tagged mana pools national park, Mutare, unesco, Zambia and Zimbabwe
We had no intention of spending more than one night in Zimbabwe(which we did at the Holiday Inn at Mutare), but then at the last minute we decided to detour to Mana Pools National Park, where there are no fences between you and the animals. It’s noted for it’s great beauty, and therefore a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park is off the main highway and one of the last stops before the border of Zambia. We arrived at the park office around 5:30pm, and received approval to head to the gate and into the park (the gate usually closes at 3:30pm). Once we arrived at the gate, we were told it was another 30km on a potholed dirt road to the checkpoint. After an hour we arrived, and were told to continue on another 45km to the campsite. Looking at the fuel gauge, we figured we had enough to get to the campsite and back with just a little to spare.
By this time it’s dark out with still the last 20km to go, we run into an elephant bull in the middle of the road side. Rather than move back into the bush, the elephant decides to walk towards us, and keep walking towards us. Mike backs the car up, but he keeps following us. His ears are flapping, and is aggressively shaking his trunk. He backs us up about 1km, and by this time we decide we need to take action, as this elephant won’t give up. At one point, the elephant is slightly off to the side of the road and we decide this is our chance to get past. As we inch forward, the rogue elephant moves its body back into the road. Mike guns the engine, but forgets to shift gears, so the engine is roaring, and the elephant rears on its hind legs and jumps right into the bush. We were scared,and so was the elephant who went tearing into the bush. (It was kind of funny in the end, and I felt sorry for the elephant, too).
Initially we planned to camp, as they said there were no cabins available, but when we arrived, it was pitch black(and not possible to make camp), so we were offered lodging in a chalet. The guide told us the price, but said for us he would give the South African rate (which was half price). The way he gave us the offer Mike and I both knew he planned to pocket the money. It’s off-season at Mana Pools, and we were the only guests in the entire park. Eventhough we had a thatched chalet, the accommodations were rundown — the door was a gate, the windows had no glass, only chicken wire and a screen. Giant spiders lived inside. No running water. I slept in a twin bed, suffocating from the heat of the night with the mosquito net tucked under the mattress. All night we heard an orchestra of sounds– peacocks cackling, monkeys calling each other, hippos grunting, and an elephant trumpeting.
The next morning we woke up to birds chirping softly and viewed the beauty of Mana Pools, so different during the day than at night.