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