into our roof top tent, place right next to the look out Boma, and tried to go to sleep? Which was almost impossible, with the Elephants comings and goings. You could litterally hear them sucking up the water, their tummy's grumbling, the farting and continuous rumbling between families, with the occassional trumpet when one of the two resident crocs or hippo got to close to them or one of their babies. Occasionally, we could hear hyena and jackal and lion roaring far away - this was Africa at its best!

    We awoke at 4h30 am on Saturday the 9th of October to find all the elephants gone! They had silently vanished, must have been just after 3am, back to where ever they came from. In their place was a single hyena, two jackal, buffalo bulls, kudu, herd of impala, flocks of guineafowl and pigeons. Only 2m away from our roof top tent was a bird bath hanging in a tree, to our amazement, a pair of Meyers parrots flew in to drink what was left in the bowl, my wife fulled it up with fresh water and in no time, we had eight Meyers parrots drinking and bathing less that 5m away from where we were preparing breakfast! When they were finished, the Red winged starling, Blue waxbill, Quelia, Weavers and tree Squirrels all had a turn to drink and bath. So if you are lucky enough to go there, please full up the bird bath and enjoy the show - it sure beats TV!

    Over breakfast, we discussed our options and with the temperature due to hit 45" plus, we decided to explore all the Northern roads, camps and picnic sites of Hwange in the comfort of our air-conditioned vehicle.We set off towards Sinamatela Camp, keeping on the Eastern side roads, following the Lukosi River route round to Sinamatela Camp..

    Generally speaking Hwange was looking good with all the dams having water, the pumps seemed to be working and the roads in a reasonable condition. Game was scarce and after seeing hundreds of elephant the night before, we could not spot one in our travels, untill we got back to Masuma Dam later in the afternoon!

    Sinamatela Camp is situated on a high rocky outcrop, overlooking the plains below where you can literally sit for hours with binoculars and explore Hwange for many km. However the camp is really rundown and only offers chalet accomodation, which does not look like it has been used for a long time. All of the chalets above the closed down "Elephant and Dassie" resturant have now been occupied by the staff while about ten below the resturant are for tourists. Anyway, we spent our lunch time the Resturants scenic veranda, checking out the game far below. Other than the view, there is not much to go up to Sinametela Camp for. Even their office has no interesting items, store was closed, toilets non functional, with large hornets nest all around, and the playground, swimming pool, resturant and bar all closed and beyond repair?! What a beautiful camp in its day it must have been!? I am sure there must be some interesting stories to tell back in the day?!

    After lunch, we headed for Mandavu Picnic site again taking the outside ring of roads so as to get an overall picture of the North-East part of Hwange. There are quite a few roads that have been closed now and not in use and trying to go down one or two, resulted in me turning around due to the terrible condition of the road or washed away bridges.

    Finally we saw one Elephant Bull, after six hours of driving! He was close to the salt springs flood plain, but he was not in a very good mood. When we arrived at Mandavu Picnic camp site, we met up with Rafial, the camp caretaker, who informed us that no-one was staying there, so much for them being full! We approached the Mandavu Dama outlook Boma to view the dam, only to be surprised to find a scene out of Durban beach front! Directly accross from the Official camp site, we counted at lease five or six cars/bakkies that had transported approx 60 fishermen/women and their families, fishing! Each fisherman had his allocated fishing spot with most having a beach umbrella for shade. Most fisherman had two or three rods and they were catching small bream, obviously to take home to either eat or sell. So we grabed a cold drink from our fridge and settled down to watch the entertainment!

    A National Park that is open to local Zimbabweans to come in and fish unchecked. No Rangers present, and Rafial the caretaker said that this happened over weekends, the locals from Hwange town came to the park to picnic, bring their families and to fish! Surely this is a form of poaching? If you can catch fish here, then surely the odd buck or two or and Egyptian goose will be ok too? Mandavu Dam was at least 3/4 full and apart from the fact that all around the dam were fishermen preventing the wildlife from approaching the dam at the hotest time of the day, the campsite itself was pleasant and well maintained. Lots of space, clean ablutions and a nice shady outlook Boma to check out the animals and hippos. Personally I like my peace and quiet and was thankfull that I was not camping there, listening to each fisherman bragging about his catch and talking loudly amoungst themselves. But, I suppose this is Africa and you expect the unexpected?!

    Leaving Mandavu Dam we headed back home to Masuma Dam only to find a bus load of toursist including two other vehicles all parked at the dam. Not expecting them to stay we decided to go up to Shumba Picnic camp site where we had seen a lioness the previous day and also jus to kill some time before the cool of the evening. As we drove out towards Shumba, " Mixture" the caretaker ran out to inform us that one group who had not booked intended to stay and camp the night and as were camped next to the braai area, they wer concerned that they would interfere with us during the night. We were obvously not pleased to share our campsite with a large group (8 in total) but ther seemed nothing we could do!

    On our way to Shumba we came across two magnificent male lion brothers, just 10 meteres away from the road and not more than 3 km from Shumba picnic site. After being told at main camp that all the picnic sites were full this weekend, and having managed to get in at Mandavu dam due to a cancellation, we decided to try our luck at Shumba. The caretaker "Normal" said that no-one was booked for that night so we decided to end our last night at Shumba, rather than share Masuma Dam with a crowd!

    Shumba is a wonderful shady site with pleanty of action around, we were entertained with the sounds of lion, jackal, honey badger and mongoose, herds of buffallo as well as one made elephant bull, who tried to stop all wildlife from using his waterhole. We were frequently awoken by the trumpeting of this bull, chasing all who dared to intrude. He must have been exhausted the following morning, because he wondered off into the bush.

    Shumba camp and birdhide was extremely clean and organised and I would rate it as the second best picnic camp site after Masuma Dam. Only because of the exodus of Elephants and the wonderful view of the surrounding area, which offers superior wildlife viewing.

    We spent our last morning in Hwange packing away all of our camping gear in anticipation of staying in a chalet for the remainder of our trip.

    Between "Normal" at Shumba and "Mixture and Surprise" at Masuma, we left un-used groceries, clothes and magazines. They were very greatful, and considering their circumstances, I appeal to anyone visiting these outof the way picnic camp sites, to make provision to leave some luxuary items and reading material. "Mixture" at Masuma especially was keen on a birding book to identify the local birds, so anyone going that way, please help out if you can. Also take a large battery for their radio.

    As we were on our way to Chobe, we stopped off at both Deteema picnic site and Robins main camp to check out the facilities. Deteema camp site was definately the worst site with no water, toilets were broken and open to insects and animals, and were very dirty. The picnic site is very rocky, a snakes paradise! We saw the biggest brown lizard here that I have ever seen, and I generally just did not like the feel of the place. It also looked and smelt like a troop of baboons had decided to make this there home. Apparently if you stay here, a scout from Robins camp will stay over with you - not my cup of tea!

    Robins camp, as with Sinametala, was very run down, but I could see glimpses of its past through the untended gardens, ponds, resturant and pub. If you read the book "From Rhodesian to Magabes Zimbabwe chronicles of a Game Ranger, by Nick Tredger", you can get some idea of how this camp used to look with pictures!

    Penny, the lady at reception was very friendly and polite and took us on aguided tour of Robins Camp including the Museum at the top of the main building whish is definatly worth a visit.

    It must be noted that other than a sighting of two Roan Antelope, not much of interest was spotted from Masuma Dam to Robins Camp. The caretakers at the Dam had told us that Ranger training included firing of their weapons, had been taking place around Robins Camp and this had obviously spooked the animals!

    We left robins camp and crossed over the main entrance on a fairly good dirt road, until we got to the T junction and turned off to Pandamatenga. Along this road we passed Nantwich Lodge which looked quiet, but I mast say that from the time we left Robins enterance gate, the game viewing improved dramatically with regular sightings of most animals including a large herd of buffalo and more Roan antelope, as well as a huge Hyena walking down the dirt road in the midday heat of 40" plus!

    In fact apart from elephant we was more game on the Panda road than in Hwange, which is worrying!

    Pandamatenga Border post was quiet for a Sunday, we had to wait for the customs officials to come form their homes to the main building and all was sorted out quickly. From then on we did have a problem with the police clearance, when the lady refused to accept our official licence papers as well as police clearance papers because our registration was not on one of them. She told me that we would have to wait untill the morning to validate that the car was not stolen! Anyway I decided to call her bluff and said that it was not a problem, and could we park under their large tree for the night as we were not in any hurry, anyway, suddenly she realised that no bribe was forthcoming and said, OK, she would let us pass!

    The Botswana side was a breeze and well run, neat and tidy, what a difference and unfortunately the Zimbabwe Border entry and exit left a bad taste in our mouths and was not conducive for promoting tourism in their country!

    Back on decent well maintained tar roads, we made good time to Kasane and headed for Chobe Game Lodge, where we treated ourselves to a rondarvel with aircon - Aaah luxury!

    Having had two weeks of relative wild camping and camp food this was a great way to end our holiday! Chobe is great but way to commercialized for us. We did have some great sightings of lion, small spotted genet and leapard (our first of the whole trip) we also saw our biggest herd of buffalo of well over 600. Another plus was the fantastic bird life so for our three days and two nights it was worth it.

    We left Kasana at 6 am and arrived in Pretoria 12 hours later, going through Martins drift Border post, then it was home to East London. In
    conclusion I can list my highs and lows below:

    LOWS:
    Don't use Bietbridge Border Post!
    Zimbabwe generally speaking was looking run down and most of the veld was burnt in uncontrolled veld fires.
    Elephant being shot at Mana Pools.
    Kariba not looking good with lots of litter.
    General lack of wildlife at Chazirari
    Picnic sites in Zim not maintained
    All main camps in Hwange need up-grading
    Double booking of campsites.

    HIGHS:
    Mana Pools - Mana Pools - Mana Pools - this has to be the best camping experience ever!
    Freedom of walking in a game reserve
    Fishing in the Zambezi
    Twelve Apostles at Chitake Springs - truly an African setting
    Fresh Kariba bream - you cannot beat it!
    Kariba to Binga back road - yes it was a bad road and tough, but awesome!
    Chazirera National Park - yes the wildlife was a let down - except for the two Honey badgers, but the scenery, bird life and remoteness of the park really appealed to us and I would like to explore this park in more detail.
    Hwange picnic camp sites - my top three -
    1.MASUMA DAM - hundres of elephants, good game viewing around the dam and the amazing Meyers parrots! - Pity about the shower!
    2. SHUMBA - shady and excellant ablutions, wide range of animals frequent the camp including resident lion and honey badger.
    3. KENEDY - from a past trip - I can thoroughly recomend it.

    - Picnic site caretakers, from "Mixture and Surprise", "Normal" and "Rafial", you chaps were amazing and I hope we meet again.

    Still struggling to put my photo's on but will try and get it right.

    This report is my thankyou to everyone elses report on the 4x4 forum that encouraged us to undertake this trip!

    Hope you enjoy it?
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    Last edited by kerry; 2010/11/11 at 01:22 PM.

  2. #2
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    Thanks for taking the trouble to post your trip report. I've enjoyed comparing your experience to ours. I appreciate your comments on my trip report. I agree with all the points and reccomendations you made. Fortunately we seemed to miss the very hot weather by a few days. I think a trip to Zim. would be more comfortable in early Sept.

    I also liked the area around Shumba picnic/camp-site. The amount of game is well above average, just a pity that the waterhole and hide are not a part of the camp. After Masuma it would be a bit of a pain to have to get into a vehicle and drive the short distance to the hide. The camp-site itself is nicer with lovely shady trees.

    Well let me get into gear and finish my trip report.

    Stan

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    Very nice Kerry - thank you
    "Man is still the greatest miracle and the greatest problem on this earth"

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    Kerry

    Excellent trip report. I seem to remember that we met at Kapishya a couple of years ago. We will be in Hwange in the next couple of months. Could you let me have a more detailed description of the battery that Mixture and Surprise use?

    John

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    Another informative trip report, congratulations to you and Stan Weakley.

  6. #6
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    yes JohnD we were at kapish hot springs in Dec 2007-what a great trip with my 4 daughters in tow!Mixture needs the big square battery with two terminals on it-i think it is a p9 battery-he will be very chaufed with that-HAVE POSTED SOME PICTURES ON MY TRIP REPORT AND WILL LOAD THE REST LATER SO ENJOY

  7. #7
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    Kerry - great report, thanks. Makes me want to go again. My wife is from Zim and we spent 6 weeks touring the country in 1996, and have been talking about going again. Your report might just help me convince her !
    2011 Fortuner D4D 4x4
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  8. #8
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    sorry forgot to put photos of kariba to binga road on as well as chazirera nat park and wilderness lodge-so here gos-
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    Last edited by kerry; 2010/11/15 at 11:56 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Thanks for this great trip report & beautiful photos! Looks like you had an adventurous & amazing trip and thanks for sharing your helpful highs/lows! Can`t wait to get to Hwange myself one day!

    Safarigirl
    Planning for Botswana & Victoria Falls in March 2013!

  10. #10
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    Default Masuma showers

    What was wrong with the shower at Masuma?? I repaired it last June

  11. #11
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    Thanks Kerry, cant wait for our trip in April
    We are going to Mana so i would love to read "Part !" of your report - where would I find it?
    Thanks,Tegwaan

  12. #12
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    Sep 2007
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    Ted the Musuma shower was working but i was refering to the state of the shower in general-could use a face-lift ie new tiles and a coat of paint would help!!Shumba toilet/showers were far better. Tegwaan if you go back a page under the main heading "Zimbabwe" you should find my part one trip-be sure to check out Stans trip report as its world class-hope you come right

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