Sunday, 3 January 2010

Day 9: Shingwedzi to Punda Maria

Tuesday 4th August 2009

Dinner in Shingwedzi involved rather too much wine, resulting in a rather disturbed night and a trek to the communal ablutions block at 4am! The others got up about 6:30, and after a minimalist breakfast of bread and marula jam, we packed the car and set off on the road going North. There wasn't a great deal of game around, but we did see the occasional zebra in the vicinty of one of the picnic sites. This one was pretty spectacular, having been built around (and incorporating) a large fever tree.

The journey to Punda Maria didn't take us as long as we expected, and we arrived at the camp around 10am. Having tried (and failed) to check in, we decided that "second breakfast" was in order: Harriet and I were relatively abstemious, but Izzi went for lamb stew and rice served in a cauldron!

Suitably fortified we set off again, heading for the Pafuri picnic spot on the banks of the Luvuvhu river. On the way we managed get our first good sightings of a warthog family, a grey heron fishing and a herd of eland.

We were also entering baobab country, and there were large numbers of the trees dotted all over the place. They towered over everything else around, and lent a very distinctive character to the area. Certainly, much more interesting than mile after mile of mopani bushes!

By lunchtime it was very hot, so we were glad of the air conditioning in the car. From Pafuri we travelled East along the banks of the Luvuvhu, and saw some of the best game of the entire trip. As well as lots of nyala, there were monkeys, warthog, elphant, zebra, bee-eaters and (as Izzi rather charmingly put it) "rumpy pumpy hippos". The river was also lined by dozens of fever trees, which looked absolutely stunning in the sunshine.

Eventually the road led to a place called Crooks Corner - so called because of its smuggling history. The junction of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers is also the boundary between three countries: South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The confluence of the rivers leads to a wide, sandy area where the water is shallow - relatively easy to cross on foot, in other words. As a result the location was used by those wishing to avoid the more formal border crossings, but in doing so they ran the risk of an encounter with one of the many crocodiles which inhabited the area!

We drove slowly back to Punda Maria (with the air conditioning full on) and headed to the shop for cold beer and ice cream. Unusually, the person who served us was a middle-aged white woman, and she was obviously keen to chat. We complimented her on the way the camp was maintained, and the excellent facilities in the bungalows themselves. The lady commented that the camp used to be run by "blicks" and as a result, nobody came. We made our excuses and left at this point...

I then spent the next hour fixing a suitcase which had decided to jam with its handle fully extended - so much for the "lifetime" guarantee! Dinner was eaten outdoors by the light of hurricane lamps, one of which had been lit and hung outside each of the bungalows. A wonderful atmosphere, saddened slightly by the knowledge that we'd be leaving the park the following day.