Country : Zimbabwe (Gonarezhou)
Distance : 45km
Up at dawn, we prepared to go up to the top of the Chilojo Cliffs to get some pictures of the sunrise. Well, that was the plan. What I didn’t factor into the timing was that I was going with Grandma Sharp. After sitting around for half an hour while he faffed around like a virgin at a porn convention we eventually left in bright sunshine…
Never the less, we set off, crossed the river and headed up the drive around the back of the cliffs. It was here that we saw a wild dog. As we rounded a corner we spotted him about 70m ahead of us, stopped in the middle of the road, head turned to watch us. We skidded to a halt and grabbed desperately for cameras. Before we could get him lined up for a shot, he whirled around and headed off into the bush.
By the time we got to the spot he entered the bush he had completely disappeared. We climbed out the vehicle and checked his tracks which indicated he had come down the hill along the road. As we drove further up, we saw tracks from a second and later a third wild dog. It looked like the pack may have been on the move down the road, starting in a bunch and peeling off into the bush every 500m or so.
Once at the top of the cliffs, we climbed out to take pictures. Looking down over the river we could see our campsite below. Using max zoom I managed to pick out Barefoot and Kwacha as they stood looking up at us (see pic below). The wind had come up fairly strongly by now and Grandma Sharp was verbally berating himself for not bringing a jacket… should have spent less time faffing and more time planning, tut tut…
After a while we decided we were cold enough, had pictures enough and it was time to leave. We drove along the top of the cliff and found some old roads that were not well used. It was along one of these that we saw two bright green parrots. We got very excited and tried to keep up with them as they flew from tree to tree alongside the road.
Eventually I managed to get some halfway decent photos and we congratulated ourselves in seeing what was obviously an extremely rare bird, found only on top of the cliffs. Later, back at camp, we took great pride in showing off our find when Kwacha burst our bubble by taking one look and identifying the species, saying it was quite common. To make matters even worse, later when Kwacha and I were walking down the river, not even 100m from our camp, we came across a whole flock of the damn things!
I think I’ll stick to animals
The bush and trees on top of the cliffs was much smaller, but with a lot more grass, than down on the plains below. We saw very little game here, mostly impala and kudu, but we did see ostrich and signs that elephant were in the area. I imagine there is a lot more game up there in summer when the small pans are full of water from the rains.
Kwacha and I took a walk down river from the camp where we saw a fair amount of birdlife plus we startled a couple of duiker and impala. On our way back our vision was assaulted with the picture below.
No matter how hard I scrub my eyeballs I cannot get rid of this disturbing picture – I suggest small children and those with weak dispositions stop reading now to preserve their sanity…
Thank the small mercies he was facing the other way…
Late in the afternoon, the Barefoot Barman, Kwacha Man and I went down to the river to collect water and to have a bath. Leaving the water tanks behind was probably not a clever move…
However, we had a good wash, checked out some game and then headed back to camp where we were met by the three empty water containers neatly lined up where my vehicle normally parks – a not too subtle hint from Sharpie that we had cocked up in our duty.
However, this issue was overridden by the sight of His Royal Sharpness goose-stepping around one of the large trees we were camped under, a huge log over his shoulder. As we climbed out the car he shouted across to us – never leaving his assigned post – in the worst possible hillbilly drawl imagineable –
“Aah got me a bay-boooon!!!!”
Followed by a giggle that would have done the inmates of “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” proud !
It transpired that after we had left, a large male baboon had walked into the camp thinking it was deserted only to find Sharpie busy starting supper. The baboon decided on ‘flight’ rather than ‘fight’, Sharpie ran around screaming like a girl (ok, he didn’t really but it sounds good) which scared the shit out of the baboon and it shot up the nearest tree – the one we were camped under. Realising too late that he was trapped, the baboon climbed right to the top of the and grew progressively more anxious as evening approached and it became apparent that he was not going to be able to get down without going through us.
Regular trips around the tree ensured that the baboon eventually settled in for the night right above us – not with his troop and probably feeling both exposed and quite dumb at the same time. A small victory for us after they had trashed our camp the previous day but one we were happy to accept while we sipped our sundowners…