Saturday, 22nd September   DAY 3

Saturday, 22nd September   DAY 3

We are up with the sun and after our condensed milk coffee we quickly have everything packed and ready for an early get away. But first we spoil ourselves to a good breakfast at the restaurant. Guests here are very much in transit and Elephant Sands caters for exactly that – the bare essentials.

We are soon on the main road heading north. Before I have time to get out my camera, two ellies cross ahead of us. These animals of course pose a considerable risk to night time travellers with their grey hides invisible in the dark. Northward we travel along this amazingly flat, straight road and then across the massive agricultural flats of Pandamatenga which lie fallow at this time of the year. We stop to fill with diesel before entering Zims. At this point however things start to go awry. Chris discovers that the back latch on the canopy door has opened and he has lost a bag – fortunately with nothing desperately important inside but annoying nevertheless. Next Dudley discovers that the deep-freeze is malfunctioning and is warming all the time. We move on to the small Pandamatenga border post. On the Zim side the lady informs me that there is no further space left in my passport for her to stamp it. Only after some coaxing from Dudley does she agree to squeeze in her large stamp but this now poses the question how I am going to go home through four more immigration offices.

Finally through the border, the tarred Bots road narrows to a single, stony dirt track. The weather is now hot with a glaringly clear sky and and an east wind blowing. Whereas in Botswana the landscape is everywhere flat, once into Zims surprisingly hills appear and the land is now undulating. I am not a fan of dense mopane scrub but here very attractive mopane trees are scattered about the veld. Long, dry grass completes a most attractive scene. I note that the underlying rock formation is basalt – the same rock that produces those rich grasslands running the length of the eastern side of Kruger.

We next turn right and begin the last leg of our trip down to the Hwange entrance gate. We then proceed to Robins camp. Just before the camp we cross the Deka river which is not flowing but does show signs of recent flooding. Where this same Deka flows into the Zambezi at the top end of Kariba of course is a renowned fishing place. I am afraid that without the internet I am unable to research better the history of Robins. Apparently it was once a farm which was absorbed into greater Hwange – proclaimed in 1936. Three light aircraft are tethered at the end of the runway near the entrance gate. In camp a family of about 30 banded mongooses have taken up residence in a drainpipe.

The campsite is set on a gentle slope amongst mopane trees. At this time of the year the shade is very sparse so we make do down on the fence line. Late afternoon we take a drive to Crocodile Pools and then double back to “Big Toms” and “Little Toms”, two natural water holes a few Kms south-west of Robins.

Our cooking arrangements on this trip are fraught with danger. First, Chris’s pat of butter melts completely over the beers leading to a tricky tidying up job. The kettle is found to be hosting a nest of ants. Today is my day to produce a meal but fortunately I am spared the wrath of Chris and Dudley by a brilliant pre-cooked meal from a shop in Ballito. And so we chat into the night with beer and a pretty passable meal that Dudley assisted me with. A Scops and Pearl-spotted Owl call from the trees and a hyena cackles in the night.