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Overland Kariba.


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Bugs

Here follows a brief trip report overland along the shores of Kariba.

 

To fill you in, we have left a competent 4x4 in Francistown with a camping trailer. It is our wish to return a few times to take different routes. I drove the vehicle and trailer up a few weeks prior, and we flew to Francistown picked the vehicle up, spent the night in Francistown and headed for Binga the next day. It has been a while since I have been to Binga, but We were familiar with the Pandamatenga border and the Matesti road.

 

It must be noted at this tine that the road between Francistown and Pandamatenga is not complete, and bashed us a round a bit. The trailer held up quite well, but in hindsight, we should have taken the route through Plumbtree. Border crossing was easy on the Bots side, but at the Zim side they started to fleece us for road tax etc etc. Pandamatenga is hot - very hot.

 

Then the off road bit started. There was nothing too challenging, but we had to stop to help someone else out who did not have a suitable jack to change his tyre. The problem was that I had to loosen my jockey wheel to get my jack out, and forgot to tighten it. The result was that there was some rattle for the next few kms and then a snap and it went silent. I went on another 5kms when I managed to figure out what had happened. We had to U turn and look for the jockey wheel. Unbelievably we found it and it was still OK. We did see a warthog and a few impala, but the best thing was that we saw a breeding herd of Sable.

 

The trip to the fishing camp was much longer that we had calculated, but we did take the wrong road, and found ourselves arriving late in the evening. The fishing camp was above expectations. Very well equipped and well run.

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The we went fishing.

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and the first day it went well... the next day was a little worse.

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Bugs

We had a great time at the lodge and extended our stay by an extra day. I wont go on too much about the fishing.

 

We had done a little shopping in Francistown, and decided to top up with fuel in Binga and get some more supplies for the drive to Chizarira and Matusadona. Fuel was easy enough to find, but the search for the shopping center was a little more tricky. Once we found the local Spar, we realized that there was nothing there we needed, and we would have to make do with the supplies for a little longer.

 

While at Binga a Parks board guy approached me and said he saw my vehicle at the fishing lodge the day before and remarked on what a nice car it was. He then said that I owe him money for water tax and fishing permit. The water tax was about ten dollars and a fishing permit was 5 dollars per person per day.. Rip off I say!!!! We managed to get him down to just the water tax and for one day, but it left a bad taste in our mouths.

 

So with tanks full of fuel and the little food that we bought in Francistown, we set off. You dont get used to the bad roads, and driving requires peak concentration. The roads went from bad to worse. While driving in the roads, I tried to figure out a way grading them so that if someone asked how bad the roads are you could give an answer. It wasn't as if they were impassable - although, I wouldn't want to drive them in a heavy rain. the main road deteriorated from 60km per hour to 40km per hour, and when we turned off to the park road at Chiz - it was well below 20kms per hour and at some points quite technical.

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Sights along the road.

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We saw many little kids herding cattle, collecting firewood and working. Barefoot. some must have been 7 years old.

 

 

By the time we arrived at chiz, we were pretty tired, but still had enough energy to go and visit the lodge. The lodge was completely empty and hasn't been used in a year. There was a bloke looking after it, but it was sad to see it standing empty. Then we headed to the main camp to clock in. One thing struck us was that there was a large residence for all the people who work there, yet there was no-one in the office when we got there. After a while someone pitched and after a lengthy discussion they managed to figure out how much we should pay for the night. It seems that there is a different price structure for every one of the Zim parks, and no-one really knows how to work it. The other problem is that - for what you get - its pretty expensive. I had dumped my water, as I wanted to save weight on the trailer -(big mistake) but we managed to get some. It seems that the campsite doesn't have water. In fact it doesn't have much at all.

Parks office

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Collecting some water for the night.

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The drive to the campsiite

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Below is the campsite.

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Ayesha Cantor

Firstly, next time, we are going with you.

 

Now that I have THAT off my chest....besides the bribery and corruption, bad roads, worse roads, empty lodges, missing staff...did you enjoy it ? :)

What about crime, how safe did you feel, and were you in these seemingly remote locations ?

Regards

Ayesha

Edited by Ayesha Cantor
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Harshad Barve

Excellent repost with some great images

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twaffle

Good start Dikdik. In your opinion would a trip of this nature be better with 2 vehicles, just in case of a breakdown. Just wondering about phone coverage and infrastructure to come and rescue you if you really can't get going again? Looking forward to more.

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Bugs

Ayesha I will let you know when our next trip is planned. We have to drive the vehicle out the border and back in again in three months. (They only issue licenses for 3 months)

 

Thanks Harshad and welcome to ST.

 

Twaff, we are quite well equipped, and if we break down, quite happy to stay put for a week. - no Bear Grylls survival stuff. it was nearly 20 years since I have traveled the same road, and in those days, help was unlikely. These days there are people and villages everywhere. Two vehicles would be better.

 

About the safety - We felt perfectly safe.

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Bugs

To continue, a few observations.

 

There has definitely been a huge amount of "ruralization" in Zimbabwe. I imagine that masses of people have fled the cities, many to SA and neighboring countries, but many seem to have taken up subsistence farming. Its pretty desperate actually. The rainfall is low and each household will plant a small crop of maize and run a few goats or cattle. The problem with this is that there is enormous pressure on the environment and the wildlife outside the parks. There is almost no sign of animals outside the parks.

 

Subsistance farming is probably more damaging than large scale farming. Mainly because the yields per hectare are so very poor, which means that it takes so much more land to feed fewer people.

 

When we approached the campsite, there was smoke coming from our destination. Someone had set fire to the bush. When we got to the campsite, there were three people from the anti poaching patrols who had decided that the grass was too thick and set fire to it. With the farming experience that I have I was dumbfounded that someone could just set fire to the bush and let it go. So while the fire popped and crackled on its way for the next few kilometers, we had a chat to the anti poaching patrol. They were all fairly new to the job, with the most experienced person being there for 4 years. He was from a town close to Harare, and one of the other chaps was from a nearby village. They had scant provisions including a few pots and some maize meal. It was difficult to believe that they survived each night in the bush in the open. We guessed that they planned to spend that night at the campsite until we disturbed them. They had just collected water from the stream. They admitted that poaching of elephant was a bit of a problem there, and blamed the Zambians. Of course the Zambians have quite a trek to get that far.

 

We had a bath in the stream that night, and decided to move on the next day to Matusadona. If we had more time, we would probably have spent some time exploring. I certianly didnt look forward to driving back out through the same bumpy road again, so we packed up and started with the trek to Tashinga. I had let my tyres down to 1.2 bar. This gave a softer ride, and we seldom went over 60km/h. The trailer tyres we let down to almost half a bar. It made a huge difference.

 

On the way, we picked up two hitch hikers (actually 3) one old man who claimed that he was second to the chief and a pregnant teenager with baby under her arm. The old man took us on a tour of a household. It was quite interesting because it was totally un-touristy and the lady of the house was totally unprepared and able to give us insight to her everyday life. She had 7 children and three dogs and her husband was out with the cattle. The house was set under a big baobab tree. Her daily duties consisted of seeing to the kids crushing maize and sorghum. Some of the older kids even help.

 

We had a good chat to the old man while we were driving to his meeting. I understand that they done have much conflict with wild animals and lions were not a problem. The problem seemed to be Hyena and Elephants. He told us that an elephant had killed two kids in February. They approached campfire and parks department and the elephant was shot. We asked how often elephant's were shot as problem animals in his area. He said that around two were shot a year. It sounded like a lot, but over ten times that amount were poached in Chiz each year.

 

Chizarira lodge - empty for a long time.

 

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Kingfisher at Chiz office

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Bugs

So the Arduous trip to Tashinga continues. We rocked and rolled through the countryside at many stages we checked and rechecked the GPS as there were no other vehicles on the road. In fact we were questioning when last a vehicle drove this route. The roads had been through a few rainy seasons without repair. We picked up another hitch hiker; a school teacher from Kariba, who had taken up farming part time and was visiting his family and farm and was on his way back to Kariba. OK - but we were going to Tashinga - how was he going to make it to Kariba? and how long would he be traveling for? It may have only been about 500kms by vehicle, but the roads were pretty poor. His plan was for us to drop him at tashinga, and he would hitch a lift across to Bumi hills (over water) then jump a boat that heads to Kariba. Pretty ambitious plan, but our responsibility stopped when we got to Tashinga.

Some more sights along the road.

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We had a very interesting chat with him and learned lots about the state of Zimbabwe. He was teaching agriculture and dreamed of starting his own tobacco farm. John even helped us and prevented us from getting lost. At the entrance to Matusadona park, you have to drive off the road a bit to register at the park office.

This is the park office. There was a blood filled tsetse fly on my neck, and this guy was too afraid to tell me. His eyes just got bigger and bigger. It was quite funny when the heavily laden fly flew off into his window and exploded when he swatted it.

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After swatting the fly came the good news - we only had 80kms to go. And then he continued to say that the road was bad... Well I have heard this before, but you have to take it from whence it came.. How do you mean bad? Like we wont make it bad? He said around 5 or 6 hours. Then he peeped his head out the doorway and looked at my 4x4; - recalculated "Maybe 3 hours in your 4x4" he said. Of course I don't think he calculated for the trailer as it took around 4 hours to do the 80kms. And the Tsetse flies made for an interesting drive.

 

To save fuel, and reduce the chance of the car overheating, we didn't use the aircon, and had the windows down. Each time we had to slow down for a technical bit the flies were waiting for us and within seconds were inside the car. It was quite a comical sight negotiating tricky terrain and at the same time trying to swat tsetse flies inside the car.

 

Finally we made it to Tashinga, and had to drive around to drop John off then register at the office and pay for the campsite. Once again there was the negotiations about the fees. The officials had little idea how much to charge us, and then they didnt have the keys to the safe, and couldn't give us change. We paid for two nights and agreed to come and collect our change the next day. Dusty, dirty, sweaty and tired we set up camp just in time for sunset.

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Bugs

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On the way to Tashinga, we didnt see much wildlife, but signs of elephant became more and more obvious as we closed in to the camp. I was busy fiddling with the GPS, when we heard this almighty bellow which lifted me off the seat. I managed to flick my eyes into the rear view mirror to see a furious elephant giving up the chase. We had obviously not seen him close to the side of the road and he took exception to us coming so close. The bush was very thick, and we watched a small herd of elephant cross and disappear in about ten meters of bush.

 

Camp fees were quite expensive. With everything in Dollars, we felt that the fees were a little over the top. Especially as there were little in the way of facilities left. We found ourselves equating the trip to a similar one in any South African park. In SA you would achieve way better comforts for way less money without having to break your vehicle on the roads and its literally on our doorstep. Of course - its not about seeing animals to us, it was about the experience and the adventure, but still, the park fees need to be revised, of they need to uplift their ablution facilities.

 

It was clear that the parks board still function albeit only just and with the help of the private concession owners. But what appeared to confuse us wast that there were way too many staff, many of them pretty new to the job, but little for them to do resulting in many of them being idle. It seems that they may be able to pay the wages, but don't have the extra money for a coat of paint or to do any maintenance on anything. This is not a complaint, but just a concern that if the Zim Parks are to overcome this bad period, they have a huge task on their hands. One picture sticks in my mind at the Tashinga office, we drove past their garage, and saw a few vehicles on bricks with three people sweeping the floor. The main office had a huge Natal Mahogany tree outside it, under which there are fish scales. All parks offices have topo maps on the walls which are all faded and almost impossible to make sense of. Our ablutions were only just functional, and in dire need of a facelift.

 

That night we had a difficult decision to make. We were not looking forward to the drive out and we had to shorten the holiday by five days anyway due to work commitments. Ultimately we wanted to make it to Mana pools, but that would mean driving back the way we came (unavoidable) and further. Although I was willing to try it in one day, we had no idea how bad the roads could be. At that stage the idea of another days driving was something we needed time to prepare for, yet we were a little disappointed with the facilities provided at Tashimga.

 

I had corresponded with Rhino Safari lodge prior to this visit, and decided to try and contact them. Jenny from Rhino Safari Lodge said that there were no visitors at this time, and they had no chef, guide or food at the camp. They close the camp when there are no visitors, and leave two staff members to look after the camp. She agreed to allow us to stay there if we catered for ourselves and didn't need a guide or their vehicles. Deal was brokered - and it was the best thing we could have done. Rhino Safari Camp is just awesome.

 

So with only one night spent at Tashinga, we decided to drive on to Rhino lodge the next day. Although its just across the water, the drive was testing the ability of our trailer to the limits.

 

To be continued .....

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Bugs

First time to embed a video lets see how it goes.. The video should show patches of road to Tashinga. Funny thing about the video, is that it makes it look easy. The road is much worse than the video shows.

 

BTW I was telling the camera person that there was a tsetse fly on her hand.

 

 

OK how do you embed?

Edited by Game Warden
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Game Warden

Like that... The youtube link has to be from Youtube: in this case

 

 

If fact, I've just discovered all you have to paste into the post is the actual link, no need to use the media tags :)

 

However, the http address has to be www.youtube.com/watch?v=.....

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Bugs

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Deciding to stay at Rhino lodge on the island was such a good choice. It gave us the chance to relax and smell the roses. We could just chill at the camp and soak up its beauty. The island is packed with wildlife. It is called an island, but it is attached to the mainland by a road, and when the water level rises in Kariba the road is under water, and this makes it an island.

 

After the first day at the lodge, we had decided to change all plans. Mana was off and would happen another day and we would relax where we were and enjoy. If you aren't paying for game drives, it allows you to chill a bit as opposed to charging out each day to see as many animals as possible. We enjoyed the smaller things that nature offered and watched the little wasps digging holes and saw some strange frogs in the middle of the day in the camp.

 

We aslo had a great experience with Elephants. A group of bulls decided that the camp was a good venue for a swim and munched around for hours paying little attention to us. So here are some memory photos.

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Bugs

Lets try again.

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Bugs

OK I found a way to do a video. You wouldn't believe what happens if you put some water out for the birds. I couldn't understand it - there is an entire lake twenty meters away, the birds come in to a little bird bath. In fact we had a few other visitors including the elephant who drank all the water out and ripped the tree apart as well. Photos follow.

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Bugs

Some more photos - just for fun.

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I forgot to mention that our food supply was running low, and we had to help ourselves a bit.

 

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You are joking - right - taking a photo of what?

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Edited by dikdik
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Bugs

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To be continued ...

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Treepol

Hi Dikdik,

 

I am really enjoying your report and photos. Rhino Lodge looks just the ticket for a relaxing and very 'active camp', great that you were able to negotiate a stay there.

 

Great photo of the elephant reflection in the vehicle and of the saddle-billed stork fishing, using its wings to reduce reflection.

 

 

Regards,

 

 

Pol

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ZaminOz

dikdik,

Enjoying your pics, video and reportage... good stuff!

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Bugs

Hi Dikdik,

 

I am really enjoying your report and photos. Rhino Lodge looks just the ticket for a relaxing and very 'active camp', great that you were able to negotiate a stay there.

 

Great photo of the elephant reflection in the vehicle and of the saddle-billed stork fishing, using its wings to reduce reflection.

 

 

Regards,

 

 

Pol

 

There is certainly lots of activity around the camp. I believe that they often have lions on the island and wandering through the camp. The owners of the lodge released a black rhino which is quite tame, and often wonders into the camp. While I was there, we were told that the rhino hasn't been seen for a few weeks, and in a later email the confirmed that they have found it - with a new addition. This is the second black rhino baby from that female that they released there.

 

We only did a little bit of driving mostly because we had last filled up with fuel at Binga, and the nearest Diesel was many many miles away... The photo below will explain my concern a bit better.

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Bugs

dikdik,

Enjoying your pics, video and reportage... good stuff!

 

Thanks Zaminoz,

 

I should get down to doing some more reports - it may be time consuming, but I must admit that I am having a bit of fun doing so.

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Atravelynn

Your bird bath was a remarkable success for birds, a squirrel, and the snake. Very funny when there is a huge lake nearby. You have mastered the video. The tse tse warning was very clear. Great shot of the eles in your camp or is it a shot of you in the ele's territory?

 

Mana Pools next time!

 

A fascinating and rugged report.

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  • 1 month later...
wilddog

Just caught up with this report Dik Dik, fascinating stuff.

 

My next chapter of my trip report will also include Rhino Camp. It is a fantastic spot.

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Pangolin

I somehow missed this report previously. Brings back some memories of my first safari - overland including Chizarira and Matusadona. Only up to Chiz in the report so far. Too bad the lodge has been empty for some time. We spent two nights there back in 1993. I enjoyed getting there (I wasn't driving) and staying there. The scenery was beautiful. They were fighting a huge fire when we were there.

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Pangolin

Now I'm caught up. Great report, pics, and video.

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pault

Like it - fascinating as I know essentially nothing about the area. Not a trip I'll be taking anytime soon, but I'm glad you shared it. The elephant reflection made me smile and want to be there.

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