Rossi Pools, Gonarezhou National Park Zimbabwe to Johannesburg South Africa

We stayed 2 nights at Rossi Pools. It was a good campsite with a lapa (shelter) looking down into the river bed maybe 20m below. There was an island of crocs, some large ones. A few other animals, but not a lot of animals compared to other areas of Gonarezhou.

We got going in the morning heading out towards the highway where we thought we could camp at a motel. We left the park through one of the gates after a bit of delay checking paperwork, and we headed west. The road deteriorated,  we only passed a couple of cars. We then drove through Gezani, which had a few shops, and not many cars. Then about 10km out of Gezani our Tracks4Africa app had us taking an even smaller track west. We went along this track about 1km, but there was no sign anyone had driven this road for months. There was 80km more of this track to the highway. We decided we needed to abandon this track and head back to Gezani and then head south. Once we got through Gezani we headed south and then west along a road that followed the Limpopo river a few kilometres north of it. The road would vary. Sometimes good, then deteriorate to a 4wd track, then get better again. We knew we would have to wild camp, and started looking about 4:30pm. A bit after 5pm, we drove through some scrub, squeezing between bushes and getting under a Baobab tree. With our battery powered reciprocating saw, we cleared more bush away for a campsite, and settled down for the night.

We had hardly seen any vehicles on the road during the day, but after dark, probably 10 vehicles drove past. Most were buses driving on a very, very corrugated road. We were far enough into the bush that I didn’t think anyone could see us. However late in the night three donkey carts drove past. I am not so sure that they wouldn’t have seen us, but if they did, they didn’t stop.

The next morning we cut our way out of the bush, cutting more bushes, making it easier to reverse. Then it was still another 35km of very corrugated road to the highway. We made the highway, after several hundred kilometres of dirt tracks, to find a brand new highway in perfect condition.

It was 20km drive to Beitbridge, a border crossing that we had heard many bad things about. The Zimbabwe side is very fancy, with multiple brand new buildings, lots of electronic systems. I wandered from place to place handing over TIP forms until eventually we both went to the immigration building. There we paid $USD28 for a new building fee, and $USD9 for a bridge toll. Then we went back to the carpark to find our rego on a big sign that meant we were allowed to leave. We drove out, handed over our fancy gate pass and headed to South Africa.  We couldn’t help think of the hundreds of kilometres of roads we had travelled on that desperately needed grading, while instead the money had been spent on a fancy new border post.

The South African side while organised was very slow. We queued for an hour or so to get our passports stamped. Then the thing I thought was difficult, the TIP (temporary  import permit) was easy, and only took a few minutes. We passed the police checkpoint, and we were out and back in South Africa.

We aimed to get around 375km south along the N1 to a campground at Modimolle before dark. A couple of stops for food, lots of stops at toll plazas, and we made it to Modimolle ten minutes before sunset.

Next morning we had made arrangements to meet Lilli  in Pretoria who I had last seen 5 years ago at Christas place near the Mozambique border. Lillis HJ60 Landcruiser had recently not had a good time. She had rebuilt her 2H diesel engine about 2 years ago, and it needed yet another rebuild. Lilli was in good cheer, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of Africa, from the experience of her many many trips.

After lunch we headed of towards Marion and Davids place at Airport en Route. It was good to be stationary, and in familiar surrounds.

Looking down into Rossi Pools from the lapa
Karen working in her office
Overlooking the river 20m below
Balancing the solar panels on top of the cliff
One of the buses we passed on the road back to the highway
Its a pretty poor area of Zimbabwe
Another collapsed bridge in Zimbabwe, never repaired
the early morning after our wild camp, the very corrugated road
There were lots of large Baobabs along the road to the Beitbridge Highway
Another really large Boabab
And we hit the brand new Beitbridge to Harare highway
Our rego appears on the big screen, meaning we can leave
The footbridge over the Limpopo between Zim and South Africa
The truck queue south of Beitbridge
A very nicely designed bridge south of Beitbridge
Clancy and Toyo together again. Toyo is just missing an engine.

Chitove camp to Chivillia Camp to Rossi Pools, Gonarezhou National Park

Chitove camp was even better than Fishans camp. We were right next to the water. When we arrived, a couple of elephants left. We had crocodiles resting on the opposite bank. Baboons, Zebras, Elephants and more came down to the water, somewhere along the bank. There was pretty well something going on all day. After 3 nights at Chitove we headed about 60km  to Chivillia. Firstly we needed to cross the Runde at a causeway, which we did without it being much more than 30cm deep. We then stopped on the opposite bank to watch a couple of hundred Cape Buffalo head into the water to drink. We then headed to Chilojo cliffs picnic area. There we watched an Elephant want across the Runde, eventually coming back to comprehensively scratch itself on a tree near us.

We continued on to Chivillia Camp which was a rocky downhill track. We were a bit disappointed with Chivillia, it was away from the water, and there were not a lot of animals. However the first night during dusk, Karen spotted a lion sitting about 100m away. It roared a few times then wandered off. We were pretty careful around camp the next two nights.

After 3 nights at Chivillia Camp we headed for the long drive south to Rossi Pools camp. Firstly we needed to detour to Chipinda Pools camps to get some extra water. Then it was the well built but steep winding descent to the Nkwangulatio causeway. The causeway was built in 2019, and was well done. We crossed it and continued south. We passed a couple of heavily armed rangers making patrols, then followed the electrified park fenceline  for tens of kilometres.  At 4:30pm and after a long day we arrived at Rossi Pools camp.

An elephant at Chilojo Cliffs
Cape Buffalo opposite our campsite at Chitove
Another huge Baboab protected from Elephants with rocks
Chilojo Cliffs from the picnic area
Occasionally we have some home made bread
the waterhole near Chivillia Camp
Chivillia Camp
Looking down on the elephants
Before crossing the causeway
Nkwangulatio causeway
Driving down the park fence line, don’t touch the electric fence!

Fishans camp to Chitove camp, Gonarezhou National Park

We spent 3 days at Fishans camp. We had two elephants wander through camp passing within 3 metres of the camper. We had the occasional Baboon stalk us. A monkey managed to get a small bag of flour. There were lots of birds. We had various antelope nearby almost all the time. The mornings were cool, but build up to a warm day in the high 20s.

One of the elephants wandering past
Another elephant visits
The Runde river bed below the campsite, with the solar panels set up
Gregs feet are big, but elephant feet are bigger
the Chilojo cliffs
the Chilojo viewpoint on top of the cliffs
Looking down onto the Runde river from the Chilojo lookout
Camped at Chiove
Sunset Chitove
Runde River

 

Save River Conservancy to Fishans camp, Gonarezhou National Park

Another cool morning, we started the diesel heater for a while.  Or we are getting used to the warmer weather, and we are getting wimpy in the morning needing the heater. We headed into Humani compound, and paid for four nights camping. We headed south, stopping at a dam along side the road. it had a couple of locals washing clothes. However in the dam we counted 7 crocs, that we could see. About 100km south we got to Chiredzi. We visited the Pick n Pay supermarket, finding we couldn’t get any tissues (this has been the case at several supermarkets), or any aluminum foil. We also couldn’t find any bulk supplies of water.

We headed out of Chiredzi towards the gate of Gonarezhou National Park about 50km away. A very helpful ranger gave us some camping options. In the park if you book ahead it can be as much as $USD65 per night per person. However if you just roll up it can be as cheap as $USD27.50 per night per person. However there are park charges and other charges, meaning that 10 nights was costing us $USD1000. We topped up our water supply at one of the campsites and headed via the winding and at times rough track into Fishans. We passed elephants, kudu, zebra, lots of antelopes, and baboons. Close to sunset we crossed the Runde river via a rough stone causeway, and just on dark made it to Fishans campsite which is about 20km from the Mozambique border.

We drove through a sugar cane growing area


Crossing the causeway at Fishans
The view of the Runde river from camp at Fishans

Great Zimbabwe Hotel to Save River Conservancy

The next morning it was cold, but at last not raining. We got packed and drove the 30km into Masvingo, for more supplies, fuel, and water.  We found a Pick n pay supermarket, which would also take a credit card.

I went over the road to another supermarket to get water. They wouldn’t take a credit card, so I had to pay with USD. So the bill is USD$3.20. So they have no change less than a $1USD note. So what would I like. So I grab a couple of bottles of water out of the fridge. That leaves 22c changed owed, what do I want to do with that? I don’t care, keep the 22c. However the checkout attendant says, can I buy myself a chocolate bar for 20c. I say fine. We then go out both of us to be checked by the guards for my bottles of water, and her chocolate bar.

We try a servo for fuel with a credit card, no luck, but they suggest the Puma out of town. We go to the six month old Puma with attached KFC about a km out of town and buy fuel with a credit card. We are trying to conserve our supply of USD.

We drive east around 140km, decreasing in altitude and with increasing warmth. A couple of police road blocks, but they wave us through. We then turn onto the Save river conservancy, which is so big, that its a 60km drive from the front gate to the camping spot we have booked.

We drive past (and nearly collide with) Elephants. We also see Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu and other antelopes. After a river crossing we arrive at the Humani compound. We don’t know how to get to the campsite, eventually someone guides us out the 3km to the campsite next to the Turwi river.

We saw Elephants down river from us the first night. Occasionally we hear lions. The second day we spent the afternoon game driving down to the Save River, but didn’t see a lot. When we got back to camp, there was an elephant next to our campsite.

Camped next to the Turvi river
Plenty of wood provided for a campfire
The solar panels set up on the bank, because the campsite is under trees
Sunset on the Turvi river

 

 

 

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Great Zimbabwe Ruins

After a night of power which was great, we woke to rain and cold. I decided we needed to get some more clothes washing power so I walked in the rain about 3km to the nearest village to get some. I got back with the washing powder, it was still raining. We decided that the forecast for the afternoon would be better, and we would head to Great Zimbabwe ruins about 2pm.

We walked the 700m to Great Zimbabwe ruins, and paid for a guide. Stephen had been a guide there since 1985, and was very knowlegable.  Stephen took us through the museum, with a torch, because there was no power. He did well considering the circumstances.  We then walked on to the great enclosure, which is quite something, and then we climbed the hill, into the clouds.

Camped in the rain amongst the permanent tents (empty) at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel
Hiding out from the rain in the camper, drying clothes with the heater on.
part of the wall of the great enclosure, 5 m high
One of the corridors between inner and outer walls of the Great Enclosure
The herringbone pattern at the top of the wall of the Great Enclosure
Stephen, our guide, heading up the climb to the Hill complex
Climbing up the hill
The entrance to the enclosure at the top of the hill
Climbing around the Hill in the mist
The pulpit, the highest point on the Hill complex

Hillside Dams Bulawayo to Great Zimbabwe Hotel

We didn’t get any power overnight, so by the morning our batteries were getting low. Karen had mostly recovered from her cold, and I was getting better. We both thought we had just had a bad cold that neither of us had experienced for years. We had some Covid test kits in the first aid kit, so I decided maybe I should test myself, otherwise we would always wonder. It was a surprise, or maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but I was positive for Covid. It explained a lot.

We headed down to the Zonkizizwe shopping centre to get a few last minute things, and see if we could buy fuel on a credit card. We were successful in both and headed out of Bulawayo for Great Zimbabwe 280km away.

Pretty uneventful drive. We went through about 3 police road blocks, one of which we were stopped at, but we were soon on our way. We got to the Great Zimbabwe hotel about 4pm, hooked up the power and thought everything was going great. Until about 10 minutes later the power cut out. However an hour or so later we got it back.

Kids walking home from School

Camped at Great Zimbabwe Hotel

Farmhouse Matopos to Hillside Dams Bulawayo

When we got back from driving around Matopos Sunday, we found we couldn’t get back into the camper. It took a while but we figured that the deadlock had vibrated closed and the lock was no longer being operated by the key. We had to cut the deadlock to get in. I was feeling pretty sick, and very cold. I crawled into bed, and slept.

Next morning we headed off to Matopos Research Station where Karen was meeting some colleagues. I shifted some diesel from a drum in the roof box, into the tank. I then got inside and slept for another two hours. About 12 noon Karen came back and we headed into Bulawayo to meet a friend for lunch at the Art Gallery. After visiting someone else we headed for Hillside Dam Conservancy for a couple of nights camping.

We struggled with power at Hillside. We would get power then trip a relay, and lose it. Then we would have it for a while and load-shedding would start, and we would lose it again. We went in at lunch time to see a friend who operated 4 “tuck shops”. Tuck shops are little stalls that sell a variety of food and household goods.

The another visit, and we were back at Hillside for the evening.

Parked in central Bulawayo

 

 

Hillside Dams Bulawayo Zimbabwe to Farmhouse Matopos

I struggled getting power at Hillside Dams the next morning. I got power until 10am then load-shedding started. With all the solar panels up I managed to charge up the batteries by mid afternoon. I then headed to Karen’s lodge that she was staying at. It was very nice, they also had their generators running as well because they had lost power too.

We went out to dinner with Karen’s colleagues. It being Zimbabwe, and a few South Africans thrown in as well, there was a lot of meat for dinner. Everyone got a good feed though and there was meat left over which people could take home.  We stayed in Karen’s room overnight, a big change from the camping I had done for the last 3 weeks.

We headed out the next morning for the Farmhouse camping site about 50km south of Bulawayo, which is just north of the Matapos National Park. We went through two police road blocks, but we were not stopped. Karen thinks they are under orders not to hassle tourists. Farmhouse is very well run. We had hot showers from a donkey boiler, and we had great views. They have Giraffe and Wildebeest on the property, so we walked down to the feeding of the Giraffes which happens every day at 4pm.

Karen by now had got pretty sick from something she caught from being in all those meeting rooms, so Saturday she spent a lot of time asleep. I was fine but I was going to get sick eventually.  I went on a cave guided walk, and say a couple of caves with 2,000 year old cave paintings.

On Sunday we drove into Matapos National Park. We headed west on looked at the rock formation called mother and child which is actually pictured on the mysterious ZIG currency. ZIG is the official currency of Zimbabwe, but almost no-one has seen it, everyone works on USD.  There are so many balance rocks both in and around Matopos. We headed further west to a dam looking for animals (and maybe white rhino), but we saw evidence of Elephants, but only saw Hippos and klipspringers.

We then headed east to try to get to Nswatugi Cave. The first track got rougher and rougher, until I thought it was too rough for our heavily loaded camper. So we spent about an hour carefully reversing back down the track including cutting scrub out of the way. We ripped off one of the rear mudflaps. This time it was the old one that’s been on for years, rather than the new one. We then headed back and approached the cave from a different direction. We were more successful this time, and made it to the cave late afternoon. The cave had been excavated about 5m down, finding evidence of people living in it 9,000 years ago.

 

Camped at the Farmhouse
The view from the viewing deck
There are many balanced rocks
Giraffes waiting for the food to arrive
Feeding time
Greedy giraffe eating
the many rocks around Matapos
Some of the paintings in the rock shelters
200 year old grain stores made of termite mound mud
Mother and child
Zhamando Hide

Nswatugi Cave
Nswatugi Cave Giraffes

Tantebane Game Ranch Botswana to Bulawayo Zimbabwe

I spent 3 nights at Tantebane Game Ranch. The first night it was packed with a large group of South Africans travelling together. When I woke up the next morning, they were all packing up and left, leaving me alone.

I did a final fix on the broken storage box, plus some other fibreglass fixes. I did some washing, some gluing and fixed some electrical things. It was nice to stay put for two days straight.

On Wednesday morning I set off for the Zimbabwe border. I stopped at the last servo in Botswana to squeeze as much diesel in the tank as possible. Then I exited Botswana, all very simple and straight forward.

It was then the unknown of the Zimbabwe border. I got through immigration in about 30 minutes. I was handled by three different staff and paid $30USD for a visa with my crisp new $USD notes. Then it was off to customs. I had done a eTip on line the previous day. This seemed all OK. I was told to pay $50 USD at the payment counter and given an invoice to take. I do that, thank the guy and go back to the car. First checkpoint they ask for my TIP (temporary import permit), and I show them my reference number for my eTIP, and they are fine with that and I head up to the next checkpoint. The next guy says I don’t have the right stamp on one of the pieces of paper, and I have to drive back and get it stamped. After asking about 3 different people I finally get the right stamp. I pass the next checkpoint, but I have to see two guys in a hut who are eating lunch. I see them and without even glancing at my wad of papers they say I am fine. I then go to the next checkpoint. They say I have to go and see the guy in a different hut. He says I don’t have a printout of my eTIP. So I drive back again and see two different guys until I get to the original guy that I organised the TIP with. He hands over my printed eTIP which I should have collected after I paid. (Sort of my fault, I should have thought of that). Then it is back through the two checkpoints and the guy in the hut, and finally I can leave, after about two hours.

Then its the drive to Bulawayo about 13km away. I get waved through one police checkpoint. I pay $4USD toll at the toll booth about 100km down the road. Outside Bulawayo I hit another Police checkpoint, and they pull me over. After the questions about where I am going etc, the (rather large) Police woman asks me for money because she is hungry. I eventually give in and give her the $1USD note I got as change from the toll payment.

I got into Bulawayo, stopping at the Zonkizizwe shopping centre for a sim card and some supplies. I then contacted Karen, and briefly met her at her lodge, before heading the the Hillside Conservancy for a campsite for the night.

pelicans on the water hole
My second attempt to make another mud flap.
All the solar panels out in cloudy weather
Heating up the donkey boiler for a shower
Washing
On the (quite good) road to Bulawayo
Approaching the Toll booth
The daily exchange rate at the Pick n Pay supermarket for the ZIG currency, which I have not seen anyone have. The cash registers at the supermarket had USD$
Camped with power (well until the loadshedding) at Hillside conservancy