Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
45Trip End Feb 13, 2011
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So, with our newbies added to the Oasis truck it was time to say our goodbyes to Malawi as we headed to Mozambique and a journey through the once (im)famous Tete Corridor, on route to Harare. The border crossing went smoothly as usual, until one of the Malawi border guards decided that he wanted to see everyones Yellow Fever vaccination books - this was despite the fact that we were leaving Malawi and that the Mozambique border guards didn't seem to care one way or the other. However, he didn't seem quite so enthusiastic when we presented him with a stack of 25-odd booklets, and he waved us through without so much as a casual glance at said stack.
It was another reasonably long drive day to the area where we were bush camping that night, and we spent a lot of the time waving to locals who were pretty excited to see a group of white faces bouncing passed on the road
It was an early start the next morning, and the rising sun dyed the sky a deep red as we packed our tents away and headed for Zimbabwe,first stop Harare. The border crossing threw up only two minor incidents: 1) When collecting money from everyone for visas, we amazingly ended up with too much money, and no-one willing to reclaim it, and 2) according to the Zimbabwe border control/government, the Republic of Ireland is now part of the UK. As you can imagine, the Irish girls were none too happy with this classification, not least because it meant paying an extra $15 each for their visas!
When we had all made it safely into Zimbabwe - and stocked up on crisps at the shop just over the border - we made a bee-line for our first stop, a campsite just outside Harare called Bird park
We set up camp about 10 meters from the shores of a picturesque lake in the grounds of the campsite, and headed to the bar...where we were told about the Crocodile that resided in the lake next to our tent, and the fact that it had attacked around 14 people in the last 6 months (but that only two had died, and only from their injuries!)
The next morning we awoke, only to discover that it wasn't the Croc or the cross-dressing we should have been worrying about...the Ants had attacked during the night! The floor of the tent was a moving carpet, as was the roof of the tent, the sides of the tent, and the outside of the tent. We had ants in our sleeping bags, clothes, hair, and nostrils. Words cannot sufficiently explain how many there were, or how everywhere they were! We took this as a sign, decided to upgrade and bagged the last available cottage for our last night at Bird park. Later in the day, we went to a nearby Lion Park to go Lion walking. We spent the first hour wandering the grounds of the park and looking at the animals that were also kept there - mainly Cheetahs, Baboons, Hyenas, and a couple of sizable Nile Crocs. After the park had closed to the public and everyone had filed out, the head Lion keeper gave us a short safety talk (don't let the Lions eat you...), gave each of us a rather flimsy looking cane (to hit the Lions with if they got a little frisky), and then opened the cage of two one-year-old Lions
After two days at Bird park we were on the move again, heading south towards Gweru and our next destination - Antelope Park. When we arrived, we were greeted with hot towels, drinks, and music from the staff - we could instinctively tell that this was going to be good! Antelope Park, whilst having a very obvious commercial aspect, is involved in the conservation of Lions in Africa and runs a program called ALERT that aims to reintroduce Lions to the wild. It was really interesting talking to the staff about the aims of the program and what their personal hopes were - they all seemed really enthusiastic about the work they were carrying out, and hopeful that after so many attempts to reintroduce Lions to the wild they may have found a method that could work.
There were many different activities to do, but we both settled on the Lion cub viewing, Elephant training, and I decided to try my hand at some Horse riding. I think the pictures of us with the Lions and Elephants can show how much fun it was far better than I can describe in words. The Elephants were amazing - you don't realize just how big they are until you're stood next to one. The park guides demonstrated the training methods to start with, and you could see how intelligent the Elephants were as they could remember what they were meant to do before the guides shouted instructions to them. They also seemed very happy and well treated; the guides carried round riding-crops with them,and one of the guides dropped his in front of one of the Elephants, the Elephant just picked up the crop and handed it back to the guide
Next up would be the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Wild Dogs, Annie's hometown, and the Smoke that Thunders. But you can find out about that in our next fascinating installment.
Hope you're all well,