Newsletter #7    4 -December-1998    
Zimbabwe

G'day Friends,

Well itís nearly two weeks since we last sent you E-mail. After almost one month we had to leave our Kenyan friends Ross and Caroline (and their Landrover which we know so well) as they needed to get back to Kenya for a wedding in mid December. We had a great time travelling together and could not have asked for better travelling companions but will meet up with them again when we reach Kenya sometime in January.


Victoria Falls was good to see, however the town is full of touts and they were a constant hassle (like flies) so we were a little disappointed. We were also annoyed at the Overland Trucks in the campground as they were noisy and inconsiderate and partied till the early hours of the morning. We visited the Victoria Falls Hotel which is a magnificent colonial building overlooking the Zambezi River into Zambia.

From here we headed to Binga which is on the western edge of Lake Kariba. It was pouring rain when we left Victoria Falls but the weather cleared up after lunch. We came across our first road accident where a Semi-Trailer had overturned blocking a mountainous section of road. At first we thought we would have to do a 100km detour, however after careful measurements we found that we were able to just pass between the overturned truck and the cliff edge.

The campground at Binga had a natural hot spring and was a pleasant spot until an Overland truck arrived just after dark. We thought we had escaped them but this was not so.

The next morning we drove to Chizarira NP. The road in was a small rugged track. On the way we met a retired English couple who had driven from Europe via the Middle East. We had a good chat and hope to meet up with them when we reach the UK. The Park Ranger at the gate welcomed us to the most remote NP in Zimbabwe, which delighted us no end. The Registration book showed that we were the only tourists in the park that day. We camped at Busi, which was 40km south of the park entrance. The campsite was just wonderful. It was set amongst a beautiful forest of tall trees on the edge of a dry riverbed. The camp was next to a large natural clearing which made it easy to observe the wildlife. Whilst we were having dinner a heard of Elephants grazed about fifty feet from our campsite. Later in the evening a couple of Elephants walked right past our vehicle whilst we observed from our rooftop tent. It was a splendid place and probably the best campsite we stayed at to date - sorry you missed it Ross and Caroline.


The next night we stayed on the top of a mountain which had a splendid outlook overlooking Mucheni Gorge. As we were preparing dinner we could see the clouds building up and we watched as the thunder and lightning lit up the evening sky. Just as we hopped into bed it started to pour rain. It was a great night and we enjoyed the sound of the rain on our tent.

As we were leaving the park the Rangers told us that they had apprehended four elephant poachers just near where we were camped at Busi. They stored the evidence (elephant carcass) in their butchery. Overnight, a leopard managed to get in and destroy (eat) the evidence so they had to let the poachers go.

From here we headed to Karoi along a 300km stretch of very corrugated road. This road took its toll on our roofrack and so we had to get the fracture welded in Karoi. It was by coincidence that Des and Charlotte Kelly whom we met in Cape Town gave us the name of a friend (Kevin & Tina at Guthrie Engineering) in Karoi who did some welding for them.

After this we headed for Mana Pools which is on the Zambezi River and borders Zambia. We saw lots of Tsetse fly traps along the way. We had to stop at a couple of control or quarantine points. Two agricultural officers came at us, gracefully waving their butterfly nets and sprayed the car inside and out with insecticide.


At the entrance gates into Mana Pools, we had to surrender our fruit, which we had just purchased. This was to protect us from the elephants, said to have a big fettish for oranges and would go to any length to get them. The funny thing is that this rule did not exist in any of the other National Parks we have visited. Guess these elephants do have a long memory for oranges. Just a few minutes before our campsite we saw two male lions sitting under a tree beside the road. From our campsite we could see the hippos, crocodiles, elephants and Cape buffalo's bathing in the water. The wet season had not reached Mana Pools so things were very dry and would have looked better after rain.

We met an Austrian couple who had shipped their 60 Series Toyota Landcruiser to South Africa and are driving through to Europe on a similar route to us. Late in the afternoon, after they had gone for a walk, we heard their horn going off only to discover baboons had invaded their car. They had managed to open the car door and were busy eating their fresh food and bread. They caused a real mess. Fortunately they scattered as I approached yelling and waving a big stick. Baboons are more afraid of men then women. Gunther and Uli were not impressed.

From here we headed South through Harare to Nyanga NP in the Eastern Highlands. This is a magical place and reminded us of Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and the Lakes District in the UK. The mountains and scenery are stunning and very different to any of the countryside we've seen so far in Africa. We camped in a pine forest where there were nice hot showers. We drove to Troutbeck which has a lot of private resorts with golf courses and drove to Worlds view which should have given us extensive views of Mozambique and Zimbabwe if the mountain had not been covered in clouds.

The next night we were the only campers at Mtarazi Falls. These falls drop 780 metres over a sheer escarpment, which gave us a great view over the Honde Valley. The area here is full of pine tree plantations and is extensively logged for timber. Next day, we set out to drive through Mutare to Bvumba. However, due to driving rain and fog we decided to head straight for Harare.

We stayed in the Backpackers and Overlanders Resort(?) campground which is on the outskirts of Harare not far from the airport. We took their free shuttle bus to the city. We had heard a lot of stories regarding security in Harare however we felt safe and had no problems. On reading our E-mail we discovered that my sister Wendy and family were arriving a day earlier than we expected, so it was good we arrived in Harare when we did.

Last night we picked up five weary travellers from the airport much to their relief and delight. It was good to catch up with Mal and Wendy and hear all the news from home.

Tomorrow we will take them to Hwange NP and then back to Victoria Falls before heading into Zambia en route to Malawi.

Zimbabwe is a great country. The people are very friendly and this is the cheapest country we've visited to date. Last month, fuel prices were increased 67% however fuel is still the cheapest we've had at A$0.46 cents per litre. Zimbabwe is a big beef producer and meat is very cheap and of good quality. The handicrafts here are reported to be some of the best in Africa. So far we have resisted the temptation to purchase any handicrafts due to lack of space however the wood and rock carvings have been exquisite. One common item is a 5-foot tall giraffe carved out of wood, which would be difficult to transport home.

To date we have not yet had to buy drinking water. The local tap and bore water has been safe for drinking and our good health bears testament to this. The mossies have not been a problem as we've been going to bed around nightfall and getting up just after sunrise.

We are still really enjoying ourselves and look forward to travelling to Malawi, which we have heard, is very nice with wonderful friendly people.

Cheers,

Geoff, Kienny and Su-lin Kingsmill


PS: It was very sad the morning we left Victoria Falls. For the first time in over a month we were travelling by ourselves and missed Ross and Caroline's company. Thanks Ross for the all the Land Rover training.