Since leaving Harare we headed up into the eastern highlands of Chimanimani. This was a new route for Oasis and the scenery just got better and better. Im now spending most of my time on the 'beach', a cushioned area on top of the truck, with the best view, fresh air and rather a lot of sun. It does provide a great place to bird from and by midday it's usually too hot for other people to want to sit there!
Once at our camp, who didn't know we were arriving, we chose our camping spots (tent set up is now a very fast process) and checked out the facilities. These ranged from a toilet to a shower with no water. The bar was set behind a cage and the 5 locals in the bar all pretty much hammered by 1800.
After dinner we got an early night in anticipation for a free day hiking/birding.
The next morning we paid our $10, sorry no maps available, and set off for the local landmarks of 'pork pie' and 'bridal veil falls'......several hours later we had seen no such sights, a few birds and picnicked in Miombo type woodland. It was then time to walk back as i was on cooking duty. On the way home we saw Jules, Jo, Asouza and Mika in the beer garden (a garden where they could drink beer), and we headed to camp.
Tonight we we were cooking veggie curry, and as it was so early Remke offered to help me. By 1600 the curry was made and it was time for a beer, a game of cricket and a few hours later the beer garden people rounded the corner, singing 'my heart will go on'.....seems like a wise move cooking early as 1 of my cooking group soon passed out, and the other wasn't much use : ) There is a 4th member of our group, Chris, but he isn't very keen on cooking. In fact on 3 occasions he has stabbed himself in the finger whilst cutting veg, and we all think it's deliberate. What Chris lacks in culinary ability he makes up for in charm and making cups of tea!
Some of the more serious walkers had been off for hours and they arrived back just before 2000 in time for dinner. Curry went down well, one of the 'meat 3 times a day guys' even going back for more.
The next morning we were on omelette duty, although Chris thought we should just offer everyone crisps for breakfast!
After breaking camp, thankfully after no showers for 2 nights, we drove through more great scenery, finally ending up in Great Zimbabwe. A few hours were spent checking the ruins (the largest and oldestin sub saharan Africa). Personally they were a bit of a let down, although the view was great.
Back at camp, a nice spacious site, we were treated to warm showers (although there were 4 showers there were only 3 doors, 2 shower heads and 0 locks!)
I was just making Remke a cup of tea when Alan came to tell me that there was a bird in the toilet....i kind of thought this might be a practical joke but once in the cubicle sure enough there was a kingfisher species about to drown. He has since been put in box, with some dirty clothes (those white t shirts of mine will never be clean again) and after dinner he has at least stopped shivering and is dry. The box is now in our tent and at first light im going to see if he has survived the night. Fingers crossed.
Before dinner we also spent some time by the tent, lay on the fly sheet, watching Jupiter and the stars getting brighter. We saw one shooting star, plus Katka told us she had just seen an owl. I forget how casual non birders are when it comes to birds, and when i asked her if it was still there she told me it was and within 30 seconds i was watching my first Spotted Eagle Owl. As i type from my tent, it seems that everyone is asleep, the moon is very full, there are hundreds of insects calling and what i assume are my first Fiery-necked Nightjars calling. Sadly have mislaid my speaker so no hope of luring them in.
The last few nights have been a bit cooler although i haven't yet slept inside my sleeping bag.
Tomorrow (11 jan) we drive about 3 hours to Gweru, where i hope to put this online. We will be staying at Antelope park, famous for its Lion breeding programme. There we will get the chance to walk with Lion cubs (up to 18 months), and if i can round up 4 more people then we can also follow older animals as they are allowed into the park to feed at night. Eventually they will be released into the wild, or at least that's what we have been told....may have to ask some questions when there. Apparently the camp is nice, so 3 nights of decent facilities, and Remkes birthday whilst we are there. This is also the place where it is possible to do a horse ride safari, which surely puts you in the realms of 'prey item'? The camp also has a bird guide, who for $15 can show me a selection of local birds.
Neither of us can believe how fast the time is going, we have been away for 32 days already and just 43 to go, but that includes Victoria falls, Rhino stalking, the Okavango delta (2 nights taking local canoes, our food and tents into the delta), Namibia (Etosha, Swakopmund etc) and nearly 3 weeks in South Africa.
A great morning, our kingfisher, a Brown-hooded, woke us up at 0530 by calling and rattling around in the box. There was another calling outside so we placed him in a branch and he flew strongly away, such a great feeling!
I also found my speaker this morning, had a healthy breakfast and the theme has been set for Remkes birthday....friday 13th....i wonder if there will be a bird theme for my birthday? Yellow-bellied Sapsucker anyone?
Mid afternoon update, we stopped in town to allow the next 3 cook groups to go shopping.....after getting my lunch i then went to the local department store to ask for white and black make up so i can paint my face for friday.....where the assistant decided to call the town clown and ask him to meet me to tell me where he buys his make up!!! Anyway he didn't turn up (never trust a clown!) but Claire has make up i can use.
Now at Antelope park and we have signed up for walking with lions, lion feeding and tracking lions at night. I am also the only person signed up for the bird walk and the snake walk, but we will both do the bush walk.....basically it sounds like we eat poop and decjde how long ago it happened?
Great location here, tent on river shore, bar, laundry (no underwear for health reasons - their words), Remke is cooking, cold beer and lots of birds, bliss!