Today saw us rise early to see the sunrise- the bed looks out to the valley. There was a small cloud cover exactly where the sun was, but the colours were glorious.
After waiting around so we could have breaky, then waiting again because their internet access for credit card payments wasn’t working, we finally grabbed our gear and headed down the rock face to the car.
About 40kms down the road we came to Bulawayo, which was a large city and mixed both old & new. There are currently fuel shortages in Zimbabwe- there were lines ups of about 2km long at petrol stations that actually had fuel – you could tell the ones which didn’t have any.
On the out skirts of Lusane, when I was doing my stint at driving, a huge cow with large horns decided she wanted to get to the other side – just in front of me! I found that the breaks work but aren’t that great…
We reached the turn off to Hwange NP – there were caution signs for all different animals, Painted Dog, Elephant, Antelope etc
Just before we entered, we had a herd of elephants only a metre of the road – there were also road workers with armed escorts.
As soon as were went thru all the check points, we came across a pride of lions on the side of the road, under a few trees, keeping out of the heat. Yet again no full-grown male lions, just a juvenile with just the beginnings of a mane!
We passed Shumba Pan (A pan is a large waterhole) – where a hippo was playing in the water, then he chased an elephant away from the water’s edge – was entertaining, just as we were leaving we found another 5 hippos in the water, but they weren’t as active.
We eventually reached our campsite for the next 2 nights – Kapula South Camp – a tented site, on a private concession within the park. The animals can roam freely throughout the campsite, and the two site keepers, Lucky & Paul, showed us the paw prints of a large lion and a cub, just a few steps from our tent. It is quite sandy and within a day those prints had all but disappeared, so they must have been very fresh when we saw them!!!! The site consists of 4 ensuite safari tents, 1 shared camp kitchen, a fire pit area & a raised deck- where you can view the animal coming to the waterhole- basically there are only 2 with water, within this area of the park, at the moment- it is very dry. Brendan had site 1 – which is the best for viewing the waterhole – it looks over it.
We met an Austrian couple – Hans (Pronounced Hahnis) & Petra, who leave a Land Rover Defender fully kitted out for overland travel in Livingston, Zambia and travel for a few weeks each year through Southern Africa. I could see David’s eyes light up as he interrogated Hans on the details. He likes this idea! We sat with them in the afternoon on the deck.
We were watching a group of impalas, when they all started running- there was a male lion coming, at last! This was the highlight of the afternoon. We photographed him until it was too dark.
After dinner we sat in the kitchen area until 12.30am talking, I think David was getting more ideas from Hans on how to do what they do! It was going to be a bugger to get up early (5am) in the morning.
It was still cloudy, but not raining- a good sign.
Up early & met with Shepard and the others at 6am. Brendan & I sat in the back of the safari vehicle while David was a princess and sat in the covered front area.
We were wrapped in blankets as it was cold. The drive to Matobo NP took around 45 minutes. We were surprised we didn’t see many animals.
We paid $USD 15 for the entry each plus $USD10 each for the guide/ scouts to enter the park (the tour was also $USD 55)
We saw amazing rock formations – boulders balancing on top of each other
Shepard drove around for a bit before talking with a scout (Anti-poaching ranger, armed with an AK47 machine gun, who guard the rhinos 24/7), rhinos hadn’t long been past, but were moving fast, so we also moved on. We found another guide who hoped into the vehicle with us & went for a further km or so, stopping every so often for them to look for tracks. We eventually came across an area where the male/ bull rhino had dug up the ground, to mark his territory. We now would proceed on foot. It was only about 10 minutes into our walk in the African bush that we came across 2 white rhinos (they are brothers)- there are black rhinos in the park but they are more solitary & aggressive. We got within 2 meters of the giant softies- they are very docile and not skittish of us being there- of course you still had to be careful. They were quite happy with us viewing them, after they had grazed and moved around a bit, they lay. down and rested – not a graceful move, one of them had a problem with his wind pipe, but had been checked out by a vet… he made noises I am very familiar with – sounds just like David snoring! we took a million photos and video – was a once in a lifetime and absolute treat to be able to be so close to rhinos in the wild.
Back to the lodge for breakfast- which is more like brunch as it is 10.30, fruit salad, cereal, toast, bacon eggs, sausages, tomatoes etc.
The British guys left and we had the place to ourselves. Yay the sun has come out
We found rainbow coloured lizards lazing around soaking up the rays (I nicknamed them the skittles lizards)
We went on a large walk over the cliff face and down into the valley- didn’t see anything though.
In the afternoon, as the sun was out and it was actually quite warm, we sat around the pool area for a bit.
We had a huge storm during the night – it was the first rains of the season. Lightning and thunder from around 11pm to 4.30 am, we had a strike that would have been only 150 meters from us!
We had a few leaks in the camper.
At around 5.30 we woke to the sound of loud revving, there was a bus like overlander vehicle parked in the campsite that was trying to get out, but kept getting bogged. They were chopping up trees and making a hell of a ruckus, eventually they got out.
There were water puddles everywhere. The dry river bed behind the campsite yesterday was now a raging torment of water!
We got on the road and headed towards Ramokgwebana (bots) / Plumtree border crossing ( zim).
Leaving Botswana was relatively simple. Not so much entering Zimbabwe. We eventually found where to park, and went to immigration – we ended up with a multiple entry visa so we could cross over to Zambia for the day – this was $USD 45 ea. and all paperwork is processed by hand. Next was the car, holely molely what a pain, we had to fill in more forms, as we had a rental vehicle we had to obtain a Commercial Vehicle Guarantee (CVG)- basically someone had to guarantee we would take the vehicle back out of the country ( really an excuse for more money) – a fixer as David called him assisted us, we went in & out of the offices for 2 ½ hours ,all of that mucking around and another $USD 150 later we could now go thru to customs. We finally had all our paper work completed, we just had to have someone inspect the vehicle (had to open it up for a look), then proceed thru 2 more check points before we were freed.
We travelled for around 2 hours before we found the turn off for our campsite. There was no one there. It was drizzling and windy – very cold and miserable, not like we expected at all. We decided to go to the lodge and see if there were any rooms available rather than camping. You cannot drive up to the lodge area, you had to honk the horn for someone to come down the large rock face in one of the safari vehicles. We met Shepard who advised that there were rooms available & he would take us up so we could wait for the manager to get back & discuss with her. We made ourselves comfortable in the lounge area – out of the rain & had a warm drink. The reception & lounge area are all built around huge monolith type boulders. We met Lyn the manager who organised our room. After another trip down the bottom of the rock face we pulled out some random clothes for the night. We were shown to our room (there are 7 chalets in total ) which are built into the cliff face and face towards East so you can watch the sunrise – when there is sun. The rooms are pretty cool – all built of rocks & have reed & elephant grass thatch roofs, the view is impressive.
This has blown out our budget big time…but worth it!
We had a quick walk around the rock faces but as the wind got stronger, and the rain picked up, we went back to the room for a while, pulled up some chairs and looked out over the property with the binoculars to see what we could find – that would be nothing.
David and I sat around in lounge area for a bit until something went down David’s back, then we heard plonk, plonk, plonk, and realised one of the locale inhabitants – a Rock Dassie, was shitting from above – apparently this was good luck – but David wasn’t impressed.
We all met for dinner at 7pm – the food was lovely. 3 British travellers also turn up for the night just as we started.
We sat around the fire, while Lyn told us stories of poaching in the area, until heading back to bed as we decided to do a Rhino trekking tour in the morning & had to be ready to leave at 6.15am
Another fairly early morning, making our way to the north of the park. I made myself a friend (bushbuck) before leaving, she seemed to like me – was rubbing her little head all over my legs!
The habitat changed dramatically, is more like the scrub in outback Australia. Definitely not as many in quantity or as many in variety of animals in this section of the park.
We have the usual animals – though on one stretch of road it took us about 15- 20 minutes to make half a km as we had animals crossing the road one after the other. Firstly elephant, zebra, then a huge herd of wildebeest, that seemed to go on for ever, then giraffe and impala, Nyala & Kudu. It was peak hour traffic.
The camp site was based around a watering hole – our vehicle was only about 7 meters from the fence line where an animal pathway was located.
It was hot- a dry heat – about 36 degrees. We went thru a 5lt bottle of water in the afternoon.
Vermot monkeys once again inhabited the area, they have special bins to keep them out, but they still managed to knock them over & go thru people’s rubbish – they are a real pest. Some of the rangers patrol the camp site with sling shots, to try to keep them away!
David is happy – he had finally found some stubby coolers. We also purchased a cork bottle stop – to keep the wasps out of your drinks.
There was a hide located in front of the waterhole – I sat in here for hours watching – mainly elephants come and play in the cool- muddy water. Once again, the animals took turns of using the water hole- elephants would leave then water buffalo would turn up, then a family of warthogs, this went on for ages. Once it got dark there was a yellow light shining on the area, it didn’t affect the animals and made it a bit easier for us to watch them, though it wasn’t good for photography. I am glad we invested in binoculars – it made watching the animals a lot clearer.
We had a showing of fire flies – this was pretty cool – but didn’t come out when photos were taken.
The facilities were really basic and wasn’t screened in at all, we had bugs and insects everywhere.
It was Brendan’s turn tonight to fight with the insects – they kept attacking him.
An extra early morning this morning.
We went out, for an early morning scouting drive for animals, before heading back to the safari tent for breaky and packing up. We had only got about 50m from the gate before we encountered a pride of Lions, there were quite a few females with cubs. They we crossing the road & headed for the fence line. Spent a bit of time taking photos and watching them. Great start. We drove for around 2 hours and found various animals- plenty of elephant, zebra, antelope species, but the best was a pack of wild dogs (we actually saw 2 lots over the morning) – they are very rare & it is asked that you record the GPS coordinates for tracking and advise the authorities.
We chris-crossed the lower park, taking the dirt back roads and away from the crowds, pulling in a various view points along the way. It is very dry & not much water in the river beds.
We crossed a bridge going over a river crossing- do not remember the name of it, but there was water… so we drove up to the viewing point. There were herds of elephant and various wild life. While we were checking out the view – we hadn’t closed our doors and some Vermot monkeys went into the car thru the passenger’s side grabbing the tissues in the console before escaping thru the drivers side, luckily they didn’t take any of the camera equipment siting on the back seat. We closed all the doors and made a note to remember to do so in future – as well as having the windows up. We grabbed out binoculars for a better view & found hippo out of the water grazing!
We made it to our camp site for the night, Tsendze rustic camp site – has no power – only solar for the lights in the amenities. The sites are allocated, we found ours and unpacked. We have squirrels. The amenities are great – screened off for bugs, toilets are clean & they have indoor & outdoor showers – where the squirrels can perv on you.
There was a camp kitchen which had gas hot plates & washing up facilities.
Our camper has red lights – which are supposed to keep the bug attraction down… this didn’t work with the cicadas’, one in particular had a death wish, it kept flying into the fridge area, David would get up and flick it away, it then came back again- this went on for a good 10 minute – was highly entertaining for Brendan and myself who were in hysterics watching this battle.
We said our good byes to Crystal springs and started to make our way across to Kruger NP.
It was a cool morning and the mist was really low- it felt like gorillas in the mist.
We reached the township of Graskop, and we filled up with fuel here.
The mist had finally risen.
Continuing on we passed thru Acorn ? which was much larger than we had anticipated – nothing in our notes!. We were caught up in a traffic jam for a while.
Eventually we reached the final turn off for Kruger’s Orpen Gate, we had just turned & Brendan saw 2 giraffes, just near the road, we stopped & took photos – we hadn’t even gotten into the park yet.
We passed thru a security gate, then registration for the park, and then drove another 400m, for the registration for checking in to the accommodation – lots of admin.
We found our tented site – this was a permament tent site which over looks the dry Tambotti river bed. It was raised by approx. 8 steps & had a nice large deck – which was where you cook/ clean & eat. Inside was a double bed, sofa pull out- fridge, linen cupboard shower & toilet areas. The views were the selling point.
After unpacking we took off- we had to be back to camp by 6.30 as this is when they close the gates to the camp areas for safety.
Elephants and more Elephants – so fantastic to see them in the wild. We also saw Zebra, Kudu, Impala, Steinbok ( small antelope, Leopard Tortoise, Dwarf mongoose, blue wildebeest, Scrub Hare and on our way back 3 huge white rhino – just near the edge of the road – was really cool !
Back into the camp, came across a troop of baboons, they had ransacked our bin, which for some reason doesn’t have a lid on it?
After dinner, while we were cleaning up, we were visited by a Spotted Hyena – we didn’t have the cameras so the only decent photo was taken on Brendan’s phone.
It is a full moon & the lighting should be great to see more animals if they pass by. Fingers crossed
We got up this morning and dressed ready for breakfast, went outside & turned right around again – it was really cold!
Take two, jumpers on, let’s go…
Today after breakfast we packed the car with the photography gear and made tracks.
Today was Blyde River Canyon day – this is one on the areas David wanted to see. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world – we were going to drive a circuit around the rim stopping at numerous scenic spots.
The first was Gods Window, walkways to various look out points and rainforest walks. The views of the canyon were great, and the rainforest area was a surprise as the rest of the area is all rocky. Was extremely pretty.
By now the temperature had risen enough to ditch our jumpers, and became quite warm!
Next was Bourke’s Luck potholes- in the Blyde national park – this stop was impressive, when you hop out there are various curios shops as well as an eatery, but the main attraction was the Vervet monkeys playing next to the carpark, one even hopped on a car and was sitting on the aerial.
You walked down a large stone path to a bridge that crossed the river, with views of the mini waterfalls and basically large potholes in the limestone formed by erosion, we spent a lot of time here getting photos from many viewpoints. While we were there, we saw Baboon’s or more specifically saw Camcha Baboons – the largest Baboon species.
As we travelled along, we saw another lookout area which wasn’t on the list, but pulled in anyway, Lowveld View site – this turned out to be a great decision. We had a different out look from the other stops, but also one of the attendants there, Cathreen was super friendly and knowledgeable. We were the first Australian tourists she had met. She works from 8-5, 7 days a week, with no time off. She told us a bit of history regarding the rock formations, the big range at the back was named after a local chief and the 3 smaller mountains, of his 3 wives – David has enough trouble with one wife!
The next stop was of the 3 Rondavels – is the 3 mountain formations Cathreen was explaining – but this was a different angle- you could also see the river curving around & the beautifully blue/green coloured Blyde Lake, below.
As we were driving along, a truck driver flashed his lights, furiously, at us. The speed limit dropped from 100 to 60, as we were going up a small rise. David quickly braked and set the cruise control to 60kph. Less than a 100m later a police radar setup was on the left, which I thought, No Worries…. But no, the Police office stood up and waved us in. He said we was going 63kph, and that it was a ZAR 230 (approx. $23) fine. Then asked for David’s license, where upon seeing it was an Aussie one, he suddenly lost all interest in us?
Last stop was of Echo caves. Privately owned cave system, founded in 1920’s. The dolomite cave is a constant 17 degrees all year long. They have explored down to approx. 9 kms, but have stopped doing any more exploring as they now require oxygen to be worn to go deeper. There are 3 main chambers – the elephant, the crocodile and samson. Our guide, Tabo, explained that the caves were used by the local tribes when they were at war with the Swahili in the 1800’s, they would go down into the lower chambers, but leave a sentry at the opening, he would then signal to the people inside by banging on the stalactites – this would echo for approx. 1.2 km letting the men know to come out and fight.
Back to Crystal Springs lodge… well sort of… I selected the wrong waypoint in the GPS and ended up taking a 10km detour along a very rough track, until we realised the error!
As part of our package at the lodge we had prepaid breakfast and dinner. This turned out to be a very good deal. We could select anything from the dinner menu, which was extensive, including starters & mains. We had expected some form of buffet? The real surprise was that our drinks were also included. Great value!
It was a bit fresh this morning, I needed my jumper.
We had arranged for breakfast at 7.45. We met Areitha – Peter’s wife who cooked us a german sausage wrapped in bacon with eggs, this was after a bowl of rockmelon (spons spec) pomegranate seeds & grapes. Areitha was very friendly & liked to chat.
We left Chrissiesmeer & headed for Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge – near Pilgrim’s Rest. We stopped for provisions of bread & fruit in Lyndenberg -Mashishing, this is always interesting.no drama’s today with getting to our accommodation!
Hotter now – 30 deg
The GPS & Google maps disagreed on the route, we followed the GPS as it matched the written instructions we had… big mistake, we had road works & the biggest and most frequent pot holes ever seen on a tar road!
Just before arriving we saw our first real hint of wild life – monkeys on the side of the road…how exciting.
Checked into our rooms & had a bit of lunch out on the back deck which looks over a few gardens & 1 of the 5 pool areas, and gives us a slight view of the canyon below.
We had a thunder storm which only lasted for about 5 minutes, we then walked around to the main area where a few more of the facilities are located, checked out the pools etc before having a few games of table tennis in the games room- David was the winner.
We found more animals, Vervet Monkeys, & watched them play for a while
We had a fantastic sunset – the colours are very vivid.
Dinners was included in our package, so no cooking for me tonight
Ouch, ouch, ouch… sore butt, from the horse riding, yesterday!
I think all the birds in the area decided to start calling, this morning, again at 3am – seems to be a theme here! By 6.30 I couldn’t take it anymore… decided to get up & soak up the view again… no clouds, but really windy, it was very impressive with the sun shining through, on to the different ranges.
We checked out and started to make our way to our next stop, Chrissiesmeer, which is located on Lake Chrissie, the largest fresh water pan (lake) in South Africa. We stopped in Volksrust for a few more supplies, then at Emerelo for fuel. You cannot pump your own fuel – there are attendants, and you are supposed to tip them. Our attendant was overly enthused that we were Australian. I don’t think many Aussies travel through this way.
The roads were good, but the scenery could have been anywhere on the southern tablelands of NSW, the only exciting thing we saw while driving was an Eagle flying overhead.
Passed through my birthplace, Newcastle, but on a different continent!
We are staying at Miss Chrissies – a bed & breakfast farm house, the owner – Peter, has the original deeds going back to 1877, which are proudly on display in the common lounge room.
The cottages are relatively new- being built from the old stones from a demolished dairy building. The property has an Oak forest, pond with ducks & cattle.
The temp started out as 30, but slowly made its way down to 21 – luckily we have, our one, jumper.
We went for a walk around the property, and in the oak forest found an animal burrow – Peter advised this was from a porcupine, unfortunately, they are mostly nocturnal so we haven’ t see one yet.
The sunset was a beautiful pink/ purple colour.
Our hosts cooked us a tradition meal they would usually eat. A venison stew with rice, my first and possibly last time eating bambi- the flavour is very strong. Brendan enjoyed it though, I had to add bits of fetta, tomato and onion from the salad to mask the flavour – I managed to get half down. Next was desert – a brandy pudding with brandy sauce and raisins, this was exceptional sweet – I am talking hair raisingly sweet… David managed most of his portion. I, once again, got maybe half- I hate cooked fruit in my food, picked out all the raisin bits, poor Brendan didn’t like this at all, but tried to get down a bit, it would take him a good two minuets to swallow a mouthful, then he would wash it down with a mouthful of water… he did try, it was entertaining to watch.
We were discussing the surprising lack of fruit in the shops when Peter said that you can only get it from specialty fruit & veg shops, not from the supermarkets. He then enthused about one of his favourite fruits, called “Sponsespec”, that he said we had to try. So, he bought out some, cut up, and it turned out to be rock melon
We were all woken by the sound of a rooster calling, as well as various ducks and birds- they seemed to be congregating outside our bedroom!
It was a gloomy morning, so a sleep in was called for. Around 7.30 I got up and sat in the big comfy rattan lounge chair by the glass sliding doors, looking out at the picturesque views.
When everyone was up we had breaky – fruit salad & vegemite on toast!
The clouds have started to clear- so a few photos are called for
A top of 26 today.
The sun was finally out so we decided to do a few small hikes around the complex, mikes path & duiker dam trail. This gave us a different view point of the mountains.
Once back we booked a sunset horseback ride.
back & relaxing
Brendan’s first horseback ride… Our guide was ky-a, Brendan’s horse was Misty, David’s – Luna mist and mine was Ruby.
The ride was for 2 hours with a champagne stop at the half way mark.
Misty was a good reliable hose, she just followed along, ruby liked to stop and eat, then trot off to catch up, she also did not like to be last, when ever luna mist came close she would speed up. Luna mist did not like to take instructions from David well, she also like to hang back then trot to catch up. The views were spectacular. We had great weather and only a small light shower 5 minutes from the hotel.
Once back though, the clouds rolled in and we had another thunder storm, it was quick storm, but dumped a lot of rain. It cleared up again & we sat on the back deck watch the clouds and mist formations over the peaks.
Home-made hamburgers for dinner tonight.
Thunder storms all night so far. The rain sounds good on the thatched roof