We are back and trying to catch up with all issues left on departure and the new material!
I will be writing and posting information as it becomes available and cleared by my Senior Editor.
I start with reports on the time spent at Gonarezhou in a diary form and then a few entries on Kruger National Park.
Please note that I could not post before as there were technological challenges that, in the absence of my son I could not solve!
26/7/14 – Harare to Mabalauta
We left Harare at 07:30 hs and drove through Masvingo to the turn off at Rutenga. As it was a Saturday the traffic was light, and the lack of lorries to and from South Africa was particularly welcome! The road from Rutenga to Mabalauta was rough but it did not offer any specific difficulties apart from the dust. Fortunately it was just a question of leaving it behind as there were no cars in sight for the entire journey and very few people on the road. Obviously, there is not much traffic going through to Mozambique via Sango!
We got to the Chipinda Pools junction at 15:00 hs, after 86 km. At this point you can branch off to the northern area of the park, which is larger and better known by us. So we drove on and, after a further 32 km we turned into the Mabalauta entrance road to the right, leaving the road which would have taken us to the Mozambican border about 20 km further on.
We got to Mabalauta at about 16.00hs to check in. At this point we were casually informed that Swimuwini Rest Camp, our destination, had no electricity as the power line had been cut a couple of days earlier. Now, if you have had the mixed pleasure of being with us on safari you should know that good food is normally an important part of the deal. As this usually involves cooking, the absence of electricity was a blow to my wife, the Chef (in haste I add that this title only applies in the kitchen territory…). A potentially major culinary crisis was in the making as she was highly displeased.
The issue wasn’t the lack of electricity, but rather the fact that we had not been forewarned in order to adjust the menus! The staff, seeing the unfolding drama, added that there was firewood and that everybody cooked on the fire! The Chef just looked on… Trying to defuse the bomb I changed the subject asking about game occurrence, trees, plants and flowers but only partially succeeded. In hindsight, I probably did more damage than good when I mentioned that hot water may not be available either! Another fulminant look came my way.
Again, the staff came to my rescue stating that the firewood would be free and that there would be assistance available. As for hot water, it was true that the chalet would not have any but we could shower at the ablution blocks which was supplied with hot water by a Tanganyika boiler. We moved on, taking part of the crisis with us!
By the time we got to the rest camp things were better as plan B was developed and whatever remaining crisis residue there still was dissipated on arrival, as the view of the camp was beautiful. Its nine bungalows were nestled on high ground and three or four of the chalets had their private -and very large- baobab tree. As if this were not enough, the place had an abundance of desert roses that happened to be in full bloom, marvelous pink brush strokes in the otherwise brown landscape.
The chalets were well equiped and the ones at the front had a magnificent view over the sandy Mwenezi river that runs in front of the camp. Several water channels were still running, cutting through the sandy banks. There were reeds where the water was more permanent with abundant water bird life and fish along with noticeable frog activity (quite vocal at night).
We were the only guests. Nyala was the name of our house and, although it did not come with its baobab tree, it overlooked the river with an ideal overhang for watching the action in the sand, about three metres below. And action there was but closer to home! As the Chef was inspecting the fire cooking facilities and taking control of the situation, a loud crashing noise came from the river, followed by a rather large animal that avoided her at the last possible second and bounded away. Recovery of her wits took a while (we have learnt that this time increases with age!) and, despite the shake she was still able to identify a Nyala derriere that, judging by its dark hue, was a male of the species. It was a narrow miss and we then understood the reason for the name of our chalet! It was a relief that there were no casualties and that there was no need to change the chalet’s name in my wife’s memory!
The Tanganyika boilers were glowing and beckoned us to the shower place after sunset. Despite the blaze and to our great disappointment, only a lukewarm trickle came out of the showers so we abandoned the project. The following morning we learnt that rather than a technological hitch it was human error: someone had forgotten to open the mains water tap!
Apart from the male nyala that hung around the camp looking for protection, we saw some impala, baboons and warthogs. They all seemed to come in XXL sizes. To end the evening, a small bat landed on my wife’s shoulder while she was coming back into the house and it refused to move until it was persuaded to climb on a towel and allowed to fly off. Bats have great difficulties taking off from the ground and need to climb to the appropriate height and then launch themselves from that height in order to become airborne!
A final look around revealed that the right rear tire appeared to be a bit deflated but we agreed that not much could be done until the morrow so we went to bed, dusty and “shower less”. The latter is my preferred option on safari as I am a morning shower person. The Chef was not at all amused though…