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Mana Pools - this is how we roll.


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Well as the trip happened some time ago, I thought I would bring you up to speed.


I kept a diary while on the trip, and trying to re-read it has been rather laborious, and i wont torture anyone here.


Briefly we put the trip together in a bit of a rush while so much other stuff was on the go. By the time we had to leave it was a mad rush to beak free and be off.


We bribed our daughter and friend to drive the Jeep and trailer to Joburg for us, and we flew from Cape Town to Joburg, picked the Jeep and trailer up and headed straight for Francistown.


As things turned out the Jeep did fine on the 1800km trip to Joburg, but about 100km from Joburg the plastic water reservoir split at the seam. It was friday afternoon, and we managed to source one at jeep, which our daughter very kindly delivered to us. But we had wasted so much time, our plans had to change.



And they don't make these cars easy to work on these days. Thank goodness we took more tools with us than we did last trip.


The change of plan involved skipping out staying over with friends in Francistown and opting for Beit bridge border to Zim. We tried to make some more distance and get closer to the border, but we were exhausted and decided to stay in Polokwane for the night and get started the following morning. The room in Polokwana was a little grubby, and we had a bad night there, but decided anyway to take advantage of the fact that it included breakfast. This set us back a little with time, but we were still OK to make it to our friends outside Harare before sunset.


Yes we had been warned about Beit Bridge, but it wasn't our first choice, and as it turned out we got shoved from pillar to post and treated rudely by the officials. We flat refused to take on a tout or runner, as they are another source of problems. The delay at the border cost us over three hours.


Tp make things worse we were stopped at a number of road blocks, and at one we were fined for something ridiculous - in fact I still cant figure out what we had done wrong.


The road to Harare, is very narrow, and has no yellow lines. I had white knuckles driving as we hung so close to the edge of the road when cars and trucks came on to us. But the worst was to come. It started to get dark, and we still had an hour to go before reaching our destination in Beatrice. With no yellow line on the side of the road, when approaching cars would come, I would focus on the side of the tar, and keep as close as possible to that, but oncoming cars would put their right indicator on. Later I figured out that this was to show oncoming cars where the outside of their car is.


Then it happened, an oncoming car smacked into the side of our Jeep. It was so quick. It took a few seconds for me to realize what had happened, but our Jeep was still going. There was no chance to stop. Big trucks coming on to you, and a truck behind you - nowhere to pull over. I held the steering wheel and said a few swear words, and then the reality set in. We were alive, the vehicle was still going, and we had nearly had a full head on collision.



This image shows where the mirror of the oncoming car went. Unbelievably, that was the only damage. Well - not true see photo below.


They was also a scrape on the tyre, and a slight split on the sidewall of the tyre - we decided to change the tyre and put this one to spare. At the same time, one of the trailer tyres had a slow leak, and we decided to put that one to spare as well.


We spent two nights with our friend, and thats when we went into Harare to get some groceries.

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I will continue with the happier stories now.


Zim is of course very expensive. But we stocked up on gin and tonic and some fruit and veg. I noticed that mince meat was a third more expensive than fillet steak!


So we got a lot of fillet. I am sure I could thing of a number of different ways to cook fillet for the next few days.


Harare to mana was a more relaxed drive. But the 30km strip from the check point to the entrance to the park was shocking. We couldn't find a speed to go that was comfortable. At 30km/h they doors were rattling off their hinges, faster and it got a bit better. At 50km/h you were breaking the speed limit, but it was more comfortable, until you hit a pothole of course. It felt like hours, but we had got to the gate to the park. Here the road improved - it was more sandy, and less corrugated. While filling in the forms, I looked back at the Jeep and noticed that the spare tyre had broken off the bracket that holds it on to the back door. More running repairs. The entire bracket was trashed, and we took the tyre with the bracket off and tied it down to the trailer. - we would worry about this one later.


This is our rig.




Finally after some paper work we set up camp


Something so comforting about a fire - finally settled.


By the way this is Nkupe camp.

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Time to load some more photos and get on to the part we enjoy.


I must say here, that the driving bit wore us down this trip. We felt that we were getting a bit old for this sort of stuff, but I didn't mention that while driving there is so much to notice - yeah there are the worms and huge overloaded trucks, but it really does help to take the place in.

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One thing we wont forget about Nkupe, was the noise at night. It seemed like some kind of rock concert was going on between the Hippos and the Egyptian Geese. I am not sure if the full moon made them especially noisy.



We chose to rest quite a bit while there. Although we did drive around a bit, the was enough action near the campsite to make us happy.


This beautiful kudu was eyeing us for a long time before we saw him.

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From Nkupe, we went to BBC camp. Although I preferred Nkupe, BBC produced an bit more action. We did a bit more walking while there, and must have missed the lions while tramping around, but they were there right next to our site. We got pretty close to an eland on foot. gallery_4095_812_5589.jpg

Look at his neck! The funniest thing is we sat dead still, and his curiosity brought him closer and closer to us before he made us out and galloped off.


NIce looking buffalo bull.


Think twice - mother is not that far away.



then we watched these lions for a while until a group of warthog caught their attention.

The stalk..


And then the chase -



That little pig had a burst of speed.

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Right. Read the first part. So here's my plan. Going to let this thread rest for a while. Then poor me a good glass of wine, open a bag of crisps, and really enjoy this. This is too good to just read every time a post is made. :D

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Right behind you, Jochen, but don't have your fortitude to wait!


Imagine being someplace where eland approach people out of curiosity! That says it all about Mana.


I think we need a thread just for your jeep, Bugs! A picture or two from each of the trips you've made in it and the stories to go with them. Would be fantastic.

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We only had two nights at BBC, and would happily have stayed longer. The next move was to New Ndungu.


Here we would track down and stalk another group of Safari Talkers.

But first set up the trailer tent.


and take care of hygiene.


New Ndungu was very tucked away. Although one could hear the safari vehicles passing, we were hidden in the bush somewhat. There was very little action here. Well sure there were elephants crunching their way through the bush, and we had some lion very close to the camp, but it was difficult to see them.

I took a walk in the morning to get this sunrise photo.


and on my way back saw some lion print had crossed my spoor. It wasn't long and the operators had picked up the spoor and were tracking the lions. Funny story. Once the lions had been located, I walked out and saw where they were, walked back and fetched My wife to come and have a look. This time we took the Jeep. We stared at the place where the lions were for a few minutes, and then some people walked out of the bush at that exact place. Two young boys. They walked up to our Jeep and had a chat asking if we had seen the lions etc. Turned out that they were building that new camp everyone was talking about.


I took a few photos of some birds in the area.


saddle bill stork


Indigo bird


ground hornbill


grey headed bush shrike - I stand to be corrected on this one.


Funny thing about Mana is that the other side of the river is cluttered with camps and lodges. you can hear their generators and people talking most of the night along with hammering and clanging. We also saw a group of canoes going past every morning. My wife and I did this canoe trip many years ago for honeymoon.



I managed to head over to visit the Mana girls. It was good to hook up with another group of Safari nuts. The other bonus is that I got to meet Doug. During the visit with the girls and Doug, a young elephant and its mother came to visit. Thats Mana for you. sitting at your table and Elephants pop round. They came really close, and the baby got itself between the mother and us. They seemed totally relaxed.


Jenny had not been feeling well for most of the trip. We decided to skip two nights of Nudungu and head to Kariba for two nights. I decided that I would use the opportunity to sort out the tyre problem, and see if I cant get the tyre bracket welded back on the Jeep. mana to Kariba is a short distance, but don't be fooled - its a hard drive.


As our last night was going to be at Chitake springs, we decided to leave the trailer at check point and get it on the way back. So we get to the check point and we encounter a small problem with the trailer tyre.


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Now if you were paying attention, you will know that the spare tyre to the trailer had a slow puncture. Now the other tyre had a fast puncture.


Anyway its hot. Sorry - you have to live through this story. Its midday and very hot. One very helpful operator pitches shortly after with the outer rubber of the tyre asking me it it was mine. Thanks I said. Not that I was going to glue it back on, but that its better that it doesn't get left on the road. My temper was a little fractured at this stage, and some very kind people were offering help. No problem, I had this one. Once again, we had broken down, but when you thin about it, it could have been worse.


Its pretty easy to take a trailer tyre off. All you need is a tyre spanner, which was in the Jeep. Jenny has been giving me this look for some time now. Its like she wants to tell me something, but doesn't know how or when to say it. Finally she gets my attention. "Honey, the keys are locked in the Jeep" OK OK - the only way to lock the jeep keys in the to the jeep is to lock it first and throw the keys in after. Fortunately we have the spare keys to the jeep in the Trailer. But its in the trailer draws, which are locked, and those keys are in the car.


Not wanting to break the door of the trailer, I figure out this ingenious plan to get into the trailer, and get inside the trailer and put your hand inside the drawer from the back to retrieve the key. This plan works, but, did I mention how hot it was. Anyway - we tied the spare wheel of the trailer to the tow hitch of the Jeep, and the spare tyre to the jeep had to go inside the Jeep with the bracket that had to be repaired.


And we were on our merry way. It was getting dark when we got to Kariba. We found a nice place to stay by a boat club. Reasonable chalet, and a cooked meal.


Kariba is a desperate town. I remember the days when it was doing well. The boat club managed to weld the tyre bracket for us, but there was one tyre shop in town. That tyre shop did not keep any tyres. Thats right - no tyres. The trailer tyre I was using was pretty much the most standard tyre in the whole of africa - it fitted any landrover, or any of the hundreds if not thousands of boat trailers at the lake. But they dont keep tyres at kariba. The tyre dealer could get one from harare, but it would only arrive midday the next day. I didn't want to risk it. Finally we met an old man who sold us an old trailer tyre from his trailer for $100. The good thing was it came with a rim, and the rim of my tyre was also trashed.


I will post some photos of Kariba shortly.


So we left poor miserable Kariba and headed back to our last night in the bush being Chitake springs.


When we returned to the trailer, we decided to use the slow puncture tyre rather than the one we had just bought - as the slow puncture tyre was in a better way.

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It looks like i wont tie this report up today. I am off for two weeks and will complete when I return.



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Really enjoying this adventure knowing it is something I could never do.

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Interesting trip and report. It is very true that visits to Mana rarely go quite to plan.


Did you know that the guys at Parks are very adept at repairing punctures? V reasonable rates as well.

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Near headon collision, running out of tyres, yikes! That moon, wow! Nice lion and ele activity. A most exciting report.

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Darn good adventure. ...awaiting the next instalment.

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Riveting report !


"grey headed bush shrike - I stand to be corrected on this one"


(It is a grey headed bush shrike)

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We returned for our last night at Chitake springs. Driving that corrugated road again - knowing that we have to do it again to get was not too exciting. However we managed the road without a hitch.


As others on the forum have explained, Chitake is rather extraordinary. Its the only water for miles, and there will always be a pride of lions in the area. There are plenty of very nervous Impala and warthogs. We dropped the trailer and went off for a walk immediately. We encountered a few animals and some good birdlife, then returned to set up the tent. That night we saw 4 aardwolf around the camp, and were rudely awakened by some loud lions just meters from our tent.


It was sad that we only had one night here, as the area is sure to be very fruitful. We knew the lions were close, and could see spoor all over the place, but weren't brave enough to track them too far on foot. There is a tree there at Chitake with a plague on it in memory of Pete Evershed who was killed by lions a few months earlier, and we werent going to push our luck any further.


This is the tree with the plaque on it.



white-crested helmet-shrike



pearl spotted owlet.



And of course you cant miss the meyers parrots - but they are difficult to get good photos of.



Our last night under the stars.


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That last photo shows what a beautiful setting you had, how lovely!

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How poignant to see the tree with the plaque. I remember that tragedy. And you encounter lions right near there. Wise idea to back off.

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