Zimbabwe, Fading Glory

We spend a few days in Zimbabwe finding the country in general to be in a bit of a mess, the local currency is essentially without value, all transactions are now done in US dollars, in the town of Bulawayo we stay at a “classic” overlanders place called Burkes Paradise, which may have been nice at some point but is now sadly run down and the owners, who created its good reputation in the past have moved to South Africa, locals of all types say the things are very bad economically and from a security point of view, a nice cafe owner tells us just to drive our trucks off the road into his garden “just in case” muttering how bad things are. We pass farm after farm of poorly tended fields and fight our way with trucks along potholed roads with eroding edges. We do not feel comfortable.
The contrast when we get to the parks in the north is considerable, we visit lake Kariba and the amazing Mana Pools National park. The latter is not cheap, for two days we pay about $500 in fees of different sorts, but the camping is fabulous. We are looking across the Zambezi river into the mountains of Zambia. Monkeys, Impala and Hippos at night share our campsite, I turn my torch into the bush at one point in the evening to see a Hyena looking back at me about 10m distance. On the first night the Hippos cross the river and come out of the river quite near to us, which is a surprise. The bigger surprise was when two of the males got into a big scrap about 50m away, I confess we all scarpered from our campfire into the safety of our cars just in case we were in the way. The male hippos are about the same size as my Landy and quite dangerous when riled.
Never the less we see the dawn safely the next day and head off before sunrise with an experienced ranger to walk in the bush for a few hours, the walking safari is a more immediate and somehow real experience compared to looking out of the car and we all really enjoy the experience. Big cameras left at base we just enjoy the walk and being in the wild.
So Zimbabwe was a bit mixed, the country clearly in a bit of a mess that does not look to be getting better, the natural sights of the park are memories we will carry forever
As we drive across Zimbabwe the countryside opens up, there are signs of farms but many have crops dead in the field and appear to be unmanaged
Roads are challenging, the edges eroded and significant potholes means oncoming trucks veer into our path and overtaking becomes a high stress activity
Lake Kariba the largest man made lake in the world was a good diversion we stay at the Warthogs camp and see hippos emerge from the lake
As we leave lake Kariba they are setting fire to the verges of the road, at times the flames lick across the road causing a degree of panic in Lee who was driving at the time
As we leave lake Kariba they are setting fire to the verges of the road, at times the flames lick across the road causing a degree of panic in Lee who was driving at the time
Amazing Baobab trees line the route
We reach Mana pools and stay for two days, one of the best camps we have had on the trip so far
Camp all set up on the banks of the Zambezi watching the hippos in the river
As the sun falls the monkeys come to try to steal our food, this little guy got away with half an onion
The sun sets in the west, just as the light fades the hippos on the far bank all take to the water and start to emerge from the river all around our camp, then suddenly two of the males start a serious scrap, in the dark, about 30m from our campfire, we all scarper into our cars quite concerned, they make a lot of noise when fighting
The next morning the sun rises in the east, we are up before dawn as we have arranged a walking safari with a guide in the cool of the morning for a few hours
Our guide is a very tall guy with 20 years experience and an AK47 “just in case” he is very reassuring telling us that they do have one pride of lions but they are “not sure” where they are just now…
We see elephants tear down a big tree branch in the distance and waterbuck and impala a plenty around
Walking up to hippo pools on foot is now second nature to us after Botswana, never the less we keep quiet and do not approach to closely
Walking up to hippo pools on foot is now second nature to us after Botswana, never the less we keep quiet and do not approach to closely

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