As we bounced along the corrugated road our GPS came alive. “In 800 metres turn right on Very Bad”. As the road we were driving on was already pretty bad this was concerning. We still had 20kms to go to our campsite and knew we had to climb up an escarpment.
When we had come to Zimbabwe we had planned to do a loop of the country. To avoid some of the boring parts and going up and down the same road this meant we had to cross the rugged far North of the country along the shores of Lake Kariba. This is a remote area of Zimbabwe with some rough roads but is also ruggedly beautiful.
We had left Hwange National Park behind and headed to Mlibizi a fishing resort on Lake Kariba. The drive was easy on an old tar road and we spent the night there overlooking the lake.
From here most people take the ferry down the lake. However we were going to drive along the rough corrugated road. We wanted to break the journey in Chizarira National Park to camp on the edge of a gorge. Chizarira is Zimbabwe’s third largest national park but is also one of its least visited due to bad roads, poor infrastructure and a fairly recent problem with poaching. However we had heard that the campsite near the entrance was set on a magnificent spot overlooking the gorge so we thought we would try for it. We had asked friends whether they thought we would make it in our truck. They had said the road across the North should be ok but would be interested to see if we made it up the escarpment.
The “turn right on very bad” was where we entered the road up the escarpment. The first few Kms were fine as we wound our way through traditional rural Zimbabwean villages. Then we started to climb. The road got rockier, bumpier and there were some stretches of sand. The road twisted and turned through some steep bits up the escarpment causing our chassis to moan and groan but taking it slowly we made it to the Park entrance gates. On signing in we could see we were only the third vehicle to visit that week and this is the busiest season. The road inside the park improved very slightly and after an hour and a half we made it to the Park headquarters to pay our fees. There were quite a lot of Park rangers around, certainly more than visitors, they were all very friendly and happy to see us.
The road below does not look that bad but Gilly was too busy hanging on to take photos on the bad bits.
We still had 2 Kms to go to the campsite and although the road was fine we then hit the problem of low hanging trees. We squeezed past most of them but 50 metres from the campsite had to do a bit of pruning to get through. The campsite though was set right on the edge of the gorge with a fantastic view so was definitely worth the tough journey up. There was a sheer drop from the shelter and we could see right into the gorge.
As walking is not allowed in the Park due to the presence of lions and elephants and as we were not going to do any more driving than necessary we spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the view. Unfortunately as it was a little hazy the photos do not really do it justice.
The next day we had to return the way we came so squeezed past the trees again and made our way carefully down the escarpment. It never seems quite so bad on the way out. We then had another 250kms along the rough corrugated road. Some places were particularly bumpy, so Lucy learnt to adopt the brace position.
Shortly before Karoi the tar returned and we pulled into a motel where we could camp for the night. I was shattered and in need of a rest but our hearts sank as we pulled in. It was Saturday afternoon and the bar was packed. We thought, oh no this is going to be a loud night. We need not have worried though. They were all watching the football from the English Premier League and when it finished at 6 they all left so we had a peaceful night.
The next day was an easy tar drive into the capital Hwange. However with the return of the tar came the return of the police roadblocks. They were before and sometimes after every small town with the odd one in between. After our previous experience this was a bit stressful but on this drive it was all very friendly. We had to slow down but were then just waved through with a friendly smile. Much better.
We arrived in Harare on a Sunday afternoon so it was relatively quiet and camped at a backpackers lodge close to the city centre. We passed through some pleasant tree lined suburbs but as we neared the centre it became a bit more run down with tenement blocks. Having said that it seemed more pleasant than some other African cities we have visited.
With it being nine days since we had left Victoria Falls we were completely out of food so decided it was time to eat out. There was an Indian restaurant a couple of Kms away which was tempting and a Portuguese chicken restaurant close by that came highly recommended. As it was lunchtime I thought I would check the chicken restaurant out. It was absolutely packed, a good sign so I made a reservation for dinner. It turned out to be a lovely meal of Peri Peri Chicken which was served with varying degrees of hotness. Hot was pretty hot!
We did not plan to stay in Harare long so the next day headed to one of the nice suburbs to do a big shop to refill the truck. The selection of food was great so we probably slightly over indulged. Still I am sure we will get through it all.
From Harare we were heading to the Eastern Highlands for a change in scenery. Again there were police roadblocks along much of the way but again it was all very friendly and we were waved through all but one and that one only wanted to see my license and have a little chat about our trip.
As we approached the Eastern Highlands the scenery changed. There were rocky outcrops and pine trees. Alisha said this is starting to look like England. I think this part of Zimbabwe is going to be quite different from the rest of our travels in Africa so far.