Saturday, 29th September  DAY 10

Saturday, 29th September  DAY 10

Later during the night we hear the unmistakeable grunts of a leopard close to what should be the camp perimeter fence. Such is its state of disrepair that a person could walk over it. A herd of impala prudently take up a position in the middle of the campsite. A Barred Owl calls nearby. Rather predictably the hot water has run out so it is back to cold showers. We were reminded again that we are in Zims when I meet some irate tourists who are marooned because there is another shortage of fuel. Thank goodness for Dudley’s reserve diesel tank.

We wake at 5am and leisurely break camp ready for our 160Km trip to Robins. We leave Main Camp at 7am and take the main road, or what is left of it, westward. It used to be tarred but it has disintegrated to such an extent that we often drive on the verge. We pass great Kameeldoring and Teak trees, and then eight Ground-hornbill cross the road before we stop off at the Guvelala Pan and sit for a while in the viewing platform. Scores of Red-billed Teals are about together with two Pochards, Grebes, Geese, Sandgrouse and…..a Bradfield’s Hornbill.

A great Martial Eagle alights at the water’s edge and is mobbed by Blacksmith Lapwings. The wind again is blowing strongly from the east making photography difficult.

We press on stopping at Masuma and Shumba pans. It is very apparent how generously “Friends of Hwange” have donated funds to install many state of the art solar pumps which keep the pans filled. These boreholes must produce strong flows of water to maintain these pans given how many ellies visit them.

We next stop at Detema Dam for a late brunch. People camp at these very small and simple picnic/campsites with very basic facilities.

We arrive at Robins at 1pm. I note that H G Robins was a one time farmer here who in 1939 donated 25,000 acres of his land to “the people of Southern Rhodesia”. My thoughts go to Eileen Orpen who similarly left her great legacy to the Kruger Park and the people of South Africa – and the world. Truly great people.

After unpacking and setting up camp we venture forth at 4.30pm heading for the Big and Little Toms water holes. Between them we come upon something that we have all been hoping for – a herd of 14 Roan Antelope.

Set in the evening light, this must be my best sighting ever of this handsome but rare antelope. I manage to take a couple of photos before they move off.

Next some Burchell’s Sandgrouse are creeping about next to the road.

We enjoy a sundowner on the viewing platform at Big Toms watching some jackal calling to each other. But time is running short and we must move quickly back to camp. But the road is blocked by a herd of buffalo which alongside, silhouetted against the setting sun is a lovely way to end the day.

Because of Dudley’s defunct freezer we left two frozen pre-cooked meals in the Robins freezers. It is my turn to prepare a meal so leaving Chris and Dudley to watch rugby in the pub, I do what I do worst – cook. Despite my best endeavours, I burn the rice but the lads are very forgiving. Whilst in the pub, the Dudley and Chris have done sterling work by organising a day trip tomorrow to the new Deka camp that is being built west of Robins on the Botswanan border.

I must first give a little explanation how things work here. A private company has taken over the renovation and the running of Robins, Deka, Sinematella and another camp near Main Camp on a 25 year lease. This is an excellent idea as the government has no money at all to maintain Hwange. Rather let private enterprise do what amounts to an extremely important job for Zims – attracting tourists to the country. Given that Vic Falls, Hwange, Chobe and Kariba are relatively close to each other then it stands to reason that this should be the prime tourist destination on the continent. That this should escape the powers that be is just mind boggling but that is how it is. One can only hope that Zims improves as it has so much to offer.