Zimbabwe 94b Diaries – Part 3

I’ve missed posting so have a few weeks to catch up on, hope you’re in for a long boring read!

Saturday 19/3/1994

I woke up at 0600hrs, finished packing for a 3 day walk and had sudsa for breakfast. We set off at 0700hrs with full packs, I somehow ended up with the 5kg bag of sudsa in my pack too so it was massively heavy, at our first stop the release clip on the frame of my pack came lose and was lost meaning my pack is now stuffed from here on and needs to be tied on to my back with bungees cords, We walked until 11am, totally hot and totally stuffed. We set up camp and swam in the river, we kept the gear here and went for a local walk at about 1530hrs. Phil hurt his foot so couldn’t go, there wasn’t much to see on the walk and we came back at about 1700hrs to a dinner of sudsa and beans (great). We played cards for a bit and talked to Keith (our project manager) about the history of the Zulu nation in Southern Africa, went to bed about 2200hrs.

Sunday 20/03/1994

Double Malaria tablets again today, ugh…Got up about 0600hrs, had cold sudsa porridge for breakfast and packed up camp. My cold has nearly all gone now which seemed to take ages, we set off at approx. 0700hrs after repairing my pack to the best of my abilities. The project is to find Elephant skeletons and also measure the baobab trees to somehow look at the drought which has killed loads of elephants down here, we measured a few trees this morning and then found one elephant skull. We used a GPS to plot the grid reference of the skull as well as noting the size and age of it. The baobab trees are huge, one of the trunks had a girth of over fourteen metres and was totally hollowed out by elephants seeking water. Did radio comms at 0900hrs and found out that the 4×4 has rolled over about 6km north of Chiredzi and has totally written off the cab.

We moved to a new camp on the other bank of the Rhunde River and setup on a large sandbank in the shade…We had some Sudsa and some AB biscuits. I felt a bit fitter walking this morning maybe just better fitness, maybe less food in the pack. We played cards in the evening again and had some soup, I crashed out on the sand and just watched the stars, really cool.

Monday 21/03/1994

Woke up at 0530hrs, maybe this is why Bob Geldof wrote “I don’t like Mondays” – Breakfast was sudsa porridge with raisins (no sugar left). We returned to the HiLux base camp today and walked about 10kms, no news of Ben (Expedition leader) arriving today – Alpha five zero (HQ Comms callsign) said that he would be arriving at Nymugwe Pan at around 1200hrs and would be resupplying them which wouldn’t leave him enough time to get to us. No mail or supplies for us until we reach Nymugwe pan on Friday then.

It was hard going this morning, I felt really tired and dehydrated, I had about 12 biscuits and some diarrolyte tablets. I had a look in the hi lux mirror and I badly needed a wash and a shave. My nose and shoulders are peeling like crazy, it was about 42 degrees celcius at 1100hrs this morning, too hot to trek this afternoon so we’ll just crash out in the shade. I made pasta and beans with pepper which tasted quite nice, tried to radio Alpha five zero but no response, will try again in the morning. Some baboons just ran past on the other side of the river being followed by a lion, about fifty baboons all up but the lion was not interested in eating, probably too hairy for them… I finished writing all my postcards this afternoon and just crashed out, we sat and chatted about everything from sex, to Richard Gere, to gerbils….then went to bed.

Tuesday 22/03/1994

I woke up at 0600hrs feeling really cold, had some pro-nutro and raisins for breakfast along with a packet of biscuits. We set off along the river at 0710 hrs with replenished food stocks in our packs, we saw our first elephant today on the opposite bank of the river, managed to get a photo but it was quite a distance from us so not very good. Comms at 0900hrs and Alpha Five Zero had arranged a pick up for us at 1100hrs this Friday so we’ll now return to the hi lux camp on Thursday evening.

We found an elephant skeleton whilst measuring a baobab tree, it was all complete apart from the lower jaw which makes the aging a little more difficult (Teeth get worn as they age). Walked until 1130hours then went for another small walk later on after 1530hrs when it had cooled down. We set up camp on the river bed, had pasta and beefy soup, I wrote a letter home and by the time I’d finished everyone was asleep.

Wednesday 23/03/1994

Woke at 0600hrs and had Sudsa porridge and then set off at about 0700hrs, It was really cold last night. Today we made it the border of Mozambique, the foliage was very dense so we didn’t spend long there, we did come within about 30 metres of an elephant though which was really cool. Comms at 0900hrs was unsuccessful, will try at midday, heading back from Mozambique to the hi lux camp so should get there by tomorrow afternoon where we can drive to Chipinda pools for a shower and some good food, going to walk this afternoon too so we can make up some time.

My two little toes have huge blisters and there is a splinter really deep in my foot – the wound from swinging a pick axe into my leg needed some more iodine too. No luck with comms at midday so we went for another walk this afternoon, really dense jungle felt like something out of ‘Tour of Duty’.

At one point Ash forgot his camera and left it at a baobab tree and went back to get it with ‘Bonaface’ the game warden and Ricky. We waited for them for about ten minutes and then we heard a shot fired. I looked at Keith and he confirmed it was the sound of an AK47 (Our scouts gun) – We waited another few minutes and then Keith picked myself and Shuggy to go looking for them – As we headed up the bank there was some loud noises in the distance, Keith shouted out about it being poachers and started running towards the gunfire with me and Shuggy following – To be honest all I was thinking was that the others had been shot by poachers and that we were now running towards armed men. We spread out sideways as we were running into the bush and then heard a whistle…It was Ricky. It turned out that the game scout had fired a shot to let us know he’d found the camera…Which was not a good idea…Keith gave him some serious flack! A bit scary but a good test of myself to see that I wasn’t scared to run towards gunfire to help mates even if we didn’t know what was happening and that we were unarmed.

We walked another 3kms to a beach near the river and setup camp. Shuggy cooked me up a plate of gravel as it was full of sand from the beach, not happy, ate some biscuits instead and went to bed at 2100hrs.

Thursday 24/03/1994

Woke at about 0600hrs as usual, we spent the morning walking back to Chitove camp, no success with comms as some idiot had left the radio switched on all night and drained the batteries. We arrived at Chitove at about 1100hrs where I crashed out for about an hour before deciding to do some lunch, the afternoon was spent just sitting about until dinner time at 1830hrs, I had a Malaria tablet and went to bed…Goodnight!

Friday 25/03/1994

I woke at about 0530hrs to go out with the game warden to catch his monthly kill, once a month he is allowed to shoot an impala for his family. Myself and Shuggy went with him, we found a field with lots of impala, he allowed us to take a shot with the AK47, I had a go and stuck it on automatic, fired lots of shots and hit nothing from short range and scared everything off, great. We walked a bit further to find some more and Shuggy had a go, hit one first shot but he was a bit more careful and didn’t have it on automatic. We weren’t allowed to tell anyone we’d used the gun when we got back as we were not supposed to, especially after what happened the other day.

Hi Lux arrived at about 1145hrs and we returned to Gonerezhou camp via the shops. I bought five packs of biscuits, two bags of crisps and Annabel bought me two beers, we received some mail when we got to the camp, evidently the hyde is finished but we’ll see in the morning.

Cheers for now


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