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Destination Kapula Camp

  I was anxious to get to Hwange and especially Kapula Camp as it looked great.  Hwange isn’t that far from the Zambian border but crossing the border can be a bit time consuming.  We loaded everything up and drove about 10 miles to the border.  First you have to officially leave Zambia and then you have to “temporarily export” the vehicle.  After completing this step, you drive across the bridge (and get a nice view of the falls) and then do essentially the reverse for the Zimbabwe side.  I had done this before and it went smoothly but still took around 1.5 hours.  Fortunately there are baboons and warthogs around to keep the boys busy.  The baboons in this area are troublesome and people use slingshots to keep them away.  You don’t even have to have a slingshot, you merely have to imitate the motion to send them running.  Of course, the boys loved this.

  Soon after getting through, we were stopped at a police checkpoint and motioned to pull over as they could tell from our faces and license plates that we were foreigners.  We were asked to show our fire extinguishers and triangles, which we did (I had researched what was required as I don’t want to give the authorities a legitimate reason to extract money from us).  Ingo was told he could go but he waited for me to finish the questioning.  My officer then asked to see my reflective vest, which I didn’t have and according to my research wasn’t required.  He told me that I would have to pay a fine and after a brief attempt to inquire about the legitimacy of this charge he asked me how much I would like to pay.  I told him that he knew the law, so he should tell me.  He said “How about $20?” and then walked over to the waiting Ingo and asked to see his vest.  “How about $20?!?!?” this just supported my theory that this wasn’t really a law.  He returned and asked me again “How much would you like to pay?”  I said, I don’t think this is really a requirement so I would like to pay nothing.  I didn’t say this in a jerky way but a joking way as joking is always the best way to argue.  He said, how about $10 and I agreed as I really just wanted to get going (did I mention I was anxious to get to the park?)  Ingo and I received an official ticket and receipt and we were on our way. 

  Once out of the touristy area of Victoria Falls, there is little in this part of Zimbabwe.  It is very, very dry and dusty with a few dwellings near the road.  Soon we turned off the main road onto the road that would take us to our camp.  A few kilometers off the road, there was another road block but this one wasn’t manned by police.  As I stopped, I noticed a sign for mining company.  A young man jogged up to my window and said they were just about to blast but if we went quickly, he would let us through.  I never heard the blast but we did drive right through the area in which they were working.  We eventually entered the park and signed in at the gate.

  Another 30 kilometers or so and we arrived at Sinamatella camp which was the main camp in this part of the park and the place where we needed to stop to pay our park fees.  We were greeted by a nice man in the office but the place looked deserted (remember, we were told that there was no lodging available in the park as they were fully booked).  As we paid our fees ($120 USD for 9 people for four days… the same amount we paid for just one day at Mosi o Tunya in Zambia), I asked the man if they had been full and he said no, not at all.  I told him that I had been told by their reservation people that the park was fully booked and he shook his head and said the reservation process is a mess and that we should have just come.  Arghh!! 

  As it was lunch time and I had heard that this camp had one of the most scenic views in southern Africa,  I asked about a spot for a picnic.  The view was amazing.  The camp is located on a plateau with a beautiful view of the surrounding area.  Below us we could see dozens of elephant as well as zebra, kudu, and impala.

Sinamatella Panorama

  After a quick lunch, we were on our way again, this time with a passenger (a young man who needed a ride to the next camp).  We dropped him off at a large watering hole called Mandavu.  There was lots of wildlife but much of it was quite far away as the watering hole was so large.  Cynthia spotted flamingos and lots of other water birds.  The boys spotted rock hyrax warming themselves on the rocks just below the lookout point.  (In the third photo below, I counted 33 elephants and 22 hippos – Elephants were everywhere)

IMG_0294IMG_029733 Elephants and 22 Hippos

 IMG_0311 We still had a bit of a drive to reach our camp and needed to be settled in by sundown, so I pushed everyone along.  All along the drive, we came across elephants.  We sometimes had to stop for a large herd to cross and at other times had to proceed cautiously as they were close to the road and not interested in moving.

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  We reached Kapula around 4:30pm.  Upon arriving, we unloaded the trucks and then one of the guys said there was an elephant at our tent that had just pushed down the boiler and invited us to join them in chasing him off.  Ingo, Justin and I jogged along following the man to our tent.  Sure enough, there was a big bull elephant who I later found out the camp staff knew well due to his menacing ways.  We stopped about 10 meters from him with thick bush obscuring his view of us.  Elephants have rather poor eyesight.  He turned and looked at us with his ears out (their way of showing aggression/irritation).  At this point, Ingo and Justin were looking very uncomfortable.  The elephant turned and began to walk away from us.   The man from the camp began to hurl large stones at him and connected on nearly every one.  He then told us that this elephant has been pulling up their water lines regularly.  Again, this part of Zimbabwe is naturally a very dry area and the only way they sustain the wildlife is by pumping water into the watering holes during the long dry season.  Elephants are smart and have learned that pipes mean water and they are powerful enough to get what they want.  The men fixed our boiler while we settled in. 

  It was great to finally have arrived at Kapula.  At dinner and throughout the night we heard lions and lots of other sounds that I couldn’t identify.  They asked me to listen for the return of the problem elephant because if he knocks down the boiler again, they didn’t want the water to be running all night.  Water is very precious here.  Periodically throughout the night I would hear sounds outside and, due to the security the raised platform provided, I would slip out to check and see if he had returned.  Either he had gotten enough on the previous visit or the large rocks deterred his return.  Either way, we didn’t see him again.

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