Every local we spoke to about Gonarezhou for the three months leading up to our trip had one of two things to say:
1) “Whoa! That’s the worst time of year to go! Nobody ever goes then! You will die of the heat and mosquitos!” (much laughing) “Look out for malaria!” This is more ironic than imaginable when you consider that we drove into camp on the day the rainy season decided to start. Temperatures that are over 100 degrees for most of the year suddenly plummeted into the sixties and birds unused to the temps were literally falling dead out of the air all around us. But more about that later…
2) “Seriously? You’re going to Gonarezhou?! Never been there. Nobody ever goes down there!” With just a week to go until our trip, we found out from the parks office that no one else was scheduled in the whole entire national park during the time of our reservations. No one.
In the whole park. You can imagine how thrilled I was with my husband. And it became clear. We not only became even more grateful that we had roped our friends, the Mullen family, into going with us, but that it was a necessity to travel alongside them. With no phones or cell reception and no petrol station for hundreds of kilometers, we had a lot planning to do to stay together, pack heavily, and prepare properly to go into the remote wilderness safely. Preparations were difficult. We borrowed extra jerry cans to carry our fuel and searched everywhere for maps. Unattainable, unfindable, uninformative maps!
When we left for Gonarezhou, we laughed about the fact that we started with week long reservations and whittled it down to three days. When we arrived in the midst of the first rain and were then told by a park employee, "Oh. ZESA (electrical power) went out yesterday when the storm started. I guess we should report it sometime tomorrow," we knew immediately the trip had to be whittled again. Our coolers of food, waiting expectantly to be promptly transferred into coldly awaiting fridges, had already been in the car for a solid day before our arrival. They would not last our whole trip. In a humorous turn of events, we now laugh that we only spent two nights in Gonarezhou, with much of our time and energy going towards cooking and eating everything we brought to keep it from spoiling. I'm sure not one of us returned to Harare without an extra five pounds!
The weather and power problems made for one of those experiences in which we could be either miserable, or have the time of our lives. Our good company made this nothing but a fun and hilarious adventure. Here are some photos and info from our stay at accommodations in the Mabaulauta Region's Swimuwini Campsite:
Next up, The Landscapes of Gonarezhou...