Wednesday, January 30

Haunting Hwange (part 1)

As many of you know I went on a 4 week overland trip through Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa in late 2011. I promised then to post more about that trip, so this is the first in a series of postings about our stay in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, a very special place, full of ghosts......

It was just past noon on a baking day in November that we finally cleared the border posts at Pandamatenga and entered Zimbabwe.

We had packed up camp in Kasane on the Chobe River earlier that morning and had had a fairly smooth drive south, until we hit the Zimbabwean border post.

I've learnt, from long experience, that border posts, especially in Africa, are best approached in a relaxed and patient manner. There is never any point in being uptight or aggressive with officialdom - they have all the "power".

Well this time, we had a small escalation over a minor problem, but fortunately after a bit of stress on everyone's part we got through with only a slight delay.

This was the first time I had been back to Zimbabwe in 4 years, and the first time back to Hwange National Park, (on Zimbabwe's western border) since 1987. So I was very excited!

Facing us was a 100 kilometre drive on dirt roads of unknown quality, so once we were well out of sight of the border we found a patch of shade to stop and have a leg stretch, drink and lunch.

Hans and Bud

Until we got to the Nantwich Gate into Hwange the roads were not too bad, a few rough rocky patches here and there and some stretches of corrugations. The landscapes were beautiful and where they hadn't been burnt there was still quite a lot of vegetation to be seen.

We were also very lucky to spot a distant herd of Sable antelope plus giraffe and impala.....

Lala Palms in the Matetsi Hunting Area

Approaching the Nantwich Gate


the north west part of Hwange was originally the Robins Game Sanct.

Checking in at Robin's Camp we were struck by the dilapidated infrastructure. Windows broken, thatched roofs slipping off, no working toilets. At least there was running water at an outside standpipe. We didn't explore further into the Rest camp as we were running out of time to make the final 40 kilometers to Masuma Dam, our camp for the next 2 nights.

The roads were only washed out in a few places, road signs were still in place at most intersections and the elephant, impala, kudu and buffalo we did see were not blocking our way, so we pulled into Masuma Dam camping/picnic site just two hours later, soon after sunset.

All plans of setting up camp were immediately postponed as we saw a herd of elephants jostling at the drinking trough immediately in front of the hide.

They were gaunt, obviously very thirsty and totally oblivious to us sitting just a few metres away.

We were also thirsty (maybe not so hungry) and we enjoyed our "sundowners" whilst watching all the action.

As the eles silently drifted off into the gloaming, we got back to our hastily parked vehicles and started setting up camp before the night got totally black.

A couple of hours later after enjoying our supper cooked over the camp fire, the heavens opened with a mighty flash and crash and we dashed for our tents.

Plans for the rest of our stay in Hwange could wait until the morrow......


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

H Coral .. I had some funny experiences in Hwange and in Zimbabwe ... We too came in from Chobe having driven through Botswana ...

Looking forward to your next part .. love the eles they were my problem! the rain sounds as though it might have been a life-saver for the animals.

Cheers Hilary

Coral Wild said...

Thanks Hilary.

I'd love to hear about your funny experiences in Hwange one day...

I'll talk about the rain and eles a bit in the next posting...

Gaelyn said...

The elephants do look gaunt and the waterhole small. Yet how exciting to be so close. No better view for sundowners.

You will tease me into a similar journey, I hope. In the meantime, I arrive Joburg Sunday and will soon be on my way to Kruger. Hope our paths cross.

Coral Wild said...

Thanks Gaelyn - until our paths do cross I wish you a really great trip in South Africa