Day 33: Enter Friendly Zimbabwe. Hwange Game Park on the bike!
I was up early, and facing the reality that Ruth was gone, and I was back on my own. It’s funny how when I’m on my own, I’m in heaven, and focused, and I forget that it takes a whole mindset shift to go from being with ‘someone’ 24 hours a day, taking the company for granted, and then suddenly there is a vacuum. The vacuum lasts as long as I don’t turn my focus to the joys of solo adventure, and then move on. Somehow it’s also about the risks, dealing with the unknown alone…? I do think when we are with others we tend to forget the risks, in the comfort of knowing there are two of us to deal with them, but that’s not really the responsible way to deal with things. Solo adventure has really made me understand the risks involved in remote adventure, and how one cannot just turn a blind eye, but also one cannot let it paralyse one.
I was also dealing with the sad news that my great sailing friend Neil, who now lives in Spain, had lost the sight in his one eye, and was in desperate need of an operation to prevent it turning to permanent blindness.
Anyway I was soon on the road, and part of the difficulty I had starting this day was that I knew almost the whole day would be re-tracing the route Ruth and I had taken from Kasane to Maun, via Gweta. Not the most inspiring road, but from Gweta, I’d be on the Elephant Highway, and wildlife on the road may liven things up.
It was cold on the bike, and I had to stop a few times to prevent my fingers from freezing. Met two real JHB bikers at Gweta Wimpy, and joined them for breakfast. They had 1200cc bikes and all the kit and were on their way to Vic Falls. When I told them my plan they were amazed, and more so with the simple bike and gear I had… The one guy turned to his mate and said: “Jislike, and we thought we were doing a very big bike safari, it’s nothing compared to what this guy is doing.”
I wasn’t sure of being able to go into Zimbabwe at Pandamatenga, because the road had only one route and that was 60km through Hwange (the old Wankie) Game Park. I desperately wanted to do this route.
All worked out well, the customs / immigration guys were very friendly, said no problem on the bike, “Just be careful”… Also no bribes requested, nothing, all very polite, professional and welcoming.
My first motorcycle game drive, and on my own…. I liked the idea of this, a new challenge, but was I being reckless….? All went well, I didn’t see any of the big five, nor elephants but lots of evidence of them around. I just stayed focused and rode on. The road wasn’t great, but at least consistent.
I checked out Hwange for accommodation, but it didn’t look great, nor much accommodation around. Went up the hill just outside Hwange and found the Baobab Hotel, which was like an unexpected oasis in the middle of a sad coal mining dump of a town. Great hotel for what I needed, and rewarded myself with a bitterly cold Zambezi! With lots of stories of petrol shortages / outages, it was time to do some planning. I had a few big decisions to make: Was I going toi try make the ferry, and take the easy option across Lake Kariba, or was I going to take the road described as one of the most inhospitable around from Binga to Karoi. The goal was Makuti, where I was scheduled to meet James Varden and his friends for our exciting Rukomechi hike.
It all felt quite satisfying: I’d actually achieved a huge amount today, lots of unknown’s dealt with, and it had all gone extremely well. Days like this just make me feel like I’m truly living! What will tomorrow bring?