Dumb Blonde moments…

We woke very early at Binga Hot Springs, hoping for good sun rise shots. I took the camera to the hot pool and waited…and was disappointed. The sky, with all the clouds about, was gun metal grey! Eeeuw – not the colour one commonly associates with the Zambezi.

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And then…suddenly, the light changed…

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I rushed for my keys, camera and wrap and charged off. I wanted to get to the water’s edge before I missed the colours I could barely see from up on the ridge.

Roaring along the road, I spied a track (although that term is probably also an exaggeration!) heading off towards the water, only wide enough to contain the car, but not the rear view mirrors! I burst out of the thick scrub, maybe 200m later onto what would normally be underwater. White boulders dotted about, hiding sharp sticks and driftwood. I barrelled over this, trying to get as close to the water as possible. I didn’t want to miss the light, sweeping across the water…ok, Ill stop with the yak – have a look at the photos:

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The water is low right now, and the sticks form lovely fishing spots.

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Cattle don’t seem to mind it!

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I messed with this pic (above) rather! The cloud, building up behind me, added to the dramatic early morning light.

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The place I had come out at was where the water from the fish farm enters the lake. Everyone was fishing there! Birds, crocs, people!

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I pulled a stick of imfi off the back of the car, and sat chewing it (for those of you who don’t know: its a kind of sugar cane, but softer, easier to peel and chew.) Simply peel it with your teeth, then bite off a chunk, chew it, spit it out!)

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A Kapenta rig chugged past us, then another one went in the other direction

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…and then I got hungry. I’d been sitting for nearly two hours with only a few bites of sugar cane, and so decided to go back to the resort for breakfast!

Now for the blonde moment! I couldn’t find the opening to the path! I’d been in such a hurry to get to the water’s edge, that I’d not looked anywhere but the road (or ground rather!) immediately in front of the car. I’d jigged and zagged around boulders, sharp sticks and holes, but with my eye on the target – the water! Much more sober now, I couldn’t see my tracks and didn’t feel quite up to driving around looking for the road. Walk you say???  Not a chance! I pretended I wasn’t lost – taking some more pics, further from the water’s edge!

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In the distance, I saw a building. I thought: “building – road to building!” and headed that way. Eventually I found my way to a road, thence to a lush garden with cute little lodges, all facing towards the water….to a locked gate! A pretty angry man came to open it for me, but seemed to accept that I was a dumb blonde who had talked the security guard into opening the gate for me to take pics, he simply wouldn’t believe that I’d managed to drive so far along the river’s edge.

 

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Nkonyeni

It seems the old strip road builders knew how to build roads! We crossed it several times recently when working along the Victoria Falls road, and mostly it can still be used!

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Our contract for the Seventh Day Adventist Church began with a place called Nkonyeni, which is in the Bubi area. In order to get there, we had to cross the old strip road, and the Bubi river!

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Dramatic views – racing the rain!

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Huge forests line the river.

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This is a donkey berry flower. I LOVE donkey berries!

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No idea what this is – but its pretty!

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Elephants at Ivory Lodge

Ivory Lodge, near Hwange National Park, is one of my favourite places in the area, especially for viewing elephant, close up. The hide, close to a salt lick, allows me to watch them interact with each other as well as safely take photos. I’m pretty scared of elephants, so this is a must!

Luckily they wanted us to site a borehole, so we were able to stay overnight!

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Its pretty exclusive, so I never feel crowded when I visit there. Below is a pic of one of the rooms. (Love the stilts!)

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The two photos below were taken of the elephants eating salt, both taken at night.

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I took a short video – I was fascinated to see that they never stand on their trunks when digging!

If ever you have a chance, stay at Ivory Lodge – its an experience.

Mtshabezi Dam

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Is in Matabeleland, about 40km from the Gwanda Rd. Its been on my to do list for sometime and was well worth the visit. We had a survey a short distance from here,a nd couldn’t resist a short detour.

Its low now, the water level marked on the rocks is down about two metre.

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The dam was built in 1994 and is meant to supplement the  Bulawayo water supply. The views around there are dramatic, the Matopos domes towering.P1160130

The road in is a little rough! But one part of it winds along the edge of the spillway gorge and looks almost as if it has been planted, with aloes and tiny flowering succulents.

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Sawmills

Sawmills has always been on our to do list – the reason – it was an important stop for steam trains, back in the day, because there were two huge diameter (yes a whopping 62cm) boreholes that supplied water to the trains passing by. These boreholes were of strategic importance and a man was stationed there permanently to maintain them. Rumour has it that he was slight of stature and when it was time to maintain the pumps, he would lower himself down into the borehole to check the casing and water levels. Eeuuw!

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Yup – he went down that hole – just took out those four bolts and climbed in! (Lets hope the story is just that…a story!)

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Sawmills station house, today

Of course now, large amounts of water are no longer required, and Sawmills is merely a mark on the map, next to the railway line.

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Sawmills compound

But alotta people lived here back in the day!

Can’t miss those government houses, can you?

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Railway line just before the Unguza bridge

Several geophysical studies have been done in the area to identify why there is so much water at Sawmills. It’s all rather complicated, but the bottom line is that feature that brings the water close to the surface there, isn’t present at the church where we were asked to find water

I think this is a slag heap from the steam-trains

I think this is a slag heap from the steam-trains

Pump house

Pump house

Gokwe North – Black Baobabs and Vuvuzela’s…

Our work takes us all over Zimbabwe, and occasionally to neighboring countries. Most of the time, the place has no water, often for miles. We are fully equipped with camping gear….and luckily most of the places are fairly remote.

In late 2009 we did a contract in the Gokwe area, siting about 20 boreholes due to the cholera outbreak.

Rushing to make it from Shingayi business centre to the main hospital at Nembudziya, we came across some baobabs. We had no time to stop and gaze in wonder or take photos. I should have because the light was just right, low and sloping and tinged with red. So when we got a call from a client repairing a dam in the area, I jumped at the chance to return and see the baobabs again. I couldnt remember what it was that made them remarkable…but I knew I wanted to get back to see them again.

When we arrived at the site in Gokwe, not much had been done by way of setting up camp. Only two tractors and a handful of workers stood under a big tree…( we passed their lorry with Nissan huts etc way back down the road.)
We went out for a drive, to glean any information of other boreholes in the area; depths, water yield, age. I photographed these baobabs:

BabobabsbaobabsbaobabsBaobabsWomen washingstopped and spoke to the women at the boreholes close by and then went up to the business centre to garner more information.

ChildChildRural borehole ZimbabaweI got some lovely evening shots of the huge Mopane trees near the dip.

Rural Cattle Dip ZimbabweWith the late afternoon sun shining through the dust:

Rural Cattle Dip Zimbabwe

It is a short distance across the dam site and to where the construction workers and our guys had pitched their tents.

Vimbe DamAbove is the dam site and the little white dots you can see in the background are the tents and construction equipment.
Will wanted to set up our tent close by.
“No.” I said. “ I want to go over there…” I pointed to a cute little place in a grove of Mopane trees a distance away.
I get the “What the hell?” look men are so good at. Or maybe its a “for goodness sakes” look, because it came along with that resigned expressions men are taught at their bachelor parties.
Annoyed I add, “Well some privacy would be good…”
Same look.
“I would like to fart in peace…”
So we set up our little two man tent where I wanted  – it looks like one of those SANParks camps doesn’t it with the swept out areas? Actually it was like that – we just backed the car into the gap in the middle of the seclusion and erected our little tent. We blew up the mattress and snuggled down to sleep in the pristine Gokwe silence. (We didn’t take the roof top tent because the car uses SO much diesel.)

Toyota Hilux
It had been a long drive – we left Byo early in order to be able to fit in a conference with the client in Gweru so I’d had to stock up with liquids when we arrived and of course, needed to visit the bushes…
Well, when the inevitable happened, the reverberations could be felt at the business centre four kilometres away…according to my dearly beloved…

He ducks and hides, thinking he is back in the Rhodesian war….he says.
“No more photo opportunities with Mopane leaves…You’ve blown them all off!!”
Very funny. On and on he went as if this were a memorable occasion!
Here we have a boring consultant in uncontrollable giggles over a tiny byproduct of digestion.
I’m very pleased, after thirty years of marriage, to still be able to entertain my own husband so royally.
What I hate about men, is the self satisfied, smug expression they have after producing a vuvuzela-like fart. They punch each other on the shoulder with a “good one chum…” or wave their hands in front of their noses – really pleased the stinkier it is.
Sometimes I wonder why we take our mattress pump with us on trips sometimes, and yet one tiny little peep from me is blown out of all proportion.

We went to find the strange baobabs – about twenty five kilometers out of our way. And the reason they are remarkable? They are black!

Black baobabsArmed with my pics, I’ve since investigated this and apparently its a fungus infection that some baobabs get when they are stressed. First noticed in the Beit Bridge area in the early 1980’s I spoke to a lady who has been studying them since then.

This one is right next to several  healthy ones.

Black baobabsBlack baobabsBlack baobabsThese huge crusts are the fungus…and you can see, the tree isnt that old. There are about twenty five baobabs in the area with about five of them diseased.

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Gokwe district

Our job takes us on some interesting roads:

GokweThis is climbing down one of the escarpments found all over the Gokwe area.

Below is a pic of a place where the animals have been licking the rock, probably for millennia…GokweIts quite a nice view from here (looking north)GokweThis pic was taken an hour or so earlier – slightly to the right of the view above.GokweThat minibus is nearly MIA in that pothole, and I cant remember what it looked like when it got to this one  – bottom left! I think there were three people on top of that minibus! GokweMost often in this area, everyone drives in the ditch!

The roads in these two pics below are what we commonly drive on! I’m always wary of Mopane veld – a burnt Mopane stick slips through a tyre very easily  – something to do with both the carbon and the hardness of the Mopane heartwood.

Gokwe P1080500This road (above) is a fairly substantial one – often the bushes scratch the side of our car.

TsolotshoSome are pretty sandy! Tsolotsho