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PostPosted: Sun Oct 10, 2010 7:38 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 10:30 pm
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Back from a two week trip to Zimbabwe.

Entered via Plumtree to avoid Beit Bridge. Visited Matopo National Park for two nights. We camped at Malemi dam. Camping is $5 per person per night plus an entrance fee into the park. Cannot recall what it cost but it was not
excessive. Facilities so-so but clean. The water is drinkable but has a heavy rusted water pipe taste. Enjoyed it to see the rock formations again. We baulked at paying $10 per person to see Rhodes’ grave.

We then moved on to Mana Pools. Fantastic as usual, but hot. It is also very dry at the moment with large areas completely devoid of any vegetation. Luckily there was a constant wind blowing over the water cooling things down to a liveable temperature. I also had three nights booked at Chitake Springs. We were allocated site #2. Little shade and infested with tsetse flies and virtually 40⁰C. We packed it up after the first night and returned to Mana Pools. Chitake is a fantastic wilderness area with no facilities of any kind and one has to be totally self-sufficient for the duration of your stay. Lion, buffalo and elephant abound. During our short stay there were two groups of buffalo – one of around 400 animals and the other of around 200. We were treated by a magnificent lion choir practice for most of the night with the sounds of two males fighting it out towards daybreak. The lion spent some time in our camp during the night.

A remarkable feature of the Chitake lions is that they climb into trees to rest during the day. Our theory is that they do this to get reprieve from the incessant tsetse flies and the oppressive heat. Unfortunately the lion were too far away for photos and I was too scared to walk closer, mainly as the pride contained four very playful sub-adult cubs… We were told by a
private ranger that the Chitake lions have also developed a taste for elephant meat and regularly kill elephant. The main diet is buffalo meat.

I will definitely go to Chitake again but only if I can manage to book site #1, which has excellent shade and is right next to the stream from which water may be taken for cooling showers.

The facilities at Mana Pools are in a poor state. The ablution buildings have been painted in the past two years but the insides have been neglected and are not being cleaned properly. The hyenas have also become bolder during the last two years. Especially one individual had no problem to sneak to within two metres of the fire even with us in close proximity.

During our last trip in 2008 Zimbabwe was in a dreadful state with all the shops devoid of any stock and fuel difficult to obtain. Since then the use of the US dollar and ZA Rand was adopted. All shops are now well stocked and fuel is available at every filling station. Diesel cost around $1.03 a litre. The country seems to be more alive and there is some improvement in the agricultural activities, although it is in my estimation probably only 10% of previous levels. Another new feature is the introduction of toll roads. The toll fee is a standard $1.00.

A pleasant surprise was the fact that change in the tendered currency was always available. I recommend that one pays in US$ as all the prices are $ based and then converted to Rand at a poor rate of exchange. There is also no silver (small change) available and figures are rounded off to the nearest amount. Due to a late start at Mana Pools we decided not to drive to Masvingo as
originally planned but to spend the night at the Antelope Park just outside of Gweru. What a pleasant surprise. Excellent facilities at $5.00 per person.

We spent our last night at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. We camped at the ruins at a cost of $5.00 per person. The campsite ablutions were filthy. We camped at the chalets and used the facilities there which were clean and even had hot water. We returned via Beit Bridge without any hassle. We were offered the services of ‘runners’ but we declined their services. One really does not need their
services. They are in any event generally dishonest.

Source: Nico Roets

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