THE PLACE OF ELEPHANTS          - 23/ 4/ 2007      <--Prev : Next-->

Chilojo Cliffs
I always get a bit nervous when HeeHoo starts to read a new book..... it generally inspires him to want to rush off and explore far off and impossible places... and his being a voracious reader keeps me on my toes....

Trust me I became extremely worried when he began that incredible book called "The Cruellest Mile" which covers a frantic dash across the Arctic Ice Cap.... and when he bought Colin Saunders new book "Gonarezhou" or "A Place For Elephants", I resignedly started packing the two man tent even before he had finished reading it ....

As wildlife enthusiasts, we Matabeles are very familiar with Hwange National Park and as HeeHoo was formerly a Shifty we made many exciting forays en famille to Mana Pools, but Gonarezhou had passed us by, until Colin Saunders decided to put pen to paper and wrote his most informative book.

Camping is easy when there are just two in a tent, "Minimum packing" were my stern orders and so it was, (we under catered on the water though .....)

Zimbabwe's trials and tribulations have taken their toll on Gonarezhou, but with all this exciting talk of Trans Frontier Parks, the tide is turning and grand things appear to be happening.

Gonarezhou is different to Hwange in that it abounds with spectacular water courses. The Runde River, The Save River and The Mwenezi River all play a large part in the fauna and flora and most of the camps are scattered along these vibrant watercourses.

Chipinda Pools was our first port of call, boasting brand new thatched and paved eating rondavels, sparkling clean ablution blocks, and braai places (with grills even) which stood new and beckoning... . there was even a tap with running water at the end of each braai. The wardens were thrilled to see us and the camp attendants brought us fragrant mopani wood for our fire.

The hippo paraded themselves loudly the entire night, lion roared in the far distance and elephants tummy rumbles could be heard not too far away.

We were also treated to the rare but spectacular sight of a Lundi Star in full bloom on the banks of the Massasanya Dam.

However not many visitors, it would transpire, chose to soldier on to the next camp that we decided upon . ..... If one wishes to approach the magnificent Chilojo Cliffs from the northern side of the Runde, make sure you take your 4 x 4 !!

Much needed work had been in progress on the road, but we overtook the giant Caterpillar graders and forged our way to Chilojo Camp which had certainly seen better days.

The day camp had been taken over by a vast baboon troop and elephant dung lay a foot deep, so we decided to head for Camps One and Two.

Not much remained except for the signpost sadly. The ablution blocks were in ruins, the thatched shelters were non existent, and anything water borne was no where to be found. But the spectacular view of those terracotta sandstone cliffs has not changed I gather for millions of years.....

We found a bed of sand on which to make our fire, squashed mounds of tall grass which made a comfy base for our tent, opened some very cold white wine and watched spell bound as the sun set on these entrancing sandstone cliffs. The colours were breathtaking, as the sun set slowly and magnificently, the colours of the cliffs changed from burnt sienna, to amber, to burgundy to umber and to the most incredible coppery gold I have even been privileged to see.

Hippo scolded each other from the river in front of us, elephant came by to drink, duiker, impala, and kudu spoor was everywhere.

Peregrine could be seen roosting in the faults in the cliffs and a family of Nyala came down to the water to drink.

This was camping at its best, remote to the point of ridiculousness, thank goodness HeeHoo is a confident backwoodsman ..... and he also soon learned to become quite a tidy mechanic !!

When the wind came up at midnight our little tent nearly blew over the edge of the sand bank we were perched on, but many years of fine dining made sure there was plenty of ballast inside the tent !!

We heard a shot from a very heavy gauge rifle at 5 a.m. and were saddened by thoughts of possible poachers. However on the way home we encountered a Parks Official who informed us that his "men were in training" and were shooting for the pot !!!

If the work that is in progress for the proposed Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park continues as promised, Gonarezhou is perfectly placed to be the most precious gem of all of these three great Southern African National Wildlife Parks.