Heine's Ramblings and Rumblings

2012/04 Gonarezhou

This was my first “real”  overlanding trip in Bo . We were joined by:

Nick and Hester Coetzee – V6 Prado + Echo Trailer

Damian,Lydia and Nikita Stander – Discovery 4 SDV6 + Conqueror Trailer

Phillip and Dena Sprules – Defender 130 TD5

and of course Jagie Bear

Day One 26 April

Day 1

We left home at about 5 AM and met up with the rest of the guys at the Petroport north of Pretoria.  After stopping for breakfast at the Ultra City outside of Polokwane we headed for Louis Trichardt where we filled up and then into Kruger via the Punda Maria gate

We thought about having lunch at the restaurant, but I had an early taste of Zimbabwe in that my first, second and third choices on the menu were out of stock.  This in addition to the credit card machine not working.  We filled up with fuel and headed to Pafuri River Camp instead after a brief detour through the park.



Tree house option on the river


River view from the campsite


Our campsite


And private showers / toilets


The bar and pool area

Very reasonably priced at R90 per person. You can also have meals in the bar area

Day Two 27 April

Day 2

After a slow start, because we had a fairly short day ahead (yeah right), we headed back into the park to the Pafuri Border Post, after a short stop at Crook’s Corner.


The border crossing went quickly enough,  probably sped up by the fact that I paid an “import fee” for food and alcohol on the Mozambique side without realising it.  Apparently Phillip had been “charged” but was refusing to pay,  when I happily came along and paid it without question.  In my defence I thought I was paying for road tax or something.

We headed to the river crossing and were relieved to see that the river was very low and I thought that we would be across very easily.



Bo at rivers edge (and in 2wd high range I might add – the torque on this engine is awesome)


The rest ready and waiting


Filly done

That’s however when the fun started.

Damian drove onto the river bank and promptly got stuck, which was probably my fault as we were not on the main track.   The next 3 and a half hours were spent in alternatively recovering him and Phillip who got stuck helping him out.



Damian out – now for the trailer (notice how high the car stands in “super extended mode”)


Trailer winched out


All hooked up again – with Filly in the lead – off we go !


But not for long


Nick helping Filly help Damian


But not for long – eventually we had to winch Filly out with a snatch block


Out at last .

We eventually got Damian over the river and then went back for the trailer . As good as the D4 is , it really battled with a 1 ton plus trailer in thick sand . Luckily Damian was with friends …..  Winking smile

After some fun in the sun,  we headed for Sango Border Post, after first helping a local out the river bank.

We reached Sango at about 4.30 and were across quickly on the Mozambique side.  The  Zimbabwe side went quite quickly as well,  until we reached the exit gate.

Here the police battled to find engine numbers on all of our cars until it was past 6 O’clock (note to self,  must remember to find it for future reference).

As it was now past 6,we were told we would have to wait until tomorrow, as they were now off duty, despite the fact that the border was open until 8. The other option would be to “assist ” them.  So R150 and two beers later we were through the gate.

While I normally refuse to pay bribes,  it was apparent that we weren’t  going to get through that night,  any other way.

We then looked for the closest accommodation on the GPS, which was Simwunini.

It  turned out that there was no camping,  only chalets.  We then continued to Mabalauta where we drove around a bit until we found the guard who allowed us in after a bit of persuasion (no money this time though)  and a promise to book in the next day.

We finally set up camp at about 8 pm, 11 hours and 138 km after leaving Pafuri

Day 3 28 April

Day 3 Mabalauta

Spent a quite day around the campsite, only going out for a late afternoon drive.  We didn’t see much,  other than a herd of elephant.


Very nice campsite with lots of shade


This was before Filly discovered there was an ablution block Embarrassed smile


The previous day caught up with Hester


What would a trip be without a Landy with an open bonnet Devil


View from one of the lookout points


Damian’s form continued with him getting a puncture on his way back to camp.


Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies

It was great to see that the general area was in good shape, with all the buildings and hides looking like they had recently been refurbished.

Day 4 29 April

We headed back out the park, destination Fishans Camp.  The road along the railway line was better than I expected and we made it to the reception in good time, after a short traffic jam at the causeway.


The water was very low and crossing was easy

We stopped for lunch at Chipinda Pools and then headed on to Fishan’s.


Damian got stuck coming out the river, and then Phillip had to recover me, after I got stuck pulling Damian out.


But it was nowhere as bad as Pafuri had been and 20 minutes later we where on our way again.

Upon arriving at the campsite, I wasn’t overly surprised to see someone already there.  Another double booking!  I’m beginning to suspect that this has become a unspoken policy of the Zimbabwe Parks Board.

Any way after introducing ourselves we went a bit further along and set up camp.  Quite a different experience to our previous double booking  in Hwange.

We had sun downers in the river bed and several beers to wash the dust away.


Ellies in the river



After supper we all had an early night

Day 5 30 April

Day 5 Fishans - MapSource 20120503 061847 PM

We had a lazy morning,  and then headed in the direction of the Chilojo Cliffs to go look for Hennie Rautenbach’s geocache.

After much backwards and forwards. we eventually gave up,  as all the roads became dead ends and headed to the cliff viewpoint for lunch.


Nick developed a problem with his low/high range selector, with the car refusing to go into low range or select any of the other options. This was going to be an issue,  as he needed low range to get back across the river.

I managed to get hold of Patrick Bremner on the sat phone and he in turn got hold of someone who worked for Toyota.  After a couple more phone calls, Nick was told to check a sensor on the transfer case.  The connector had come loose,  so problem solved.

We had sun downers in the river again,  accompanied by some ellies.


Not quite noticeable in this pic is the ellie that came out the river just to the right of Nick’s trailer

Day 6 1 May

Day 6 Fishans Baobab Chalets Messina - MapSource 20120503 064157 PM

We’d been hearing lions ever since we got into the park , but last night they were very close , with tracks in the river and also just behind our camp .


Dena’s footprint on the left , lion’s on the right

After breakfast we started home , via the back way out the park. Although this meant we had about a 150 km of dirt roads , we didn’t pass through any road blocks .

Damian and I however were both fine $20 for doing 88 km in a 60 km zone , although there were no signs to back this up. I wasn’t going to waste time over $20 though .

When we arrived at Beit Bridge , I was initially relived because there weren’t many cars in evidence. Unfortunately there were many locals queuing to get back into SA after the long weekend , and the waiting time was running at about 4 hours according to some people in the queue .

We decided to pay for runners and cleared the Zim side in about 20 min . It cost us R800 per car , but I felt it was worth it (it might have been less, but I made a rookie mistake when I paid for the first part of the process and I had left all my rands in my wallet. I’m pretty sure that drove the price up for the next stages)

We stopped off at the Spur in Messina for supper , and Phillip and I decided to stay over , while Nick and Damian drove home .

We headed to Boabab Caravan Park were I had stayed before , but they have done away with camping , so we had to book a chalet instead. Not great , but not bad for R330 for two people.


Day 7 2 May

Day 7 Baobab Chalets Home - MapSource 20120503 064628 PM

We left at about 6.30 and where home at about 12.30

In Conclusion

It’s been about 8 years since I was last in Gonarezhou , and it is definitely somewhere I will be visiting more often from now on. It is apparent that corruption is more common in the Southern parts of Zimbabwe , as I’ve never had any of the issues we experienced , when crossing the border higher up .

As far as Bo goes , I am over the moon with the performance and handling of the car itself , and the camper setup also makes it very easy to camp almost anywhere if required , and our set up time was around 5 minutes from stopping .

Phillip’s trip report

8 thoughts on “2012/04 Gonarezhou

  1. Very succinct and awesome pics too! Thks for a fabulous trip 🙂

  2. Pity about the corruption in the South, lovely report together with interesting pictures. There seems just not enough time to travel :((

  3. Nice Report Hiene,

    Africa is such an awesome place.

    Michael- AKA Pumba

  4. Hi Heine – this is a stunning report with photos to boot. Thanks very much!

  5. Very nice report !

  6. I’m sorry now we dind’t go to Gonarezhou this year. Maybe next time.

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