Monday, 9 October 2017

Zimbabwe

We are coming to the end of what was the most amazing holiday ever. Lake Kariba totally lived up to my expectations. Going to bed with the sound of hippos and then waking up to see elephants grazing at the shoreline was something I will never forget. Each day we either went on a game drive, or went fishing. I caught two Tiger fish and Doug caught a huge cat fish and a Tiger fish as well. The birds we saw were awesome and included the Tawny Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, White backed Vulture, Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle, lilac breasted Roller, Malibu Stork, Wood Hoopoe, Senegal Coucal, three different hornbills including ground, red billed and grey billed, double~banded sandy Grouse, White crowned and blacksmith Plovers, Montegue Harrier, pied Kingfisher, Southern Cape Turtle Dove and Emerald spotted Dove, Crested Francolin, Rock bunting, collared Sun Birds, Pelicans and Beeeaters. Sorry to all you 'Non Birders' out there if this is a little boring for you but it made my holiday to see so many different species of birds that I had never seen before. The wildlife was awesome too. What made it really special was that these animals were all totally wild and there was no fence to keep them in. They could literally go wherever they wanted. From our lodge we saw lots of elephants, hippos and crocodiles, and on the game drive we also saw a huge herd of Buffaloes, Zebras, Impalas, Water Bucks, Kudus, Dikers, Jackals, Mongooses and Warthogs. We followed a fresh lion trail where you could see that he had killed an impala but didn't actually catch sight of him. He would have been sleeping it off somewhere. We had a fabulous guide called Cliffy who was very knowledgable and made it a very special experience. On our last game drive, just as the sun was going down we saw ten enormous tuskers all in a line majestically walking from the lake towards the bush for the night. These were all very old bull elephants with a minimum age of forty and the oldest one was over sixty who due to their age have left the main herd and during the day live on their own. The oldest one hadn't been seen for some time and Cliffy was worried about him as his trunk had become slightly paralysed and he was getting thin. He was very relieved to see him looking well enough, and it was very moving to see the way they clearly still enjoy each other's company, having probably fought each other in younger days. They have now formed a 'retired gentleman's' club where they seemed to really care about each other. It was also encouraging that even though they had enormous and very valuable tusks they had got to their grand old ages without being poached. Full credit to the anti poaching team, who just in the last month had shot dead three poachers.
After six wonderful days we were very sad to leave Spurwing Island and will definitely be returning.
I have got lots of photos to download when I get back.

A sunrise, just on our way for a walking game drive


The females would all help to look after the babies

The old Tusker with the paralysed trunk



The 'Gentleman's Club' with the really old Tusker three from the front
 
Hippos wallowing - I was determined to see one out of the water.........
 

We were on a mission to get this chap, but didn't hang around as he wasn't too friendly!

My first Tiger Fish (he was put back)

My second Tiger Fish

The beautiful view from our hut

Our hut

African sunset




I mustn't forget Doug's Tiger Fish!

We are now back in Harare staying with a Nuffield Scholar, Doug Bruce. He is going to take us around some farms today and this evening we are having supper with a group of Nuffields, some of which I met when I first came to Zimbabwe in 1999, sadly most of them have been driven out by the mad despot  Robert Mugabe, who, at the age of 93, won't last much longer with any luck. The country is on its knees under his tyrannical and corrupt ruling. On our first day in Zimbabwe the banks had run out of cash and the petrol stations had all run out of fuel. Our hired car turned up with an empty tank and we were told there was no fuel anywhere. We then heard that Mugabe was in the U.S. having taken millions of dollars in cash with him, a normal occurrence apparently. Luckily we borrowed a Jerry can with some fuel and made it to Mutare on the way to the Eastern Highlands, where our cash was gratefully received in exchange for fuel. The situation seems to have eased a bit since then but you will still see queues of people outside banks trying to get their money out and the fuel stations will only take cash. Apparently Mugabe has announced that he is going to sort the problem out by printing more money...
We will be catching the plane home tomorrow evening. All the horses have been looked after really well by Scott, Paddy, Holly and Christina in our absence and I am looking forward to getting back to see them, the dogs and the family, (not in that order, of course!) although very sad to leave Zimbabwe. The most beautiful of countries.