About 20 minutes after we left Safely at the entrance to Dundumwezi Gate it started to rain. Heavily.
Just what we needed with the tracks already soft and deeply rutted. There is no bush-camping allowed in the park, due to the amount of game (particularly predators) around. So we had to make the 80-odd kilometres before it got dark.
The first few km along the Cordon Road were good straightforward tracks through teak trees and fairly thin forest.
Occasionally, even a good track has it’s difficulties.
Once we turned north on the Cordon Road, things got tougher though: some deep sand, tracks so deep that even with our lifted suspension the axel and sump guards would ground on the centre mound and stop is like a parachute.
In more open areas the track was straightforward sand.
In most areas though the grass was as high as the car either side of us.
We would certainly have filled the radiator with grass seed without the netting that Brad had given us.
Most areas were very boggy either side of the track and every kilometre would include stretches from 20-50 meters that looked like innocuous mud but was actually Cotton-soil (very thick, deep and enough to stop the car in it’s tracks if you don’t keep your right foot planted). Even the entry and exit that look sandy are generally just a dusting of sand over the boggy track.
Sometimes, in the middle of the bog, the track just runs out. That’s when you really just hope you’re still heading the right way – there’s certainly no one around to come and pull you out at this time of year and there’s no sign of traffic having passed recently.
Once in a while you get the ‘perfect-storm’ of conditions: deep boggy ground, high grass and little clue as to what’s ahead. The picture below is a log bridge on the was to Nanzhilla – you can just make out the vertical poles that show the width of the bridge and roughly where it is. Without getting out and walking over the pretty rotten 3-inch diameter logs first you’d be nuts to drive on and trust it though.
I walked across, mobbed by Tsetse flies. I was reasonably confident it would take us (why would it be there otherwise) but with the high grass growing through it, I couldn’t tell how deep the ground was under it.
Plenty of creaking, but we got across slowly and, a few kilometres later made it to Nanzhilla Lodge and campsite that Brad & Ruth previously ran for 5 years.
It took us nearly 3 hours to cover the 80-odd km inside the park. Pretty stressful most of the way. If it had been in the UK / Europe I wouldn’t have been gripping the seat so hard with my backside. In Africa, a huge, remote park, no one else around, unknown roads and conditions ahead, rough conditions behind – it made it the 3 hours pretty tense.
To cap it all, Nanzhilla Lodge was closed and the manager David was away for a couple of weeks. Fortunately a couple of the staff Brad had known previously were still there, doing some off-season maintenance.
Steady (next to Helene) and his pals made us a fire.
We gave the guys a bag of ‘suckers’ (lollipops) Ruth had asked us to deliver and they could hardly wipe the grins off their faces.
After that, we settled in to fresh burgers we had made and a glass of wine overlooking the plain.
View from The Penthouse that evening.
Quite a trip to get there from Livingstone, but worth it to arrive.
Another major bonus (as it has been throughout Namibia, Botswana and Zambia) a beautiful night sky with no ground-light.
The Milky Way looks stunning, and stretches from horizon to horizon. Beside it (only seen in parts of the Southern Hemisphere) are the Magellanic Clouds – galaxies that orbit our own a mind-boggling distance away (the two clusters just left of centre in this picture).
The following morning the view of the Earth from The Penthouse was equally beautiful.
So glad we made the trip.
So like a rainbow in the grass as the sun rose.
So easy to understand why Brad & Ruth loved the place.