LCCSA Mana Pools – September 2009

 

Co-ordinated by Buffalo’s Kotze & Pittman -seen here in their traditional dress – & Buffalo Stoffberg (absent – buffalo stomach fever)

 

Photographed at Buffalo Hill, situate @ Camp Buffalo – the breeding place for late nights & dune coffee, Nyamepi, Mana

Note no.2 – LEAVING VEHICLE & WALKING IS PERMITTED – not many national parks will allow this, considering that all of the big 5 – except rhino – roam here

We were blessed with spectacular scenes and animals – this in the dry season. imagine this place after the first rains – the Dick Pitman Rule of Thumb says: The best time is 4 weeks after the first rains – pity we can’t command the skies

Before we get tooo carried away, our trip started on 19 September as work matters dictated that we be back on 30 September, so it was tough going, but we decided to make the best of it. we were joined by Johan & Corrie Oberholzer, whom we only met the morning, what a pleasant couple to become friends with and it once again proved that blood runs thick with the LCCSA bretheren

We entered Botswana through Groblersbrug with Elephant Sands, some 50kms north of Nata our destination.

Crossing the Limpopo

Pit stop at the newly renovated Nata Lodge that burned down a year or so ago

We arrived late afternoon at Elephant Sands, basically the starting point of the badly potholed road to Pandamatenga.

Camp site Elephant Sands

Having a cold one after a loong day

Dinner was excellent

Our plans were not cast in stone, but we certainly wanted to drive hunters road, effectively the cutline between Zimbabwe & Botswana. you enter an access road right after the first vet control point – I did not stop before the stop sign at this post & were fined 1000 Pula, which Bee negotiated down to 500 – so stop at this bugger, most of the control points up north you rarely stop dead.

The access road runs through hunting concessions & the game ran away as soon as they saw us. however, some of the smaller creatures could not be bothered

Access road

Pit stop on the cut line

Lunch break

Bee with his tea

Bee & Johan seeking some boabab shade

Break at Henk vd Walts Boabob

Boabab access road to Hunters Road

One of main motivations for driving Hunters Road was reports of good sable, roan & wild dog sitings – we were not disappointed and had good sitings of roan & sable & got a brief look at a wild dog running away from us.

Roan

Sable

Even though a recent SA 4×4 article states you can sleep anywhere on Hunters Road + the spot we put up camp below was suggested by Ben at Elephant Sands, we were promptly chased away just when we started our first sunset drinks. (if you camp south of Pandamatenga, you should be fine) the mood was not upbeat, but we decided to pack & were rewarded with an excellent campsite at Senyaiti Safari Camp

That evening we ended up at Louw Barnard’s

place, Seyaiti (some 10kms south of Kasane) each campsite has its own facilities & he has a lovely deck overlooking a large waterhole where the ellies & buffalo enjoyed themselves – highly recommended.

Camp site

Buffalo @ waterhole

Waterhole sunrise

The next morning we packed up & hit Kasane, to stock up & enjoy a Chobe river sunset cruise.

We drove an access road through Chobe & ran into a herd of ellies, here shaving Johan’s 80

 The campsite at Chobe Safari Lodge was full & we did not like the look at Toro, so we ended up at Nqina, the camp is being renovated, and once completed a suggested stopover. You camp on grass, plenty of shade & the are busy fixing up the ablutions. there’s a nice pool & its halfway between Kasane & Kazankula.

Camp site

Lunch (and the wine) at Chobe Safari Lodge was excellent

Chobe Safari Lodge – a good sleepover after a couple of long nights in the bushThe sunset boat cruises on the Chobe is very popular & a must to see. Traffic jam on Chobe river

Not sharp, but i triedChobe sunset

Our plans were to enter Zambia, visit Vic Falls & drive the tar road north of Lake Kariba to enter Zim at Kariba Town. We decided to be more adventurous and enter Zim & drive the very damaged gravel road south of Kariba to Karoi . Boy-oh-boy – had we known how many hours we would stay behind the wheel on this route, Zambia would have been a breeze, but there is always a silver lining when you venture into unknown territory.

First we had to content with the notorious Zimbabwe road blocks – we were pleasantly surprised to find the people friendly & had no sort of bribing threats/requests etc.

We visited Vic Falls Town & the falls – having been there on a number of occasions & being prepared for a mad rush, street vendors trying to sell anything from money to your wrist watch he just stole – it was amazingly quiet, controlled & generally a good experience – i think the lack of tourist & money keeps the town clean.

The Falls

Locals

The Vic Falls bridge – once the highest bungi jump in the world @ 111m (got that t-shirt)

 We were the only people having lunch at the 5 star kingdom hotel

After lunch we hit the road to Binga, not having clue where we’ll sleep. I drove this road many years ago and recalled various campsites & national parks, like Matusadona – it was clear that with our time constraints, Matusadona was out & we noted Chete Island on a map. We set our sights on Chete but it was soon evident that the Chete on my map & Chete on the GPS was a long way out. I already got a fine, been chased away from a camp site & we were now reluctant to take any unauthorised roads to the lake shore. The shit comes in 3’s rule – yet the few roads we found were all entry by permit only. A local guided us to one such road and we proceeded reluctantly on this 20 km (2hrs) 2 spoor road towards the southern lake shore, and yes, we ran into a private lodge. It was getting late and we desperately asked for a place to stay. We were told to wait for the manager who was on a boat on the lake, but we will be looked after. The manager arrived shortly there after – we explained our situation & said that we only needed a small spot to camp. We were informed that camping is not allowed (shit comes in 3’s rule popped up)….. BUT they had no guests & he offered each of us a lodge cabin, FREE OF CHARGE. It later turned out that he was more happy to see us than the other way around – “shit man, you guys don’t know how lonely it gets up here” – these unexpected surprises is one of the reasons i enjoy overlanding so much.

After this pleasant stop over, we had hit one of the the worst roads i have ever driven in my life – 260kms took us 6 1/2 hrs of suspension breaking stuff. i got new respect for my cruiser & I’m sure soft roaders will get damaged. The Nata Pandamatenga road looks like a highway + the problem is that should you have a breakdown, it will take you days to get help. We drove past a supply truck that broke down 5 days earlier & their company knew they were there!

Before we knew

When we got here almost 4 hours after departure we knew time is catching up with us – we wanted to be in Mana the night and still had to make a detour to Karoi to fill up

Well, there’s only one way to do it and after some strenuous miles behind the wheel we finally arrived at Karoi, did the road block thing & filled the diesel up and found ZAMBEZI Lager in the local spar – promptly bought them all, to the dismay of the LCCSA convoy who would pass 2 days later.

We entered the access road to Mana later the afternoon – its about 60 km gravel road to mana from the tar turnoff.

Access road

The place is blessed with huge baobabs

Ellie welcoming committee

and we eventually arrived at Camp Buffalo (site 21, i think?), Nyamepi

The mascot

Happy campers

We enjoyed beautiful sunrises

& countless hours of constructive “k@kpraat”

celebrating Freddie’s 50th hmmmm

The only downside to camp buffalo was the noise at night, between bee chasing hienas, hippos, elephant, buffalo, zebra etc in the camp, sleep was few!

Day visitors

Fishing time

Some honorary Camp Buffalo members :

Buffalo Bee

Buffalo Piet

Buffalo Corrie

The rest of the LCCSA contingent arrived on the 25th. we had a briefing with Wez who explained the nature & logistics of the count. This was the 17th count and we were told that, although the data was raw, indications are that the numbers of animals were not deteriorating, which is good news. the rangers aggressively apply anti poaching measures which appears to be working – they have a desperate need for supplies etc. which will be covered in another section by the organizers.

In short – we were divided in teams of 4 – 6 people and allocated 4 transect lines (of approx 3.5 kms each & 500m apart) for the 4 walks (2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon) over a 20km odd terrain. On some transects a ranger was allocated due to the terrain we would walk. Each transect had a starting point, a middle check point, with the final point on the Zambezi. Some starting points were obviously further than the others and we received times at which to leave camp in order for everybody to start walking roughly at the same time – all in the direction of the Zambezi.

Waiting in 40deg heat to start our transect with ranger Dube (2 ic at Mana)

On the count – Piet the spotter, Bee the scribe & Stephan the navigator

On the count – Stephan & Bee

Shortly before we walked into this friendly bloke

Luckily no harm was done and he apologised for intruding

I do not know what the final count figures amount to but I’m sure we will receive same via Dick.

Again it was a pleasure to meet up with old friends & make new ones. lets make this project a huge success

I’ll finish off with some random pictures taken at Mana:

Notes:

  •  The Zimbanwian people are friendly & the rangers at mana were excellent; however, we saw a mugging near Chinhoyi & found a couple that stopped next to the road approx 100km north of Beit bridge who were attacked, beaten & their clothing stolen – so driving alone could be dangerous; if you break down alone you are in serious danger;
  • Night driving is taboo;
  • We had no problems at roadblocks, although one young policeman near Beit bridge told Bee it was his god given duty to arrest people;
  • We found the people in northern Zim very friendly & helpful – I think they’ve always been living off the land and not so dependant on commercial farming etc. the poverty is obvious once you leave the Zambezi valley;
  • Food, diesel & petrol is widely available.

 Christo Giliomee – 76 Cruising

 

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