Disclaimer : As usual, anything that goes on Heinecam , stays on Heinecam . You might come across the occasional F-Bomb , but usually not more than one per clip 🙂
With my 50th birthday coming up in April , I decided that I would rather be in the bush than in the city , so I suggested a trip to Gonarezhou . As my birthday fell on Saturday 18 April , we decided that we would leave Monday the 20th . The idea was to explore Gonarezhou over a 10 day period , as both my previous trips had only been for about 4 days in the park.
But a week before we left , 2 things happened. The first was the flare up again of xenophobic incidents in Durban , we then heard various reports that the border posts into Mozambique would be closing. We had originally planned to cross into Gonarezhou via Pafuri. We therefore decided on the Thursday prior to our departure to go do Hwange instead .
The second was that Mandy planned a surprise party for me the Saturday night. Most of the usual suspects were there , including a Jager machine and an awesome cake . (if you didn’t get the nod , don’t blame me , I had nothing to do with the guest list)
Mandy also organised an awesome cake
Day 1 Monday 20 April
Having recovered from the party , we left home at 7.30 , to meet the rest of our group at the Total Petroport on the N1 just north of Pretoria . We were joined by the usual suspects , Phillip and Dena Sprules , Nick and Hester Coetzee and newbies on their first trip , Casper and Lizelle , we were also meant to be joined by Patrick Bremner , but he cancelled at the last minute – reason still pending .
After having breakfast at the Steers , we departed , destination Woodlands Campsite , just north of Francistown. We went through the border at Martin’s Drift , which was quick and easy , other than for Casper who (unknown to us) didn’t have any Pula to pay for the Third Party , they no longer take rands , so ensure you have enough Pula , because although they will also accept credit cards , the machine doesn’t always work .
We made a stop in Palapye , as Nick’s car was making a funny scraping noise.
We decided to push on to Woodlands , to ensure we got there in time to get a campsite . We ended up getting there quite late because of a detour through Francistown , but the security guard was kind enough to let us in , and we sorted out payment the next morning
Day 2 Tuesday 21 April
Woke up to an interesting sight , I think I must give it a go next time , because after all
“Any fool can be uncomfortable” – TM Aubrey Moore
We left after paying for camping at about 9 , destination Nata Lodge for lunch
Casper , unable to control his excitement managed to flip his chair , much to everyone’s delight
We spotted our first Ellie about 20 k’s out of Nata .
Shortly after that , we turned on to Hunter’s Road , which was a lot drier than it had been in January
It was really easy going , and even the river where we had to turn back in January, was dry
Same place now
Nick , however did pick up a puncture , followed shortly thereafter by Phillip
From there on it was pretty easy going , but I was lucky to just avoid going into a big ellie hole
We decided to camp at Two Tree Pan for the night
Day 3 Wednesday 22 April
After a lazy start , we continued down Hunter’s , destination Leadwood Pan , where we stopped for lunch .
What a beautiful flower , and the water lily isn’t bad either
After lunch we continued along Hunter’s which was very easy going , too easy in fact , so I thought Casper should be initiated so that he could show the road the respect it deserved .
One thing I learnt , is that next time I’ll check that the initiate has recovery points on his vehicle. Because we couldn’t get him out forwards , we first had to unhitch the trailer and take it out sideways . That little exercise took about an hour and a half , but after that the car came out backwards quite easily .
Getting the sand ladders out eventually required the use of the winch
Casper finishing the stretch
The heroes of the hour
So about 2 hours later , we decided that we would take the next cutline out to the main road , as we were getting too close to the Kazuma Pan concession.
This turned out to be quite wet , as it went through a pan , and both Phillip and I had to be recovered backwards
After 2 easy recoveries , we got back onto the main track and then took the next cutline to the left , which was the northern border of the Sibuyu Forest Reserve. The going was suprisingly heavy , and after about 5 km we had to stop because Nick’s car was overheating . We decided to call it a day and camped on the cutline. Towards evening , a big storm appeared on the horizon , but fortunately we just caught the edge of it , because the ground was still pretty snotty once you broke through the surface , and any more water would have made it pretty difficult going .
Day 4 Thursday 23 April
We started driving at about 8.30 , destination Pandametenga for fuel and then onward to Hwange . The going was quite easy , but we did come across one interesting obstacle , which I suspect was some sort of drainage system for the farmland in the area . As the road was still our infamous cotton soil , we made a slight detour , with everybody making it with no issues .
Along the way we also met Moses Sprules
After refueling in Pandamatenga , we had an easy border crossing into Zimbabwe . The only issue was that they now capture your details directly onto a PC on the Zim side , which is quite a slow process , taking about 10 min per person . I had also forgotten my radio on , and as luck would have it , someone called me just as the policeman on duty was checking my vehicle. As I didn’t have a Zim license , I did a bit of smooth talking (no money , just talking) and he let me off with a warning . We headed to Robin’s Camp in Hwange to see which campsites were available . Unfortunately all the private camps like Deteema . Masuma and Shumba were taking , so we had to settle for Mandavu Dam , but at least we had it to ourselves.
For supper we had Mandy’s world famous braai pizza
Day 5 Friday 24 April
We had a quiet day , with a short visit to Sinametella Camp . The only real event was a hippo who decided to take a shortcut through the campsite
That evening ‘Phillip and I decided that we would like to spend a few more days in Hwange , and then possibly head up to Vic Falls for another couple of days. Nick and Casper felt that they would rather go back into Bots and go spend some time in Savuti and Moremi , as it was Casper’s first trip to Botswana .
Day 6 Saturday 25 April
After saying goodbye to Nick and Casper , we decided to head to Masuma Dam for a late brunch .
We’d already investigated the availability of other campsites , and unfortunately only Sinametella had space available , so we headed there. I really made Phillip’s
day trip by letting him drive Bo back
We pretty much had the whole campsite to ourselves , until a couple arrived in a Britz Rental . They came over and asked us to help them open their rooftop tent. Turns out they had flown into Vic Falls that morning from the UK that morning , and were pretty much given the keys and a map, and hardly shown anything about the vehicle. As they had a lot of questions , and because we could could see they were pretty much out of their depth , we invited them around for supper.
Day 7 Sunday 26 April
Woke up early enough to see the sunrise for a change. After that we went to the restaurant which was open for the first time in about 10 years .Even the shop had basic supplies . It’s really good to see Hwange coming back to life again .
Very basic menu , but everything was very tasty
Later in the day we went for an exploratory drive around the north western side . There are quite a couple of nice secluded areas , but we didn’t get very far , because once you are off the main roads , the other are in quite bad shape . We headed back to the campsite , and decided to patronise the restaurant again for supper . There was a group of about 12 Eastern European guys who appeared to be staying in the chalets . It looked like something that had been organised via Vic Falls .
Day 8 Monday 27 April
After saying goodbye to our Pommy friends , we headed for Vic Falls . We had to briefly detour to the Pandametenga Border Post to extend out temporary import permits. For some reason we made a rookie mistake and only had it made out for our initial 4 day stay . We we treated like royalty and I mentioned to Phillip what good mileage we had gotten out of the cokes I gave the guys on our way in originally . After catching up with Nick when we got back , it actually turns out that the Bots side had wanted to confiscate all their meat on their way back into Bots , so that had gone back to the Zim side and donated it all there.
The first thing we did when we reached Vic Falls (other than to try get Phillips tire repaired , as he was now without a spare , and in his words ,not mine , “Dena wouldn’t stop bleating about it :-)”. We found a tyre repair shop that suggested he put a tube in the tyre as the sidewall was too damaged. He said we could collect it the following day , as he had to first source a tube) was to head for a pizza next to Shearwater . This was turning out to be quite a culinary expedition.
With that formality out the way , we headed u to the booking office at the Zambezi National Park . We booked Chundu Bush Camp for 2 nights , and I was also surprised to see the gate at the park entrance manned for the first time in my experience .
Unfortunately the campsite was very littered and not very pretty , so we moved down to the river and camped on the bank. Turned out to be a great choice.
Day 9 Tuesday 28 April
After another awesome sunrise , we decided to havebreakfast where we were , and then later head into Vic Falls to collect Phillip’s tyre
We decided to forgo the usual touristy stuff at Vic Falls ,and after collecting Phillip’s tyre , we headed for lunch at the newly opened Shearwater Café . (I told you this was becoming a culinary expedition .
On the way out , we passed the road marker that had done over R90 000 damage to my D3 some years earlier. It had been hidden in the grass at the time and I had scraped the whole right hand side of the car along it .
The restaurant would not be out of place in Sandton , and although it was very pricey , it was a really great experience. So good in fact , that we decided we return for breakfast in the morning , on our way to Kasane , but more about that later .
Another highpoint was that we were educated in Dena’s Food Rating System
After lunch we decided to find somewhere new to camp for the night while Phillip and Dena went for a drive in the park. We chose one of the picnic sites , as there was a nice big tree and it also had a nice inlet from the river next to it . We’d probably only been there about 5 mins when we were received some visitors .
We had a fairly quite evening , with nothing much to report , other it was interesting to see how many day visitors drove past us on the way out. Things are definitely picking up for Zim.
Some arty sunset shots taken by Mandy
Day 10 Wednesday 29 April
We sadly left ZNP en route to Kasane via Kazungula Border Post . But first , as threatened , we stopped off at the Shearwater Restaurant for breakfast .
The crossing back into Bots was very quick and easy , and I even had some time to introduce Tiberious to one of the locals.
We headed for Chobe Safari Lodge , and first went to the campsite to pick our spot , and then walked through to the lodge for a quick drink and to book for the afternoon booze cruise.
Unfortunately , I neglected to take our garbage bags from the past few days off the roof rack , and by the time we returned to the campsite , they had all been opened and there was litter everywhere .
The booze cruise turned out to be quite fruitful and we saw quite a lot of ellie, hippo , buffalo and a huge croc. For once we didn’t eat out when we got back , and instead spent the night playing cards again .
Day 11 Thursday 30 April
We were visited by the resident warthogs while packing up. The old male is now really getting on , and seems to be at least partially blind. The younger ones tend to shepherd him around with grunts and nudges. He hasn’t lost his love of rusks though , and as usual made an absolute pig of himself (groan – sorry)
After making sure that everyone was fed , we departed , heading for Camp Ithumela in Palapye., with only a brief stopover at the Wimpy/Engen in Nata (no more food reviews – promise). Although I swore we would never stay there again , there is nothing else on our route that does not involve big detours. think next time we will rather adjust our route and stay over at African Ranches. Luckily the noise wasn’t too bad this time , with only the occasional train shunting things around , and the party at the bar ended at about 1 AM (sarcasm intended) . We did however make friends with the camp poochies.
Day 12 Friday 1st May
I did a comms check as we were leaving Palapye and was surprised when Nick answered. They had spent the night at Kharma Rhino Sanctuary and were now also heading home. We met up at Groblersbrug Border Post and decided that we would stop for brunch in Lephalale . Relax no more reviews .
After that it was an uneventful drive home.
And that’s all folks.