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ZIMBABWE    DIARY 2              2016   

        Map + Plan


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From Part 1, we now head deeper into Zimbabwe.

16/1 It is not a bad dream; my but is still wet, when I wake up. Gry, on the other side, still enjoy her beauty-sleep. The rain is still falling in the park, and we decline the offer from a laughing ranger for yet another day. So far, the park has received 40 millimetres, and to judge from the dark skies, way more will come.
We put the soaked mattress in the back of the car, and find the sealed road. It is the narrow one, leading back towards Chipinge. Here, the bank still keep a long line of customers on the sidewalk. We need a bit of grocery, but the three super markets have equal lines. We don't need them that bad!
As we decent from 1000 to 500 meters, more and more baobabs are found. We stop several times at these giants, the biggest five metres in diameter, and other motives like the small villages. As we drive further inland, the landscape gets more and more dry, and the space in-between the tress change from herbs and grass to barren red or yellow gravel. Here, like so many other places in Zimbabwe, the old telephone lines are neatly put along the road.
The next landmark is the giant Birchenough Bridge. Next to it, small shops are offering the usual Chinese goods. Then small carts, drown by up to five donkeys dominate the road. Ox-driven ones are slightly more scares.  Massive, flat granite hills, Sausage Trees, baobabs, Devil's Tetris and rondawels would make such great motives - if it wasn't for the greyish day with rain.
We stop in the big city of Masvingo, and find a charger for the GPS, some fruits but the same long lines at the supermarkets. A bit out of town, we almost have a Spar grocery to our selves and we get the fridge filled.

Right before we head into Great Zimbabwe, a line of small stands offer pottery and soap-stone-carvings. It is made by the shop owners, and most is great art and craftsmanship. We buy several items, and photo the rest.
Great Zimbabwe is an area with granite stone buildings, dating from 1000-the 15th century. The rain is now a light drizzle, and we plan to see it in the morning. However, it is only a bit passed three, and the weather might be worse tomorrow.
We get a rondawel for $10 more than a camp-site, and I don't have to sleep on a soaked mattress this night. I had hoped for sunshine to dry it out, but no such luck. After we have settled in, we head out in the area. The rondawel is right in the middle of the area with ruins, and we start with the Hill Complex.
Here are not much more than the walls, made of square granite stones, but their perfect shape and smoothness are impressive. They are built around the huge, round boulders, and some are quite high. The rocks have been loosened from the bedrock by fire, and everything is build without tools.
Baboons are living in the area, but seem to be rather afraid of people. We only meet a few locals, and it does far from look like the tourist-trap, I had expected.
Among the walls, we find interesting plants and insects, while some ravens are watching us. From the top of the Hill Complex, there are a great view to the surrounding valley and the Great Enclosure, although slightly hidden in the mist. Giant millipedes are all over the place, and we find some beautiful flowering orchids, living on the lichen-covered rocks.
The Great  Enclosure is quite alike, but still impressive. So are the giant Aloes and Euphorbias, growing within it. It is getting late - and a bit cold, and we head back to find the restaurant. Despite we are the only customers, it is open, and we get omelette and chicken with fries. It might not be the greatest gourmet art, but surely beat noodles. And for $12 with two soft drinks, one can't expect more.
Back at the rondawel, we process photos, read about our next adventures and write diary.

17/1 The drizzle continues, and we decide; we have seen enough of Greater Zimbabwe. The mattress is dry - and wet again. The wind has picked up, and the roof was not big enough to shelter it. On top of that, the floor has gone muddy, and so has the mattress. We remove the outer layer, and stuff it all in the back of the car.
While I fumble with the mattress, some cleaver monkeys raid the back of the car. I see them run of with a bag of potato chips.
We drive back through Masvingo, which is real Sunday-closed. We continue driving around in a 1000 meters height, but the landscape changes from time to time. Some parts are lush green with plenty of grass. Other areas are almost desert-like with barren gravel. Bushland dominates in general, and small farm-rondawels are fund most places.

At noon, we make a break, and the drizzle has stopped. We put the mattress on the roof, and the cover on some road sign poles. Gry work on a letter, and I go for a long stroll in the fields, which is bushland with cattle grassing. I find some small Aloes and herbs I've never seen before. The special treat is a tiny tortoise, less than a year old.
A small creek is just a line of billabongs, but the plants along it are still interesting. The mattress has dried some, and it is getting late, so we head on.
The GPS leads us into a grit of minor gravelroads, and the surroundings are real nice. Small farms and nature in a even mix. Gry discover something moving, and it turns out to be a small chameleon, crossing the road. It looks rather skinny, but puff it self up, when it feel threatened. As we eagerly photograph it, the farmer turns out to see, what we are doing. He is in his Sunday dress, and speaks real good English. Among others, he tells us; this is the driest year he ever has experienced.
The next stop is at a river, running over the granite bedrock. Nice views, tiny water lilies, succulents and other interesting plants. In this area, tourists seem to be absent. The locals don't really wave back and smile as they use to, but they sure are nosy.
As we reach another sealed road, I spot some huge flowers on some bulbs. They grow on the grassed-down shoulder of the road, and look so artificial. Further more, we only see these three plants.

At five, we reach Matobo National Park, and as we hoped, they have campsites. We head for one in the centre of the park, and it is a long drive through awesome nature. Huge, red boulders form hills, huge trees and bushland, open savannah and the hope for wild animals.
At the campsite, we check the mattress. Gry prefer the backseat - an option I don't have. Gry washes the mud of the madras cover, and we find a place to dry it - if it doesn't rain. While Gry cook dinner, I clean the fridge and rebuild the tent. While we eat, four tiny antelopes grass on the other end of the campsite.
A Dutch couple, working for a church, we met at the entrance turn up, and we have company at a camp for the first time in a long time. I get the hot water going, and while we prepare for the night, a tiny owl lands in a tree above our heads.

18/1 Waking up in Matopo National Park is something special. Here are open wooded valleys, Bushmen paintings, burial site for kings and Rhodes, battlefields, caves, 260 species of trees, more raptors breed here than any other place on the globe, 24 orchids, Black and White Rhinos, Giant Rock Scorpion and much, much more.
The first I see is a huge fishing eagle, circling the campsite. Then a small buzzard lands right above my head. Ravens fight in some other trees around us, and a kite glides by. Numerous small birds tweet in the bushes, and a couple of small hornbills passes bye.
The greyish weather has not cleared, but at least, it keeps dry. The cover to the mattress is dry, but not the mattress. At eight, we leave the camp, and do the big loop around the national park. The characteristic round boulders in high stacks are everywhere. The areas between them are green bushes and new, lush grass. Here are only little withered grass, and that should indicate a huge amount of wildlife. The fresh grass, on the other hand makes it difficult to locate them, and the dense bush does not improve it.
Right outside the camp, we see a big beetle and a wide Aloe. Then we reach a dam and its pond. Gry spots a cormorant, sitting on a rock , and I then spot the crocodile, sneaking in on it. The sun breaks through, but only in short terms.
Fig trees are clinching to the bare boulders, Acacias flowering and giving the air a delightful scent. Huge anthills, resembling the cooling towers of power-plants, are build on the road. Where the wheel tracks are flooded, a big foam-nest from a leaf frog is carefully placed. We cross over to the wildlife park, on the other side of a public road.

In a slightly open part, we first spot zebras, then giraffes. Too far away for my camera, but Gry get some fine pictures, and we both a great experience. The next pond we find houses four hippos, and the one with a pro camera gets some good pictures.
Next stop is at a game-viewing-platform. No big game, but the lizards and agama are beautiful. The female lizard have a brownish body with bright yellow stripes. The male has a blue head, green shoulders, yellow back and red behind. The agama an orange head and a bluish-gray body.
The two rangers we passed on our way to the platform, are waiting for us at the car. They have seen a rhino recently, and want to show it to us. We are not allowed to walk free in the park - probably to give the animals some rest - but in company with armed rangers, we may.
First, we see some zebras, then kudus, a pigeon with green wings, a huge predator beetle, then some rhino dung with six different dung beetles. The smallest ones are only four millimetres and brown, some metallic green, one is around five mm, metallic blue, one is twelve mm and other green ones around the same size. 20 millimetres black ones and greyish ones at 50 millimetres.
More zebras and a Blue Wildebeest run of, and after some tracking, we find the rhinos. They have heard the zebras running, and are a bit scared. It is a female with a cub, and Gry gets a pretty clear look through the bushes.
We don't see much wildlife, except birds on the next stretch. Then at noon, we reach yet another lake, and here are hippos.
The area is fantastic; blue lake, red boulders on the other shore and green grass around. We start eating and cooking tea and drying mattress. The hippos get their photos taken, and a bit further down the beach, two large crocodiles are sun basking. A family of geese swim with some water hens and a white heron. Here are even some clean toilets with Bakelite seats.

The rest of the park is quite alike, with one fantastic stone-formation after another. Flowering trees, eagles, kites and buzzards along with many other small birds. We find some rather fresh elephant droppings, teeming with different dung beetles. A bit further down the road, a huge bone from an elephant has been dropped at the road. Their footprints are fresh, but we fail to find them.
A viewing platform reveals some huge antelopes and a large group of Sansevierias along with a skink with blue tail. At four, we have seen boulders enough, and drive towards the second largest city in Zimbabwe; Bulawayo. With a bit of help, we find a post office, an internet cafe and two supermarkets. The first is a local one, and Gry has a hard time finding what she wants. The second one is a Spar, and she finds all, except glue for the cover of the tent. The car gets 93 litres of diesel, and we head out to the outskirts for a campsite. Here are some guests in huts, but we are alone in the campsite. I only saw one white in the city, and that was in a game-drive-car.
It is a rather chill evening, and after dinner, I retire to the car, while Gry head for the tent.

19/1 The night is cold too, but we are at 1400 meters height. From hereon, it is downhill all the way to Victoria Falls. It is a 300 kilometre drive to Hwange National Park, and to me, it feels like one, straight line. Most is through low and green forest at 10-1200 meters height. A short stretch is more open, then it closes down again. We make a single lunch break, but we don't see any cities along the route. Big busses are passing us, some are real old, but kept in pristine condition.
We reach the huge Hwange National Park after noon, and the last 30 kilometres are dotted with elephant dung. After we have paid for car, camp and park, we drive straight into it. Despite it is more than 150 kilometres wide, here are only a few roads, and we start with the eastern part, and can go through the rest tomorrow, on our way to Victoria Falls.
Right away, we see a group of Impalas, but then it is thin - real thin regarding game. Here are not really any signs of grassing animals, but after a couple of hours, we reach a waterhole. Here are some giraffes.
We head on, but see no other life than birds. Then we turn around, and soon after, we spot a group of lions under a tree. The huge male is watching us, while the lionesses just doze on. He soon loses interest, and drop down in the long grass. I spot a leaf frog in the bushes along the road, but we don't notice anything else, before we get back to the giraffes.

We still have some afternoon left, and go for one of the viewing platforms. On the way, we see Impalas, Blue Wildebeests, Crown Cranes, horned geese? and a lot of smaller birds. Then a flock of kites draw our attention. Closer by, we see Golden Eagles, small vultures, buzzards and the same pair of Crowned Cranes. They are eating the swarming termites, and don't seem to care about us at all.
Then me meet some giraffes, crossing the road. Further in to the bushes, a few zebras fail to hide. I try to capture a solitude Acacia tree with two vultures in, but the sun has gone at the moment. What I first thought was ibises, are something else. A bit ibis, a bit stork and perhaps something else after all.
We reach the platform, and here are other tourists. Some Americans with snacks and cans of beers in their hands are noisy till Gry politely ask them to be quite, like the sign says.  It works, and we can hear the symphony of birds and other animals in the area.
We are watching a small lake with hippos. A herd of Kudus come to drink, and make some perfect motives on the far side of the lake. The carcass of an elephant has attracted vultures and two large crocodiles. A third is sunbathing on the other side of the lake. A jackal patrols the area for scraps, but keeps the distance from the crocodiles.
It is getting late, and I had promised to show Gry not only lions, but also an elephant. Despite the state of the elephant never was in question, she denies to recognise the dead one. Further more, we are supposed to leave the wild area before half pass six.
As we drive out, we see so many quails, starlings, horn bills, bee catchers, butcherbirds, doves, Wax-beaks, eagles, kites, guinea fouls and other unknown birds. Then I spot the back of two elephants way out in the bushes, and Gry manages to get a glimpse: Dinner is on her. Back at camp, minutes before closing time, we get the water heater fired up, do a bit of laundry and head for the restaurant. Not sure how it happens, but we get two vegetarian plates. After the meal, we get a glass of vine and a cup of tea. Way too late, I start working on photos and diary.
Considering the campsite is not fenced, and we saw lions today, the loud sounds around the campsite is a bit worrying. And as usual, we have it all to our selves. Well, the jackals sound real loud, and we seen what look like wallabies right around the car.

20/1 We wait at the gate at six, and head in for the first viewing-platform at a pond. Some Kudus are ready for photos right inside the gate. A group of vultures sit in a dead tree and warm up. Then one elephant rush over the narrow road to rejoin with its ten family members at the their side. They are a bit into the bushes, but we get to see them all, including the little one.
Jackals enjoy the morning sun too, and even the horned geese sit in a treetop and suck up the sun. Two of the rare Painted Dogs come smooth jogging towards us on the road, and just turn into the bushes right in front of us.
The first platform is a bit disappointing, but still a nice view. Right next to it is one of many skeletons of elephants we see here. Well, for each newborn one, another must go on in the afterlife.
As we head on thought the huge park - on the longest road, we see a Boa on the road. I get a picture, but then it rushes off. An huge bull elephant stand 20 meters into the bushes, Impalas are everywhere. Birds are numerous along the road. Here are weavers, horn bills, eagles, quails, starlings, bee eaters, butcherbirds, doves, wax-beaks, kites, guinea fouls horned geese?, vultures, a lot of smaller birds. and other unknown birds, some with real long tails. Gry gets significantly more photos than I, due to her 300mm lens.
The next viewing platform offer at close look at a group of hippos and the expected crocodile. Warthogs pass bye in safe distance. A pair of Crown Cranes are romancing along the pond, and so are a pair of tiny Amarantes in a dead tree.
The road is scatted with elephant dung, and in huge areas, the trees are pruned down to two meters. Then Gry spots a huge bull, right next to her. We get a few photos before it slowly disappears in the bushes. A stupid turtle has set home in a pond in one of the wheel tracks, but I spot it. And besides the ranger, we meet just as we entered the park, we meet no cars the entire 200 kilometres cross the park.
We stop at a few other platforms, and chat with two rangers, who appreciate our pineapple. Another stopped us, asking for matches, and we are happy to provide him. They just walk around with their rifles, protecting the wildlife. 
After nine hours, we find the western exit, but 50 kilometres of gravel road among what appears as unspoiled nature lay ahead. Here are many signs of elephants, but few of people.
We finally meet the sealed road, and head straight for Victoria Falls city. It has a campsite right in centre of town, and a restaurant next to it. We park the car, and buy some dinner. Then we go for a small walk in town, to find some postcards and perhaps some souvenirs.
After asking around, we find a shop which has a picture of the falls - the first postcard we have managed to find in three weeks. Gry work on them, while I sip tea and write diary and the mosquitoes suck us dry. The falls can be heard as a massive but distance thunder, and we are far from the only tourists in this campsite.
The dinner was tasty, but not big enough, and we suffer from huger - well, enough to make it difficult to fall asleep. The music from the bar and the drunken Dutch next to our car does not really help.

21/1 The breakfast is closely monitored by a monkey, but we don't let down our guards this time.
We are at the Victoria Fall National Park real early, and pay the rather steep entrance fee of $60. Here are a path right along the 1200 meter wide fall, and we start at one end. It is so hard to describe the awesome sight. It is called Smoke that Thunders, and it sure does. The deep roar from the tons of water, falling 78 metres, right in front of us. The massive clouds of fine droplets, whirling up from the deep and the rainbows are fantastic. We have Devil's Cataract all to our selves at first, and remain at the first part for quite some time. Then a few others guests turn up, and we head down to the next platform.
Here, a new part reveals, with even more roar and smoke. Well, actually heavy rain from time to time. The fall it self disappears in clouds time after time, but the bright rainbows remains, and so does the sound. The vegetation is not as impressive as I had expected, from a rainy area like this. Strangely enough, the orchids seem to be absent.
A group of Japanese catch up, and we do our best to keep clear.
The photographing is a bit hard, due to the massive and suddenly rain. I wrench my T-shirt several times - don't know why.
We reach the real wide Rainbow Fall, plunging 108 meters, and not silently. Deep down, the white Zambezi River can be seen through the clouds, and above the edge; the still water in the delta-like river mouth. Looking through my pictures, I realise; I don't have a single one without a rainbow.

After half a day, we are soaked, and worse; so are our cameras. I insist on walking to the first platform we skipped at first, and that was a great idea. A look right down through the huge gorge and right above Devil's Cataract, and up the river. It looks so great, and I get 50 photos to prove it.
A tour through the souvenir area is rewarded with a few, excellent pieces of art. Gry is ready for lunch, and I find the Outlook Cafe enticement, and it does not disappoint at all. A fantastic view over a horseshoe bend of the Zambezi River, 100 metres down. And their vegetarian dishes are good too.
On the way back to camp, I try to get the 5500 Mozambican Metical changed into US$, but the bank does not do that. It is, after all a neighbouring country on the other end of Zimbabwe. Guess I will have better luck - in Mozambique.

We pack the car, and head out to Zambezi National Park - or where I though it was. We only find a long road and a great fruit market. It turns out, it was further out on the road our camp was at. At least, it was only a ten kilometre detour, and we enter the park half past one.
It is mainly a gravel road, following the Zambezi River for 50 kilometres. My guide claims, it is the most beautiful park of Zimbabwe, but the beginning disappoints. It is just the elephant pruned bushes and trees we have seen quite a lot of. Then the first trail leads right down to the river, and that is a sight! Small, green islands, huge trees, hippos, white water in some places and much more.
We see some gazelles and warthogs, but despite the elephant destructions, they are hiding. A few zebras seem more curious than frighten, and the Waterbucks don't mind our presence. Baboons are everywhere, but most are frightened.
A few big baobabs are so scared from elephant's tusks, but seem to survive. We visit the river at many places, but then we focus on the game. That pays of: Elephants are here, and we see several, heading just a bit further into the bushes. Like every where else, Gry gets so many more pictures with her 300 mm. I have an idea of, I might cut the elephants of at the next bend of the road, and I'm right. We see two rather close, but then the sound of one more, right behind us, make me look - and hit the gas. It is a big male with attitude, making a skin-attack at the car, five metres back of it. It would have made a brilliant motive, but I prioritise getting away a bit higher.
Apparently, the male is visiting a grout of females, and every one is on their toes. We get around them, and get some great views of them mud-bathing. Then he seems to be displeased with our present again, and we try to sneak off. Unfortunately, another male with attitude is heading our way on the same trail, and we are stuck. At first, he pretends we are not there, but then he focus on us, and I drive out into the low bushes to avoid a meeting. It works, but Gry doesn't feel like watching the males meet - especially not with us in the middle.

It is getting late, and my hopes for seeing the Cape Buffalos fades with the sun. Half way into the park, we turn around, and drive relatively slowly out. A bit anxious where we meet the elephants, but they have moved on. We get close to some warthogs, quails, zebras and Waterbucks. Then, in-between the two gates, the back of a cow looks a bit strange, and it turns out to be one of a herd of Cape Buffalos. The light is not good, but I get to see them!
Back in town, we drive to the fall, to get another view of the entire gorge from the end. Unfortunately, the $60 entrance was a one-time pass.
Filling the car, paying with Visa can't be done, and their air-pump has no meter. Same at the two other stations we tried yesterday. We head back to the same noisy camp, but park somewhere else. I find our own pump, fitted with a meter, and fill the tires. Then we head towards the restaurant, where we, after a good meal are treated with local dancing and singing.
I remain to work, feeding the mosquitoes and sip tea. The 300+ photos of the day are roughly sorted. I am running out of battery- and blood, and retire to the car. Here, the temperature raises to beyond my comfort, and when I open the door, 50 mosquitoes rush into the party. I guess I can work in the morning.

22/1 We have a real quiet night this time, and while Gry gets some great photos of the camp's monkeys, I fail to connect to the internet. A few loops in the tiny town of Victoria Falls gives 25 litres of water and some other food items.
Then we head for the Kazungula/Kasane border, only 75 kilometres away on a good road. We are stopped at a police checkpoint, and they want to see the lights working, and ask for the second hazard triangle - which we actually have. Others have asked to see drivers license and fire extinguisher. Then a truck is stopped, and they loose interest in out car.
At the Zimbabwe border, the process is real fast: A quick glance in the passport and a stamp. Somehow, I had expected a ferry to Botswana, but not even a bridge.

Zimbabwe is a fantastic country with loads of wildlife and a real friendly population. Things are effective and correct, and it is easy to guide your self on an adventure. We have driven 2500 kilometres in 13 days, and the entire tour (in combination with other countries) has cost me 12.000 DKK/€1600 - worth every cent. I have only taken 1750 photos, but with a lens as Gry's 300 mm, it would have been way more.

1/6 of flight 1.046  
12 day 4x4 5.736  
Food 870  
Hotels 830  
1/6 gadgets 1.100  
Diesel 1.320  
Entrees 1.750  
DKK 12.652 € 1700

                                                                       Map + Plan  Photos   Diary1 + 2