Our two Staffies (Staffordshire Terriers) are in charge of the house now. Actually they always have been really, but now we are off to Hwange and they really are in charge. We have left them in very capable hands while we start our first bush-trip since the move to Zimbabwe.
We drove down in ‘The Truck’ (the green Toyota Landcruiser that is one of Mike’s treasures). It took us about four hours – one of which was on the main road to Hwange, and the other three were in the Hwange National Park getting to Little Makalolo Camp. The only thing that slowed us down is what I think looks like a huge electrical sub-station to be installed at Davison’s Camp. This is going to help enormously because the waterhole in front of Davison’s Camp is pumping 24 hours a day now to keep up with the demand. By switching over to this electrical station means that the diesel consumption will be significantly reduced.
The road to Hwange National Park is good. It is probably more like a back-of-beyond secondary road rather than a main arterial route that you find between main towns and cities in South Africa. So you can imagine my surprise when we arrived at a toll sign. We had to pay one USD to drive on a national road - imagine that!
The countryside is very dry, but really very beautiful. At Ngweshla Picnic Site in the Hwange National Park we liberated ourselves from the heavy burden of the sub-station. Ron Goatley, MD of Wilderness Zimbabwe was on hand to help detach the trailer. It was so heavy that they had to use a high-lift jack to get it off the tow-bar.
We followed Ron on to Little Makalolo. At the Ngweshla Pan, I was shocked to see the carcass of a baby elephant. It was a sign of the state of play at this time of the year. I was not sure how I was going to be able to deal with this. It occurred to me that I might have thought that animals don’t have to deal with stress like we have to deal with it in the office or city environment.
The landscape is really dry at this time of the year. There are a few green shoots on the teak trees that have come into new leaf, but apart from that there is generally just dryness and brownness and sand…and it is very hot. Temperatures are around 38°C to 40°C (100F – 104F) during the day. These drop off in the evening, but not that much. The early mornings are nice and cool by comparison.
This dryness and heat means that there is not enough browsing, grazing or water around for the wildlife. And this is the stress that the animals are living with now until the rains come at the end of October. In the Wilderness Hwange Concession, there are approximately 12 natural water pans that are pumped to maintain a low level of water. This means that the game can browse or graze between the pans and still have the security of fresh water thereby giving all our guests and ourselves the most spectacular game viewing opportunities.
As I look at the baby elephant carcass I can’t imagine that it is going to get dryer and hotter before any relief is felt from the rains.