Previous "South Africa 3"
This was the third entry into this country over less than a month and we hoped that no-one suspected any funny goings-on. We were glad to get to the peaceful Bulawayo Country Rest Camp after our epic journey where we had a quick dinner and hit the sack at the earliest opportunity.
The 29th arrived too quickly and we could have done with a few more hours sleep but we had to get on the road and back up to Vic Falls quickly. At lunch time we were pleased to meet up with Gordon and his mate Stevie who was on holiday from the UK. We all had a few chores to do including booking another day of rafting and filling up with diesel. Zimbabwe had a diesel shortage (fortunately predicted last week so we were prepared to some degree). Apparently some people had been camping at fuel stations whilst waiting for fuel deliveries. There was also a "no jerry can" policy which we put a stop to by paying a 10p backhander (naughty, naughty) but we had to guarantee that we had enough for our planned off-roading adventures at Chizarira. The Inyathi Campsite was heaving but we squeezed ourselves in and joined in the party. Everyone was braai-ing and having a merry old time. It was good to get cooking on the fire again and to catch up with Gordons gossip and get to know Stevie.
The 30th - the day of rafting. This time I was really apprehensive. The format was exactly the same as last time but there were loads of people - eight boats instead of two. Our raft consisted of us five, three equally mad South Africans and Doc the guide. Hummmm....the water level was much higher than three weeks ago and rapid 1 "The Boiling Pot" was an accurate description of its state. Within minutes there was carnage as one boat lost half of its occupants during a drill. They ended up swimming through the rapid. Our boat was about the fifth to leave and was the first to flip. Good grief we hadn't even made it past number one and we were doing some serious down time. It was funny though as all nine of us were high siding on the left tube of the raft to try to counteract the pressure of the water pushing up on the left as it turned a corner but it still wasn't enough and we all went flying. In a way the nerves were calmed as we'd had a dunking. However, this was not a serious rapid (grade 3) and much worse was to follow! "Morning Glory" was spectacular as we crashed through and came out the other side with a boat still in the upright position. The rapids were much faster than last time and we were prepared for a dunking every time. We were to flip once more - on "Star Trek" but I held on to the boat so there was no down time. Half of us were thrown out on "Double Trouble" as the boat tipped sideways but then righted itself. The highlight though was to be "Oblivion".
As we were a nutta group Doc asked us if we wanted to do a "tube stand" - to surf the rapid with the raft on its back end. Rude not to - although the chance of flipping was high, as was the length of potential downtime. We all sat at the back of the raft and leaned back as it went down the initial slope so that the front end was lifted forward ready for surfing. With a heart rate of 200bpm we watched the raft lift to almost vertical. We held on for dear life then watched it slowly fall again. Oh we had made it. We relaxed. Then it lifted up again...and our experienced Zambian, black as you like, rafting guide turned as white as his teeth and screamed "Oh Shit"......Hmmmm....Was this a good sign we all wondered....None of us remembered this command in the five minutes training we had received. As luck would have it...and I mean luck, we actually surfed for about four seconds with the raft on its end not knowing whether it was going to flip backwards or drop forwards again. This was living life on the edge and it was fantastic. Then the raft dropped forward and we had survived. What a feeling - the exhilaration was unbelievable and the "yeehaas" deafening. Then it was the end of the rafting and the walk back up the gorge was as bad as last time but the beers, braai and video were waiting at the top. This time we bought the video but sadly our tube stand was not recorded.
A day out on the Zambezi is to be renamed "the bruise cruise" (as opposed to the nightly booze cruises) and aches and cut bits were par for the course. That night we took our sore and tired bodies to the local casino for a bit of a flutter.
In the morning after a dash around the supermarket we headed towards Chizarira National Park and our superb spot to see in the New Year. Mucheni View was as beautiful as remembered. We set up camp, lit the fire, started the cooking, opened the fizz and set off the fireworks (small ones as we were in a park) and managed to stay awake past our normal 9pm to see in the New Year, courtesy of the BBC World Service 10pm GMT bulletin which didn't sound quite the same. It was a beautiful night, the sky was clear and the stars as bright as could be in this area of no light pollution. We consider ourselves very privileged to have spent the millennium night in such a place.
Gordon offered to cook us all pancakes for breakfast. We don't know whether it was the mixture, the temperature of the fire or the pan which was to blame for the disasters which were to follow. However, by lunch time and after much laughter we ate some delicious pancakes. That afternoon we headed off towards Busi in the hope that we could cross the river and return to that spectacular site that we had visited a few weeks earlier.
The river crossing was possible but sadly there was another group at the site. We had a cuppa with them then buzzed off to the overflow Busi camp where we had an encounter with the elephants - although not as close as last time. We ate our smorgasbord supper to the sound of baboons and hyenas.
In the morning we decided to try to find the Mujima Spring site which is very remote and difficult to find. Although it is a "site" there are no facilities and not even a designated camp spot. After a few hours we came across "Jedsons Camp" which is a privately run place catering for fly-in tourists. It was late in the day and they asked us to stay. What luxury. The chef, Abselom, withhelpers James & I, using our ingredients, cooked dinner and we all sat down to eat at a proper dining room table in their dining room overlooking the park. The view in the daylight is spectacular. What a delight. Drinks on the sofa followed - what luxury a sofa is. Then it was off to bed in their luxurious tents with en-suite facilities. When the lights went out there was a rustling sound. What we thought might have been some wild animal turned out to be Puppy, one of the camp dogs who had followed us into the tent. He wasn't interested in leaving so had to be thrown out. This place is where UK MP's go to get away from the media!!!
In the morning we left the delightful Jedsons Camp and armed with directions to Mujima we eventually found the place. By lunch time we were ensconced in this prime predator territory. The plentiful lion spoor proved the point.
The afternoon was spent relaxing playing cards and keeping a lookout for lions. Just before sunset Stevie spotted a male lion watching us. He was on his own but we quickly lit the fire and turned up the music. Lions are likely to be inquisitive but are not inclined to visit. Our lion was about 300 m away and certainly wasn't interested in a vegetable curry that night. Needless to say, our tents were a welcome sight as the hyenas started to call and the elephants emerged from the darkness for a drink in the spring.
A final drive through the park the following day revealed waterbuck, warthog and more elephants but nothing in vast numbers. As we exited the park we said a sad farewell to Gordon and Stevie as we headed off in different directions. We returned to the Country Rest Camp at Bulawayo for a good nights kip before the journey back into South Africa.
Next "South Africa 4"
from South Africa - Visit No 2
|Bulawayo||from Beitbridge||Bulawayo Country Rest Camp|
|Vic Falls||Inyathi Campsite|
|Chizarira||via Binga road||Mucheni View, Busi, Jedsons Camp & Mujima|
|Bulawayo||Bulawayo Country Rest Camp|
on to South Africa - Visit No 4