Mana Pools to Kariba
Soon after turning onto the A1 highway we heard an ominous noise behind us. It sounded very much like the noise we had when leaving Moremi a couple of years previously. We drove on until we could pull off into a lay-bye. Pippa got out to see what the problem was and John and the others pulled in behind us. The leaf spring bracket on the trailer had broken again. The axle had shifted back and the right wheel was rubbing up against the back of the mud guard.
After discussing options (I was sorely tempted to push it off the escarpment!) John and Tim hauled out the tool kit and set about unbolting the mudguard. It took a while but they were able to loosen the back section of the mudguard enough to pull it away from the wheel and secure it to the frame of the trailer. That was good enough to get us to Kariba.
It was slow going up the escarpment trying to avoid potholes and pass trucks. Even after turning off the A1 I kept our speed down for that final 75km stretch to Kariba. We finally got to Andora harbour at 4:00pm.
Our 3 nights on Lake Kariba
When we finally pulled into Andora Harbour to board the Osprey we had a very anxious welcoming committee waiting for us…the owner of the boat, his manager, 4 crew and various other others whose functions I still haven’t worked out. We apologised profusely for being so late and explained the mishap with my trailer. “No problem” said the owner…“I own an Engineering business so leave the trailer where it is (half way down the slipway to offload what we needed for the next 3 nights), let’s get you on board and when you get back the trailer will be fixed”. Problem solved!
Fortunately we’d pre-ordered all the fresh food and ice that we needed from a company in Kariba called Crispy Fresh and they’d delivered it earlier in the day. It took us a while to unpack cars and trailer and to load what we needed on board though. By the time we got going it was after 5:00pm. That resulted in our mooring for the night on Antelope Island which was close enough to get to before 6:00pm (the cut off time for houseboats to be sailing on the lake).
The Osprey was advertised as being wheelchair friendly. I was very keen to see how true that was. Well, Keith (the owner) was very proud of the boat he’d built and explained in detail what he’d done to make it accessible.
Pippa and I had a cabin on the top deck (which was the main entertainment area) and there was a toilet and shower up there which was wheelchair friendly. He’d built ramps on each side of the very steep staircase which flapped down when needed. The crew set up a winch at the top of the stairs from which they hooked a cable onto the frame of my chair. They then had a crew member in front of me, one behind to support the chair, while a 3rd crew member wound the winch to haul me up. Magic! The upstairs area was perfect for my needs and I was as happy as Larry!
We hadn’t even left the harbour before the crew had unpacked our booze and set it all up on the bar counter with glasses and a bucket of ice. What a pleasure sitting up there with a drink in hand and the boat cruising out onto the lake with the sun setting behind us. The stress of the day was history!
Our first evening was great, with everyone in good spirits. Beers, whiskey and wine flowed liberally! Zach, the chef, served a superb dinner of bream fillets, chips and salads and then ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. Nice to be looked after so well by the crew after 7 nights camping!
The next couple of days and nights followed a similar routine. The skipper would fire up the engine early in the morning to get going and we’d chug along for 3 to 4 hours to our next mooring point and tie up next to the shore for the rest of the day. The views were stunning with the shoreline and hills in the background and Kapenta boats sailing in between. We moored off Elephant Point on the first day and Fothergill Island on the second.
We spent most of the day relaxing after the skipper and crew had moored the boat. The youngsters had a lot of fun playing cards and went out quite often on one of the tender boats to do some fishing…they didn’t catch anything significant but a lot of fun was had none the less!
It’s hard to describe just how relaxing and enjoyable it is being on a houseboat. There was always plenty to see from the deck. Lovely views, a variety of birds and the ever present Hippos and Crocodiles.
We were entertained for the whole afternoon by a small group of Elephant at Fothergill. It was fantastic watching their social interactions. Two of them were like a couple of naughty kids…playfully barging into each other and splashing around in the water. Amazing animals!
Later in the afternoon we’d get onto one of the small tender boats for a sunset cruise and game viewing. We didn’t see a wide variety of game in the short time we were there. I’d have liked a few more days to spend some time in other parts of the Matusadona National Park.
It was fascinating cruising thorough the petrified trees…quite an eerie sight but very beautiful silhouetted against the setting sun.
With the sun setting we’d go back to the Osprey for drinks and dinner and lots of chatting and laughter about our time together at Mana Pools and on the houseboat. “Fines” had to be paid for various misdemeanours or funny comments that had been noted during the course of our trip. John fined Tim for commenting on the ‘bicycle tyre tracks’ in our camp at Mucheni and wondering who would be cycling in Mana Pools…I didn’t think my wheelchair was so inconspicuous!
Our 3 nights and 2 days on the lake passed very quickly and we docked in Andora Harbour fairly early on our last morning. We had a fantastic time on the boat. Nothing was too much trouble for the crew. Their friendliness and helpfulness went a long way to making the cruise so enjoyable.
True to his word, Keith had repaired the trailer…I guess if you can build a houseboat you can weld a suspension bracket back in place without too many problems! We offloaded our gear, packed cars and trailer and said our goodbyes. Pippa and I went back to Harare and John and the others headed off for a night at Antelope Park on their way back to Durban.
Things can go wrong very quickly if tensions arise on a trip like that. Luckily, everyone got on well and enjoyed each other’s company and the time together. A great way to end off a memorable holiday!
Tensions were building in Zimbabwe. Unrest started at Beit Bridge the day after we got back to Harare which was the day John and his travelling party were due to go through the border. Riots and stone throwing in the town resulted in them having to spend a night at the Lion and Elephant Motel. They left the following morning at 4:00am to avoid any possible repetition of the troubles and were rewarded with a quick border crossing.
Harare and then home
Pippa and I once again enjoyed our time in Harare with Jill and Ant. We were there for 5 days which gave us plenty of time to get together with family and friends.
A national stay-away had been called by the opposition on the day we left Harare. We were anxious about that but had already paid for overnight bookings for the trip back to Cape Town. We left at 6:00am and in spite of having to contend with about 17 police road blocks we reached Beit Bridge just before 3:00pm. There were hardly any travellers there and we were through both sides of the border in 40 minutes. What a pleasure!
We stayed at the Lalapanzi Hotel near Louis Trichardt that night. Our room was very comfortable and we had a good evening. A few locals were enjoying themselves in the pub when we went for a pre-dinner drink. They insisted that we try one of their concoctions…vodka, condensed milk, ideal milk and cream! Not the most appealing combination of ingredients but we didn’t want to be rude so agreed to try one. It was surprisingly good. One was enough though!
We left Lalapanzi early the next morning and arrived at the Merino Inn in Colesburg at about 5:00 that evening. There was a bit of a problem with our booking…the geyser had burst in the wheelchair enabled room. They showed us one of their standard rooms that was available but it wasn’t suitable for a wheelchair. Fortunately one of the rooms in their old staff quarters had recently been renovated and was suitable so they allowed us to use that.
- Note from Pippa: It is this sort of thing that inspired us to try to achieve our vision. So often we plan to go out for dinner/lunch and are assured that the venue is accessible – only to arrive and find a hitch of some type or another. Travelling in Africa takes this to a new dimension so we have set out on this “journey” to try and pave the way for other folk with disabilities. If we can show them that it is possible to camp in the wilds of Africa, with a little bit of equipment and pre-planning, then we have achieved our dream. Hopefully people will enjoy our travels and Dave’s photographs even if they don’t have any physical limitations.
The rest of our journey home was straight forward and without any major drama. We had another early start from Colesburg the next morning and arrived back home mid-afternoon…tired but with some wonderful memories!
Accommodation summary here.
Photo gallery here.