Back to Zim
28 January 2013- Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
What a lovely day we have had. It’s a sticky hot evening and we are heating up our leftover curry from last night, plus adding a few veg. We are both hungry and its sounding very good! Its clear tonight with the moon reflecting on the Zambezi River. The general night sounds have started- the frogs, insect and bird noise that seem to come from nowhere and everywhere and get louder and louder. Peaceful camping is seemingly harder and harder (even if it feels you are in a quiet spot there is usually a village near by) and lately we have fallen to sleep to the sound of R & B or soft pop pumping from a local bar or village. The other night I groaned at 11 pm as Phil Collins came on and had put the ear plugs in!
We have had a really good few days. We left Lusaka later than planned yesterday when we we met a German guy with a landy- that had a pop top and sand ladders just like ours! Olly talked to him for ages about landy stuff, I can only do that for so long and not near as long as Olly!! Then the three of us sat around for several hours talking about politics, travel, media, etc. It was great. He is well travelled and very well informed and we had some really interesting discussions. He has been travelling on and off for four years (mostly on I think).
Anyway we decided to leave although it was already well into the afternoon and just see where we ended up, heading for Zimbabwe. By the time we popped into town and got some bread we knew we would not cross the border so we just headed in that direction. The landscape changed fairly dramatically and we found ourselves driving through green lush mountains which was a nice change, we passed some small villages, people selling charcoal on the roadside and so many broken down trucks I don’t know how the shops in Lusaka are so well stocked! We drove through the noisy and dusty border town of Chirundu and down a very bumpy dirt road to a campsite (rather than staying in town which we knew would be noisy with the dozens of trucks waiting to cross the border in the morning). Last night we had a peaceful campsite right on the Zambezi River, very beautiful and watched a bit of football with some locals (the Africa Cup of Nations is on at the moment and people are MAD for it!) then made dinner and had a nice evening chatting.
It was really hard to sleep as it was so sticky and still so we had a little lie in this morning and then left for the border. As we bumped our way back out I was again amazed how lovely people are- there were heaps of people on the side of the road, ferrying things on push bikes, children carrying water or playing, women as always walking with the heavy loads they carry, men working on the road- all manner of life happening and literally every man women and child we bumped past gave us a big genuine smile or wave (or in the case of the children sometimes shy, especially when we stopped to say hi and their bold waves gave way to running and hiding with a shy smile).
The crossing into Zimbabwe was easy. The only slightly confusing thing was the actual crossing. Usually there is an obvious building that you go into then no mans land then the next border post. Well at this border there were building and fences and roads all over so we didn’t know where to go but didn’t want to appear too lost (as if anyone would mistake us for locals!) so we tried to confidently drive, even though we had no idea where to go. A security guard ended up showing us the way, the border here is all in one building – Zam and Zim immigration and customs. We were though in no time only to sit for a while squeezed in between the dozens and dozens of trucks on the Zim side clamouring to get to the Zambian border, trying to drive past each other and blocking the road both ways. Happily Olly skilfully manoeuvred us onto a muddy side track he had seen and we went past everyone, just in time- as one truck hit another and no doubt they are all still sitting there sorting it out. Madness.
We decided to stop and see if Mana Pools NP was open. We have read it is not accessible during the wet season (now) and have been told its closed at the moment. But… I really wanted to go if possible so we thought we would have a look and, if open we would go, and if not then maybe spend a few days at Lake Kariba. We stopped at the entrance to the park and were told the roads are fine in a landy. So we drove past the gate and further along the main road to where we needed to get our permit and then came in this afternoon.
Mana Pool is beautiful and has a remote feel to it. The first hour or so was dense Mopane forest with thick undergrowth but then it opened up a bit and as we approached the camping area we started to see ellies dotted here and there and soon all over. We checked in and found our camp site and then went out for an afternoon drive. Mana Pools has the distinction of being a national park where there are predators (including hyena and lion) and you can go on a walk on your own, just take care they say.- uh no thanks. Instead we have asked to go out with a ranger in the morning. Seeing a lion close up in landy is heart stopping, we both agreed we would not want to run into one in this tall grass on our own!
This afternoon was just brilliant. We wound our way down the small tracks (the roads and tracks have been fine, just a few muddy patches but nothing that worries landy) and as dusk came we stopped just outside camp (no fences here) and watched a family of ellies munch, a baby suckle and a few male adolescent scuffle. The perfect early evening light, almost achingly beautiful with the elephant silhouetted in the beautiful sunset, a hyena scampered across the track to lay in the dusk and roll around on its back. Just beautiful. No one else around and we could hear the crunching of the elephant twirling the grass in their tusk and then pulling it up and stuffing it in their mouth, the birds going absolutely mad at dusk and the hippos grunting and bellowing. Really a lovely evening. We came back to camp just on dark and started our meal.
We are meeting the guide at 7 so will tidy up and head to bed for some reading.