The question whether we should visit Gonarezhou National Park or not did not really arise. Even though this park demanded a significant detour from us, it was clear to us at all times that we wanted to spend a few days there. The way led us from Bulawayo first to Masvingo to Lake Kyle and from there to Chiredzi and thus to the park. In Bulawayo we visited our compatriot Kurt Haas, the owner of Parrot Lodge, who had emigrated to Zimbabwe 27 years ago with his great love Heidi. We spent a very pleasant afternoon with Kurt and were very happy about his hospitality. He seemed balanced and content and he still enjoys life in Zimbabwe.
We look at how Courteney Boots are made
Another day we visited the factory of Courteney Boots, probably the most comfortable shoes produced in Zimbabwe and exported all over the world. We bought these boots in England in 2018 and have never regretted it. We have walked with them over hill and dale, through mud puddles and through sand and the shoes are still in pristine condition after four years. Courteney also offers a repair service and when we were there, we saw shoes of a customer from England who had his Courteneys from 2006(!) resoled.
The soles of these shoes are made from car tires in a very exciting process and are thus not only very durable, but also provide an extremely good grip, which can be of great importance in the terrain, especially on rocks. All of the shoes are handmade by about 30 employees. It was very exciting to get a tour of the production and we had great pleasure.
From Bulawayo to Lake Kyle
Since the approximately 700 km non-stop route was clearly too long for us, we decided to make a stopover at Norma Jeane’s in Masvingo. We had a great time there in 2019. Once in Masvingo, we found that the resort had a new owner and that the name was now Clevers Lakeview Resort. We booked ourselves in there, relaxed and were the only campers with two other Swiss couples. Several meetings were held during our stay. The participating ladies enjoyed Sonja so much that after the ice was broken, she had to serve for various selfies and group photos. There was cackling and laughter and everyone had a great time.
Visiting Lake Kyle Recreational Park
A game drive in Lake Kyle Recreational Park was unspectacular. However, the approximately 60 km long access road there had it in itself. First we drove over the dam wall of the lake and were very impressed by the surrounding nature. Then the road led us about 40 km through very rural area with many small villages. Due to the early time, we met several hundred school children along our way. We couldn’t get to anything else because of all the waving and laughing. Whenever people heard the engine noise and looked around, white teeth flashed shortly after, there was laughter and greetings, shouting and/or wild waving. This was something that united the people here. From the little schoolchild to the senior citizen in the field, everyone behaved very similarly. The inner joy is genuine and real. We were to experience this more often later.
The Chilojo Cliffs – THE place in Gonarezhou National Park
The next morning we relaxed and prepared our departure and traveled leisurely to Chiredzi. There we refueled the car again and drove through the Malilangwe Trust area to the Gonarezhou National Park reception. Even though our favorite site at the Chilojo Cliffs, Campsite 2, was not available, we were happy to still get a site at the Cliffs with Campsite 1. Our (pseudo) reservations about the campsite should still prove to be groundless. From our experience it makes no sense to drive around in this park for hours.
We took it easy and pursued the intention, for two nights and the corresponding days, to sit on the campsite on the banks of the Runde and to follow excitedly what would happen. Elephant visit – at least in the riverbed – we had thereby firmly planned. Afterwards we booked a night at the Runde Gorge Campsite. This was completely unknown to us and we were curious what would expect us there.
The river Runde was still carrying water and thus served as a source of water for many animals. The rainy season was now imminent and therefore it was not surprising for us that we could observe many antelopes and elephants in the riverbed during the day. While the antelopes tended to stay on the opposite side of the riverbed, the elephant herds wandered from one side to the other. We were not surprised that some of these gray giants also inspected the bushes of our campsite and thus we got to enjoy elephants in the camp.
On the last evening, we were sitting next to the car when Guido spotted a trunk over the hood, stretched out long, trying to reach the branches of the neighboring tree. Completely quietly the elephant had stalked and stood in the meantime about 10 meters beside us comfortably at the tree. This was what we had come for and these encounters made our hearts beat faster again this time. As always, we experienced this time in peaceful coexistence, characterized by respect.
Rest and deep relaxation on the riverbank
Satisfied and happy, we left Chilojo Cliffs the next morning and took a small detour to our last campsite, Runde Gorge. Once there, we were presented with a small rise, with access and views to a river channel dominated by rocks. Small rapids interrupted the calm river, but made sure that neither hippos nor crocodiles felt comfortable in this section. In the afternoon, we sat under a large tree and looked down the river, lost in thought, while the lapping of the river, interrupted only by the cries of sea eagles, sounded like the accompanying music of a meditation. The place was fantastic! A few kudus let themselves be seen on the opposite slope – otherwise we were alone.
At the river Runde the buffalos are loose
The next morning dawned, we were just having our second coffee and tea when literally all of a sudden the earth shook and a herd of buffalo came galloping around the corner on the opposite side. We didn’t count them, but there were several hundred animals powerfully making their way to the water with a loud roar. Had this really happened? We have only ever seen such a large herd once since we started traveling through Africa. That was probably in 2013 in Sabi Sands, South Africa. This herd in Zimbabwe additionally showed the power and dynamics that characterize these animals. We were impressed and grateful. What a great ending before we happily left the Gonarezhou and made our way to the Easter Highlands, an unfamiliar area of Zimbabwe for us.