Africa


In the morning we could appreciate area properly. The beach stretched for miles and miles, with clean sand and clear blue water. The camp was fairly remote, the surrounding area being sparcely populated with little shacks built from woven palm fronds and set amongst the coconut palms and mango trees which were the dominant flora. Everywhere were coconuts and mangos. My sister and I invested a fair amount of time learning the difficult art of de-husking a dried coconut. Contrary to what many may believe, they don’t come in a nice hard shell ready to be cracked, but a very tough and thick husk which is devillishly difficult to remove. The mangoes were much easier, they came in a plastic bag, carried by an african dude. Also on offer was any seafood delight you could care to imagine. The fishing boats would come in every morning and guys would wonder around peddling their catch of the day. Over the few days we were there we had barracuda curry, rock cod with crayfish, and plenty of prawns and calamari. It was seafood bliss. This was complimented by the other local produce, cashew nuts, which are sold in big bags all along the road, and Portugeuese bread rolls, called pao, which are made in tiny little ovens in tiny little huts all around the area and can be bought freshly baked for a few cents a roll.

Having seen the huge fish the local spear-fishermen were bringing in, my dad and I were keen to give it a go. We drove to a lovely beach a bit further south and put on our wetsuits and swam out. It was about a km swim before we hit the reef. It was bit scary floating out there and seeing how tiny the car looked on the beach, so I mainly kept my head down. The reef was really beautiful with lots of coral, gulleys and big arches of rock through which the numerous reef fish swam. But we weren’t allowed to shoot reef fish unfortunately and we didn’t see too many game fish. We did see one, which my dad had a shot at, but with his little freshwater speargun, the spear didn’t go through. On one of our outings I swam through a big school of we later decided were barracuda, but by the time I had worked out what I was looking at the school had disappeared. In the end we failed to provide for the family, but we did have a good few hours of good snorkelling, seeing lots of colourful coral, reef fish, sharks and dad even saw a big turtle.
New Years was a fairly quiet one, with the inhabitants of the camp, mostly South Africans, gathering on the beach for a big bonfire. Later the camp did a fireworks display which was quite impressive given the remoteness of the place. Sophie and I slept on the beach, to be woken by the first light of 2010, and we started the year with beautiful early morning swim.
It was all too soon before Morrungulo was at an end and we sadly had to pack up the camp. My family had to leave to get back to work, but we decided to drive up the coast a bit and spend another night. So a couple hours after they had left, we ambled off and headed up the coast to Vilanculos.

In the morning we could appreciate the area properly. The beach stretched for miles and miles, with clean sand and clear blue water. The camp was fairly remote, the surrounding area being sparcely populated with little shacks built from woven palm fronds and set amongst the coconut palms and mango trees which were the dominant flora. Everywhere were coconuts and mangos. My sister and I invested a fair amount of time learning the difficult art of de-husking a dried coconut. Contrary to what many may believe, they don’t come in a nice hard shell ready to be cracked, but a very tough and thick husk which is devillishly difficult to remove. The mangoes were much easier, they came in a plastic bag, carried by an african dude. Also on offer was any seafood delight you could care to imagine. The fishing boats would come in every morning and guys would wonder around peddling their catch of the day. Over the few days we were there we had barracuda curry, rock cod with crayfish, and plenty of prawns and calamari. It was seafood bliss. This was complimented by the other local produce, cashew nuts, which are sold in big bags all along the road, and Portuguese bread rolls, called pao, which are made in tiny little ovens in tiny little huts all around the area and can be bought freshly baked for a few cents a roll.

Having seen the huge fish the local spear-fishermen were bringing in, my dad and I were keen to give it a go. We drove to a lovely beach a bit further south and put on our wetsuits and swam out. It was about a km swim before we hit the reef. It was bit scary floating out there and seeing how tiny the car looked on the beach, so I mainly kept my head down. The reef was really beautiful with lots of coral, gulleys and big arches of rock through which the numerous reef fish swam. But we weren’t allowed to shoot reef fish unfortunately and we didn’t see too many game fish. We did see one, which my dad had a shot at, but with his little freshwater speargun, the spear didn’t go through. On one of our outings I swam through a big school of we later decided were barracuda, but by the time I had worked out what I was looking at the school had disappeared. In the end we failed to provide for the family, but we did have a good few hours of good snorkelling, seeing lots of colourful coral, reef fish, sharks and even saw a big turtle.

New Years was a fairly quiet one, with the inhabitants of the camp, mostly South Africans, gathering on the beach for a big bonfire. Later the camp did a fireworks display which was quite impressive given the remoteness of the place. Sophie and I slept on the beach, to be woken by the first light of 2010, and we started the year with beautiful early morning swim.

It was all too soon before Morrungulo was at an end and we had to pack up the camp. My family had to leave to get back to work, but we decided to drive up the coast a bit and spend another night. So a couple hours after they had left, we ambled off and headed up the coast to Vilanculos.

In the next few days we hurriedly prepared for the next leg of the trip which for us would be about three weeks. First stop would be a camping trip with my parents and sister at Morrungulo, Mozambique. Its a long drive, almost a thousand kilometers from Harare so we set off early with Me, Soph, Annie, my sister Louise in the lead and my parents following on later. There were no problems on the Zim side, customs, immigration so far so good. Then having got our scrap of paper with all the stamps and signatures on it we approach the border gate. “Have you gone through police clearance?”, “No, where do I do that?”. She points across the road where a couple of guys are sitting under a tree. “Yes, those guys”.
I walk over and hand over our documents. He tells us that unfortunately the letter typed up and signed by my dad, authorising me to use his vehicle, requires a police stamp. I tell him nobody told me about any stamp. Ah sorry, you need a stamp. Uncomfortable silence. I offer to wait three hours for my dad who is on his way. Uncomfortable silence. He realises that we are not going to pay a bribe and gives up, “Agggh, you may proceed”.
Somehow the Mozambique side was much more busy, a hectic whorlwind of running back and forth, filling in forms, showing documents and handing out cash. I do not fail to note the sign informing that over the counter visas for any nationality were just US$25 and not the exorbitant US$110 that I had paid at the embassy. They also seemed to take as long as handing over the money and getting a stamp, not the 4 hours wait that the embassy had warned us of. Eventually we cleared the border and were in Mozambique.
The difference between the two countries is immediately obvious. Although the people look much the same, most don’t speak a word of English, speaking only their local language or Portuguese. It is also very obviously less developed than Zimbabwe, even with Zim in its current state. Just about the only modern buildings, and by that I mean buildings more complex than single room huts, are those built by the Portuguese before they were expelled from the country, and are almost always completely derelict. The difference in architecture, old decaying feel of the buildings and the foreign language all combined to make my photographic eye very itchy, however we didn’t have time to stop and take photos as we had another ten hours or so ahead of us.
We had a quick stop at the supermarket to get some goodies, and also changed some money with one of the notoriously shifty money-changers. Despite our vilgilance he managed to bamboozle us and would have gotten away with our bucks had it not been for Sophie’s recount, some shouting and some very quick reversing. Soon we are on the road again, going along at the omg-even-worse-than-Australia speed limit of 100km/h. Unfortunately unlike Zimbabwe with its $20 speeding fine, it seems the Mozambique government’s biggest income is from speeding fines and they are not to be trifed with. Each little town with its picturesque, dilapidated shacks and casas requires a slow down to 60, made even worse by the fact that we didn’t have time to slow down to a complete stop and take photos. There was a lot of drive-by photography on this trip.
Soon the GPS was telling us there was 60km to go. Almost there! It was at this point that the road, which had so far been decent, began to deteriorate. It was not long before the potholes were such that it became easier to drive along the dirt on the sides of the road than the tar itself. This lead to interesting situations where the locals would be walking along the tar, while the traffic drove by them on either side. Eventually at about 9pm we arrived at the campsite, a nice grassy area, shaded by coconut palms and scattered with coconuts. In the middle rose a two story, palm thatched hut or baracca, complete with a powerpoint which provided a few hours of power per day. My parents arrived safely a couple of hours later.

In the next few days we hurriedly prepared for the next leg of the trip which would be about three weeks. First stop would be a camping trip with my parents and sister at Morrungulo, Mozambique. Its a long drive, almost a thousand kilometers from Harare so we set off early with Me, Sophie, Annie, my sister Louise in the lead and my parents following on later. There were no problems on the Zim side with immigration or customs. Then having got our scrap of paper with all the stamps and signatures on it we approached the border gate. “Have you gone through police clearance?”, “No, where do I do that?”. She points across the road where a couple of guys are sitting under a tree. “Yes, those guys”.

I walk over and hand over our documents. He tells us that unfortunately the letter typed up and signed by my dad, authorising me to use his vehicle, requires a police stamp. I tell him nobody told me about any stamp. Ah sorry, you need a stamp. Uncomfortable silence. I offer to wait three hours for my dad who is on his way. Uncomfortable silence. He realises that we are not going to pay a bribe and gives up, “Agggh, you may proceed”.

Somehow the Mozambique side was much more busy, a hectic whorlwind of running back and forth, filling in forms, showing documents and handing out cash. I did not fail to note, with extreme irritation, the sign informing that over the counter visas for any nationality were just US$25 and not the exorbitant US$110 that I had paid at the embassy. They also seemed to take as long as handing over the money and getting a stamp, not the 4 hours wait that the embassy had warned us of. Eventually we cleared the border and were in Mozambique.

The difference between the two countries is immediately obvious. Although the people look much the same, most don’t speak a word of English, speaking only their local language or Portuguese. It is also very obviously less developed than Zimbabwe, even with Zim in its current state. Just about the only modern buildings, and by that I mean buildings more complex than single room huts, are those built by the Portuguese before they were expelled from the country, and are almost always completely derelict. The difference in architecture, old decaying feel of the buildings and the foreign language all combined to make my photographic eye very itchy, however we didn’t have time to stop and take photos as we had another ten hours drive ahead of us.

We had a quick stop at the supermarket to get some goodies, and also changed some money with one of the notoriously shifty money-changers. Despite our vilgilance he managed to bamboozle us and would have gotten away with our bucks had it not been for Sophie’s recount, some shouting and some very quick reversing. Soon after we were on the road again, going along at the omg-even-worse-than-Australia speed limit of 100km/h. Unfortunately unlike Zimbabwe with its $20 speeding fine, it seems the Mozambique government’s biggest income is from speeding fines and they are not to be trifed with. In addition, each little town with its picturesque, dilapidated shacks and casas requires a slow down to 60, made even worse by the fact that we didn’t have time to slow down to a complete stop and take photos. There was a lot of drive-by photography on this trip.

Soon the GPS was telling us there was 60km to go. Almost there! It was at this point that the road, which had so far been decent, began to deteriorate. It was not long before the potholes were such that it became easier to drive along the dirt on the sides of the road than the tar itself. This lead to interesting situations where the locals would be walking along the tar, while the traffic drove by them on either side. Eventually at about 9pm we arrived at the campsite, a nice grassy area, shaded by coconut palms and scattered with coconuts. In the middle rose a two story, palm thatched hut or baracca, complete with a powerpoint which provided a few hours of power per day. My parents arrived safely a couple of hours later.

Christmas was a big family one, held at our house. It went something like this:
Eat, eat, sleep, eat, drink, sleep, PRESSIES!, eat, drink, eat.
On boxing day we all went out to the Lion and Cheetah park. The incredibly deep rumblings of lions as they fight over their food is really something to behold. They also have a couple of cheetahs, which also make an amazing, if not as majestic sound. Its a high pitched whistling sound, more akin to the sounds birds make than big cats. They also had lion cubs, which were able to play with.

Christmas was a big family one, held at our house. It went something like this:

Eat, eat, sleep, eat, drink, sleep, PRESSIES!, eat, drink, eat.

On boxing day we all went out to the Lion and Cheetah park. The deep rumblings of lions as they fight over their food is really something to behold. They also have a couple of cheetahs, which also make an amazing, if not as majestic sound. Its a high pitched whistling sound, more akin to the sounds birds make than big cats. And of course the lion cubs, which were able to play with.


The couple of days before Christmas Sophie and I spent with my good mate Dave and his girlfriend Wendy on Dave’s family farm. It is one of the very very few farms that have not been ‘acquired’ by the government, and is an absoutely beautiful piece of Zimbabwe, with wonderful Msasa bushland, big granite kopjes and picturesque dams, not to mention flourishing crops, a rare sight nowadays.

We spend the time watching game, and exploring the rocks looking for the many ancient paintings left by the bushmen people before they were wiped from existence. I also have another go with my speargun and come out with a couple of fish. In the evening we are treated to a stormy sundown followed by a spectacular lightning storm that we watched from the top of one of the granite hill.

After the chaos of meeting up with everyone and getting all of our kit onto the boat, we find ourselves sitting on the deck and sipping a drink as the boat chugged out towards the blue hills on the other side of the lake. Kariba is a huge man made dam, over 200km long with a large proportion of its shores on National Parks Wildlife areas. Fully staffed with a captain, cook and deck hand, our cruise would ensure, even enforce 5 days of total relaxation. Our days are spent fishing, eating, sipping drinks and playing board games while watching the elephants and other game go about their business. The nighttime is punctuated by the sounds of the many hippos snorting and bellowing. Once a day when the boat is far from shore it stops and we all take turns jumping from the upper deck into the water.

One of my favourite things about Kariba is watching the clouds building up into massive, looming, towers of white, which in the late afternoon and evening start flashing with lightning. This spectacular display can be seen seemingly every day, but on the first day it was particularly epic. The clouds built and build, but this time they were lit by the most amazing pink and orange light as the sun went down down in a blaze of orange on the opposite horizon. As if this was not enough, it gave way to a huge show of lightning that lasted well into the night. It was accompanied by an amazingly strong, unrelenting wind that was blowing over the heavy chairs and threatened to take the whole carpet off the deck.

All in all a wonderful trip and a good chance to catch up with friends and family. After shopping for a few curios in Kariba town we heading back to Harare, well fed and well rested, ready for even more feeding and resting over the Christmas period.

Our lodge is in a beautiful spot right on the Great Zambesi, overlooking the floodplains on which hippos and elephants graze, backed by the Zambian side of the escarpment. After the previous day and night’s adventure we are quite happy to relax under the trees by our lodge looking out over the plains and drinking tea. In the afternoon we venture out for a very safe drive on the roads near the camp. There are impalas everywhere, the rains having brough with them innumerable little impala calves. The baboons too have their young and are out in their hundreds, playing and grooming and shouting.

After a walk along Long Pool, at random we take one of the roads heading to a different camp. There is a wet patch that we get through with difficulty, but I am not too worried, having gone through many of them on the previous day’s drive. The next wet patch is different. We get stuck. I soon realise that this particular mud is a particular type of hard, sticky, black clay. It sticks into the type trends, turning the wheels into slick, black balloons. Over the next hour we dig, push, rock, and stuff a variety of grasses, sticks and logs under the tyres to no avail. In the plains nearby, zebras and elephants watch curiously and the rumbles of distant lions can be heard. Initially I am more worried about all the photo oppurtunities I am missing as the last sun lights up the trees and the sky is painted a series of wonderful colours. To the horror of the girls, now caked in mud, I am compelled to take a tiny little break to take a couple of photos.
Then it was getting dark and, our huge efforts not having more the car a single inch, we where faced with the choice of sleeping in the car, or walking back to the camp in the dark, not something you want to do if you have ever experienced the amazing density of wildlife in the park. Nonetheless, Soph and I set off bravely into the dark, headlamps on bright, knobbley sticks in hand and talking loudly to warn lurking creatures of our approach. It was terrifying yet oddly comforting to know that we were only a few km away from help and not 50km, as we would have been had we got stuck the previous day.
As it was we were lucky and a returning Parks guy picked us up about a km down the road. But it soon became obvious that we weren’t going to get any help from the Parks guys. Their 4×4 was broken, and in order to “Mobilise” they would require some kind of compensation. So we get them to drop us at the neighbouring lodge, where the occupants very kindly agree to drive out and rescue us. Annie, who has been waiting in the car anxiously with doors locked, is very happy to see us. On the way we learn that some others in a white Isuzu had gone out in the morning and not yet returned. On getting back to the lodge we all have a well needed shower and take our rescuers a bottle of wine. Another day, another adventure.
The next day we make an even bigger effort not to get ourselves into trouble. There is much relaxing and game viewing from the safety of the lodge, but we also do a short drive out to see some lions that had been spotted by one of the other groups. In in the mid-afternon a very muddy white Isuzu drives past our lodge. They had spent the night in their car. In the late afternoon I am happily getting my camera ready for my first chance to take evening photos uninterrupted by peril. Its just then that Annie comes and tells me that the beleaguered white Isuzu is now bogged just outside our lodge. Cursing, but not wanting to anger the karma police, I am compelled to leave my camera and pull them out as the precious minutes of sundown pass by. We get them out eventually and tell them that its probably not a good idea to be heading out at this time of day, but they seem very determined to leave. As they go we are half expecting to come across them on the road the next day.
I put out my camera that night to attempt a star trail photo. I have to leave it for longer than I planned when I notice an elephant lurking not 10m from where it’s set up.
The next morning we leave early for kariba to give us plenty of time for stoppages. We have a keen eye out for the mythical baobab, by it evades us on the way out as well.

Our lodge is in a beautiful spot right on the Great Zambesi, overlooking the floodplains on which hippos and elephants graze, backed by the Zambian side of the escarpment. After the previous day and night’s adventure we are quite happy to relax under the trees by our lodge looking out over the plains and drinking tea. In the afternoon we venture out for a very safe drive on the roads near the camp. There are impalas everywhere, the rains having brough with them innumerable little impala calves. The baboons too have their young and are out in their hundreds, playing and grooming and shouting.

After a walk along Long Pool, at random we take one of the roads heading to a different camp. There is a wet patch that we get through with difficulty, but I am not too worried, having gone through many of them on the previous day’s drive. The next wet patch is different. We get stuck. I soon realise that this particular mud is a particular type of hard, sticky, black clay. It sticks into the type trends, turning the wheels into slick, black balloons. Over the next hour we dig, push, rock, and stuff a variety of grasses, sticks and logs under the tyres to no avail. In the plains nearby, zebras and elephants watch curiously and the rumbles of distant lions can be heard. Initially I am more worried about all the photo oppurtunities I am missing as the last sun lights up the trees and the sky is painted a series of wonderful colours. To the horror of the girls, now caked in mud, I am compelled to take a tiny little break to take a couple of photos.

Then it was getting dark and, our huge efforts not having more the car a single inch, we where faced with the choice of sleeping in the car, or walking back to the camp in the dark, not something you want to do if you have ever experienced the amazing density of wildlife in the park. Nonetheless, Soph and I set off bravely into the dark, headlamps on bright, knobbley sticks in hand and talking loudly to warn lurking creatures of our approach. It was terrifying yet oddly comforting to know that we were only a few km away from help and not 50km, as we would have been had we got stuck the previous day.

As it was we were lucky and a returning Parks guy picked us up about a km down the road. But it soon became obvious that we weren’t going to get any help from the Parks guys. Their 4×4 was broken, and in order to “Mobilise” they would require some kind of compensation. So we get them to drop us at the neighbouring lodge, where the occupants very kindly agree to drive out and rescue us. Annie, who has been waiting in the car anxiously with doors locked, is very happy to see us. On the way we learn that some others in a white Isuzu had gone out in the morning and not yet returned. On getting back to the lodge we all have a well needed shower and take our rescuers a bottle of wine. Another day, another adventure.

The next day we make an even bigger effort not to get ourselves into trouble. There is much relaxing and game viewing from the safety of the lodge, but we also do a short drive out to see some lions that had been spotted by one of the other groups. In in the mid-afternon a very muddy white Isuzu drives past our lodge. They had spent the night in their car. In the late afternoon I am happily getting my camera ready for my first chance to take evening photos uninterrupted by peril. Its just then that Annie comes and tells me that the beleaguered white Isuzu is now bogged just outside our lodge. Cursing, but not wanting to anger the karma police, I am compelled to leave my camera and pull them out as the precious minutes of sundown pass by. We get them out eventually and tell them that its probably not a good idea to be heading out at this time of day, but they seem very determined to leave. As they go we are half expecting to come across them on the road the next day.

I put out my camera that night to attempt a star trail photo. I have to leave it for longer than I planned when I notice an elephant lurking not 10m from where it’s set up.

The next morning we leave early for kariba to give us plenty of time for stoppages. We have a keen eye out for the mythical baobab, by it evades us on the way out as well.

Our last trip to Mana was quite an adventure with huge numbers of bugs, strong winds, rain, a rampaging wind scorpion, and a hyaena seige of our campsite combining to make of of the most hectic nights of camping I have had. But having scared Annie with all of the stories, I am was confident that it would be unlikely for such adventure to find us a second time in a row. I was wrong.
Our first adventure happened before we had even found our way to the camp. I had been told tales of a huge Baobab tree, possibly the largest in Africa, maybe even the world! This mythical tree was to be found, around 20km from the first checkpoint after entering the wilderness area. Despite asking every National Parks person that we passed in the different Parks checkpoints, I they could not narrow it down more than, just off the road on the left, between 18km and 20km from the boom. Being a keen photographer I was of course very interested in seeing such a tree, but as we drove it was obvious that the lush bush, which would be very dry at other times of the year, would make it difficult to spot. So come 18km we crawled along with our eyes peeled. Of course there were no signs saying “Largest Baobab in Africa to Left”, or even a track or path for that matter. Shortly after 20km though there was a track to the left. Surely this is the way! We head off down the rough track. It is not long before our four wheel drive is tested with a quite hectic crossing of a dry river bed. After a few km there is no sign of any overly large Baobabs. Looking at our trusty map of Zimbabwe, I notice a green line that follows where we have gone and joins up with the main road 20km or so along. The bush is beautiful so I decide to continue on, trusting that we will join up later. We cross a couple more dry rivers and charge through a few more muddy puddles. At some points we temporarily lose the road. It’s easy to do as many areas are very open and flat and one can choose their own route through. I am not really paying attention to which direction we are heading, confident that the green line on the map will deliver us eventually.
At 30km we still have not joined up with the main road. Normally at this point logic would have kicked in and told us the very obvious course of action would be to go back, especially after Annie looked at the map and realised that the green lines signify park borders and not in fact, roads. Maybe it was the stunningly lush green bushland that we were driving through, maybe it was our indominable spirit of adventure or maybe sheer stupidity, but we drove on in the hope that we would end up somewhere. Having given up on the illusion that we would meet to the main road we now paid attention to where we were actually heading. Had we been doing this earlier it would have been obvious that the road was heading north and not east as it was meant to. We were now hoping to reach the road that runs along the river. I was really regretting that I had inexplicably not taken the shiny new GPS that my dad had offered us.
We drove on through more amazing bush scenery, which was now beautifully lit by the late afternoon sunlight. The hills to the north of us seemed to gradually get closer, promising that we were nearing our goal. The road splits off a couple of times and try keeping north.
50km. The sun is down, we’re not at the river yet. Time to face the reality that we’re going to have to set up and sleep in our flimsy tent out here, “Somewhere in the bush near Mana Pools”. I set up the tent while the girls start preparing our elaborately planned first meal. Its dark by the time the tent is up, and I am not happy being out in the open so dinner is canned and we have peanut butter on bread huddled in the tent. Through the night we can hear hippos bellowing and snorting, there are distant lion sounds, and very un-distant sounds of large animals moving near the tent. I spend a fair bit of the night praying that it does not rain heavily, as it is prone to at that time of year. I have finally come to the fairly obvious realisation that if it does, the numerous muddy puddles and dry beds that we only just got through to get here will be innavigable and we’ll be stuck in the bush 50km from the nearest road that we should have been driving on. I don’t mention this to the girls and hope they are sleeping well.
We rise with the sun in the morning and get to walk around the tent looking at all of the footprints of all the animals that have been wandering around our tent during the night, antelope, baboons, hyaena, elephant and a few that I don’t recognise. Although I am fairly sure we are now on, or at least near, the river road, we have no idea how far we have to go. As much as it pains me to backtrack, we wisely decided to head back. Luckily the cars tracks are still fresh on the ground so we have no problem following our path back. We manage not to get stuck and I am very relieved when roll back onto the main road two hours or so later. We take no more detours on the way to camp, but not far along the road we see a large pack of twenty wild dogs. Endangered, and very seldom seen, it is a real treat to see them, even worth spending the night in the bush. We watch them for a good while as they relax and play by the road before going on to our lodge.

Our last trip to Mana was quite an adventure with huge numbers of bugs, strong winds, rain, a rampaging wind scorpion, and a hyaena seige of our campsite combining to make of of the most hectic nights of camping I have had. But having scared Annie with all of the stories, I am was quietly confident that it would be unlikely for such adventure to find us a second time in a row. I was wrong.

Our first adventure happened before we had even found our way to the camp. I had been told tales of a huge Baobab tree, possibly the largest in Africa, maybe even the world! This mythical tree was to be found, around 20km from the first checkpoint after entering the wilderness area. Despite asking every National Parks person that we passed in the different Parks checkpoints, I they could not narrow it down more than, just off the road on the left, between 18km and 20km from the boom. Being a keen photographer I was of course very interested in seeing such a tree, but as we drove it was obvious that the lush bush, which would be very dry at other times of the year, would make it difficult to spot. So come 18km we crawled along with our eyes peeled. Of course there were no signs saying “Largest Baobab in Africa to Left”, or even a track or path for that matter. Shortly after 20km though there was a track to the left. Surely this is the way! We head off down the rough track. It is not long before our four wheel drive is tested with a quite hectic crossing of a dry river bed. After a few km there is no sign of any overly large Baobabs. Looking at our trusty map of Zimbabwe, I notice a green line that follows where we have gone and joins up with the main road 20km or so along. The bush is beautiful so I decide to continue on, trusting that we will join up later. We cross a couple more dry rivers and charge through a few more muddy puddles. At some points we temporarily lose the road. It’s easy to do as many areas are very open and flat and one can choose their own route through. I am not really paying attention to which direction we are heading, confident that the green line on the map will deliver us eventually.

At 30km we still have not joined up with the main road. Normally at this point logic would have kicked in and told us that the very obvious course of action would be to go back, especially after Annie looked at the map and realised that the green lines signify park borders and not in fact, roads. Maybe it was the stunningly lush green bushland that we were driving through, maybe it was our indominable spirit of adventure or maybe sheer stupidity, but we drove on in the hope that we would end up somewhere. Having given up on the illusion that we would meet to the main road we now paid attention to where we were actually heading. Had we been doing this earlier it would have been obvious that the road was heading north and not east as it was meant to. We were now hoping to reach the road that runs along the river. I was really regretting that I had inexplicably not taken the shiny new GPS that my dad had offered us.

We drove on through more amazing bush scenery, which was now beautifully lit by the late afternoon sunlight. The hills to the north of us seemed to gradually get closer, promising that we were nearing our goal. The road splits off a couple of times and and we try keeping north.

50km. The sun is down, we’re not at the river yet. Time to face the reality that we’re going to have to set up and sleep in our flimsy tent out here, “Somewhere in the bush near Mana Pools”. I set up the tent while the girls start preparing our elaborately planned first meal. Its dark by the time the tent is up, and I am not happy being out in the open so dinner is canned and we have peanut butter on bread huddled in the tent. Through the night we can hear hippos bellowing and snorting, there are distant lion sounds, and very un-distant sounds of large animals moving near the tent. I spend a fair bit of the night praying that it does not rain heavily, as it is prone to at that time of year. I have finally come to the fairly obvious realisation that if it does, the numerous muddy puddles and dry beds that we only just got through to get here will be innavigable and we’ll be stuck in the bush 50km from the nearest road that anyone would ever expect us to drive on. I don’t mention this to the girls and hope they are sleeping well.

We rise with the sun in the morning and get to walk around the tent looking at all of the footprints of all the animals that have been wandering around our tent during the night, antelope, baboons, hyaena, elephant and a few that I don’t recognise. Although I am fairly sure we are now on, or at least near, the river road, we have no idea how far we have to go. As much as it pains me to backtrack, we wisely decided to head back. Luckily the cars tracks are still fresh on the ground so we have no problem following our path back. We manage not to get stuck and I am very relieved when roll back onto the main road two hours or so later. We take no more detours on the way to camp, and not far along the road we see a large pack of twenty wild dogs. Endangered, and very seldom seen, it is a real treat to see them, maybe even worth spending the night in the bush. We watch them for a good while as they relax and play by the road before going on to our lodge  and setting about preparing a huge and indulgent cooked breakfast lunch.

The next leg of our trip would take us up to the far north of the country. We drove up, stopping in Chinoyi to visit the Chinoyi Caves and going on to Mana Pools, an amazing wildlife reserve that sits on the banks of the Zambesi River and is absolutely packed with wildlife, as well as some of the most beatutiful scenery Zimbabwe has to offer. From there we were going to meet my family in Kariba for a few days on a houseboat.
So after piling all of our things into my dad’s 4×4 we set off, our first stop Chinoyi, about an hour out of Harare. The Chinoyi Caves is a big limestone sinkhole, at the bottom of which is a deep pool of the most beautiful, clear and strikingly blue water. The bottom of it winds down through limestone caves to a depth of over 300ft, 300ft being the deepest any diver has so far dared to go. Ajoining this big cave is a smaller set of caves through which one can climb. Aussie Health and Safety would not be very happy about the state of the place, and the fact that tourists are allowed to explore, without helmets! It is nonetheless fun to explore and the views looking down from above the pool are amazing. After having our fill of scary caves, we head further north.

The next leg of our trip would take us up to the far north of the country. We drove up, stopping in Chinoyi to visit the Chinoyi Caves and going on to Mana Pools, an amazing wildlife reserve that sits on the banks of the Zambesi River and is absolutely packed with wildlife, as well as some of the most beatutiful scenery Zimbabwe has to offer. From there we were going to meet my family in Kariba for a few days on a houseboat.

So after piling all of our things into my dad’s 4×4 we set off, our first stop Chinoyi, about an hour out of Harare. The Chinoyi Caves is a big limestone sinkhole, at the bottom of which is a deep pool of the most beautiful, clear and strikingly blue water. The bottom of it winds down through limestone caves to a depth of over 300ft, 300ft being the deepest any diver has so far dared to go.

Adjoining this big cave is a smaller set of caves through which one can climb. Aussie Health and Safety would not be very happy about the state of the place, and the fact that tourists are allowed to explore, without helmets! It is nonetheless fun to explore and the views looking down from above the pool are amazing. After having our fill of scary caves, we head further north.

Not long after Annie’s arrival we head up to the Vumba again. Apart from me getting up for sunrise every morning it is an extremely relaxing weekend with much walking, snoozing and reading of books. It really is a great place to go to relax.

One of the highlights is a visit to Tony’s Coffee Shoppe. An institution in the Vumba, no trip is complete without a visit. The prices are heavy, but the chocolate cake is even heavier and worth every cent. The hot chocolates that we have are so rich with chocolate that is difficult to finish a cup. That doesn’t stop Soph and I from having refills, however, and as a result we are feeling very queasy when we leave, but in a good, chocolatey way.

Welcome back everyone! And sorry for the long lack of posts, its been very hectic over Christmas and New Years, with much visiting of family and travel. I have been keeping notes however, and fully intend to catch up to the present. So we’re going a bit back in time, way back to 2009!
A few days after we got back from our first trip up the the vumba, Annie arrived. A friend of Sophie and mine, she flew over from Birsbane to spend the remainder of the Zim leg of the trip with us. Unfortunately for her, the day after her arrival, or rather, the day of her arrival, as she was delayed and only actually got her in the early hours of the morning, we had some rather painful chores to do in the city. We needed to extend our Zim visa’s, and also to buy Mozambique visas for our upcoming road trip. Two seemingly simple tasks in most countries, in Zim I knew were definitely going to cause us grief somehow…
Now, the city of Harare is one of my least favourite places to visit. It is busy, crowded, dirty and hot, and usually I am there for some completely undesirable purpose such as renewing my Zim residence in the immigration office, as was the case today. The first thing we had to do though was meet with a friend of Sophie’s from her last visit, Emmanuel. He is a local musician, somewhat outspoken against the government as I would imagine it would be difficult not to be as a musician in the current envirnoment. Over the years since we were last here he has had a rough time, and after unsuccessfully seeking refugee status in the UK, he is back in Zim hoping for the best with the new joint government. It is very interesting chatting to him, he tells us about his life in Chitungwisa township where there is much poverty and sewage runs in the streets. Despite his situation though he is glad to be back home and hopeful for the future.
We stop to look in the supermarket on our way to the immigration office. I am amazed at how well stocked it is, with just about everything you could want there on the shelves. It is a stark contrast to the last time when supermarkets were almost entirely empty and most shopping had to be sourced from South Africa. The prices however are now in US Dollars and most of the imported items are much the same price as they would be in Australia. The local produce however is still quite cheap and I am glad to note that alcohol prices are still intoxicatingly low. Local spirits are as low as three dollars a bottle, and even imported liquor is less than half the price as it would be in Australia, US$12 for a bottle of Gilbeys Gin for example. Beer is a very reasonable 60c a bottle or so.
We buy a few niknaks and carry on to the Immigration office. If you live in a first world country, Zimbabwean municipal offices really have to be seen to be believed. They are old, dark, dirty, smelly buildings. If you imagine a once good looking building that has had zero maintenance for the last two decades. They also invariably involve a lot of queuing on uncomfortable benches. This paricular one however, had just closed for its lunchbreak and would only open again in two hours time.
Now regretting our frolick in the Supermarket we walked to the Mozabique embassy. The guy at the gate with an AK tells us that they are closed, and that they are only open until twelve. We will have to try again tomorrow.
Dejected we walk back to the Immigration and join the queue that as already formed in the 30 seconds it takes us to walk up the dark grimey stairs. After some time we reach the counter and the guy flittingly explains that we don’t need to extend our visa and it wouldn’t be a problem at the border, next please. We hang on there a bit longer poking a bit more information out of him to make sure this would indeed be the case, and finally satisfied, we leave. Harare city 2 – Us 0.
The next day we are at the Mozambique embassy at eight o clock sharp. We go through the security gate. The metal detector beeps in alarm as I walk through, but the guy with the AK doesnt seem to mind so we go on. There is no staff present so we have to explore a bit to find our queue. Half an hour later some staff appear and the queue starts moving. We finally reach the desk. US110 for a visa in a British passport! I can’t believe it! The girls only have to pay half as much. We cough up and I leave, hissing, but glad that I won’t have to come into the city again anytime soon.

Welcome back everyone! And sorry for the long lack of posts, its been very hectic over Christmas and New Years, with much visiting of family and travel. I have been keeping notes however, and fully intend to catch up to the present. So we’re going a bit back in time, way back to 2009!

A few days after we got back from our first trip up the the vumba, Annie arrived. A friend of Sophie and mine, she flew over from Birsbane to spend the remainder of the Zim leg of the trip with us. Unfortunately for her, the day of her arrival, as she was delayed and only actually got here in the early hours of the morning, we had some rather painful chores to do in the city. We needed to extend our Zim visa’s, and also to buy Mozambique visas for our upcoming road trip. Two seemingly simple tasks in most countries, in Zim I knew were definitely going to cause us grief somehow…

The city of Harare is one of my least favourite places to visit. It is busy, crowded, dirty and hot, and usually I am there for some completely undesirable purpose such as renewing my Zim residence in the immigration office, as was the case today. The first thing we had to do though was meet with a friend of Sophie’s from her last visit, Emmanuel. He is a local musician, somewhat outspoken against the government as I would imagine it would be difficult not to be as a musician in the current envirnoment. Over the years since we were last here he has had a rough time, and after unsuccessfully seeking refugee status in the UK, he is back in Zim hoping for the best with the new joint government. It is very interesting chatting to him, he tells us about his life in Chitungwisa township where there is much poverty and sewage runs in the streets. Despite his situation though he is glad to be back home and hopeful for the future.

Next we head to the immigration office  stopping to look in the supermarket on our way . I am amazed at how well stocked it is, with just about everything one could want there on the shelves. It is a stark contrast to the last time when supermarkets were almost entirely empty and most shopping had to be sourced from South Africa. The prices however are now in US Dollars and most of the imported items are much the same price as they would be in Australia, so VERY expensive by Zim standards. The local produce however is still quite cheap and I am glad to note that alcohol prices are still intoxicatingly low. Local spirits are as low as three dollars a bottle, and even imported liquor is less than half the price as it would be in Australia, US$12 for a bottle of Gilbeys Gin for example. Beer is a very reasonable 60c a bottle or so.

We buy a few niknaks and carry on to the Immigration office. If you live in a first world country, Zimbabwean municipal offices really have to be seen to be believed. They are old, dark, dirty, smelly buildings, imagine a once good looking building that has had zero maintenance for the last two decades and you begin to get the picture. They also invariably involve a lot of queuing on uncomfortable benches. This paricular one however, had just closed for its lunch break and would only open again in two hours time. Damn.

Now regretting our frolick in the Supermarket we walked to the Mozambique embassy. The guy at the gate with an AK tells us that they are closed, and that they are only open until twelve. We will have to try again tomorrow.

Dejected we walk back to the Immigration and join the queue that as already formed in the 30 seconds it takes us to walk up the dark grimey stairs. After some time we reach the counter and the guy flittingly explains that we don’t need to extend our visa and it wouldn’t be a problem at the border, next please. We hang on there a bit longer poking a bit more information out of him to make sure this would indeed be the case, and finally satisfied, we leave. Harare city 2 – Us 0.

The next day we are at the Mozambique embassy at eight o clock sharp. We go through the security gate. The metal detector beeps in alarm as I walk through, but the guy with the AK doesnt seem to mind so we go on. There is no staff present so we have to explore a bit to find our queue. Half an hour later some staff appear and the queue starts moving. We finally reach the desk. US110 for a visa in a British passport! I can’t believe it! The girls only have to pay half as much. We cough up and I leave, hissing, but glad that I won’t have to come into the city again anytime soon.

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