I am blogging to you from Gordons Bay on the shores of the Matusadona National Park.
I can see the lights of Kariba across the Lake as I type. There are twice as many lights on in Zambia as there are in Zimbabwe. I remember not so long ago when Siavonga was little more than two badly stocked bottle-stores. It has grown hugely while Kariba has stood still. Alas.
We have spent the last 10 days centimetering our way towards Kariba. Centimetering is like inching, only slower on account of being shorter. Apart from Billy Prentice from America who still works in inches, which also explains why he goes faster than the rest of us.
My last blog came to you from Paradise Island, on the Binga side of the Kota Kota Narrows.
The 8 kilometers through the Narrows turned into an almost 4 hour slog with wind and waves in our faces the whole way. At one point my watch pointed out that I was paddling under 2 k.p.h. Perversely, I enjoy the physicality of slogging. I think I might need to see a doctor about that when we get home.
We eased through the Chiunga Gap into the Sibilobilo Lagoon and enjoyed instant relief from the pounding. It was like we were paddling on a different lake.
We met our first elephant of the Tour just afterwards , up close and unconcerned. Billy especially loved soaking up the moment in his kayak with the massive bull elephant just meters in the background. Billy is loving his latest African adventure and can’t wait to share Kariba with Holly and his daughters.
We also met Wayne Moss, our 7th paddler in the Sibilobilo Lagoon. Wayne was fashionably 7 days late for the Tour because of unavoidable commitments in Harare. He chartered a houseboat to come out and meet us so he could start paddling. But because of not having any signal, should they venture past Bumi Hills, we were like ships passing in the night in the Sengwa Basin even though it was daylight, and Wayne overshot us, reaching Chungu fishing village the day after we left. The fishermen pointed him back towards Kariba and Wayne found us after 6 hours of backtracking.
Wayne is very bleak that he has missed more than half of our best ever adventure. He is especially bleak that he didn’t paddle the Sengwa Basin and is begging me to consider a 2023 edition of the Crocodile Tour. Watch this space.
With apologies to Bear Grylls, my bottom and I luxuriated on the porcelain fittings on board Wayne’s houseboat, and also might have accidentally turned on the hot shower whilst standing under it.
Because all the pressure is off us post the dreaded Sengwa Basin, we were able to paddle the length of Namembere Island slowly like tourists, just enjoying the sights and sounds of wild Africa. We now know that the Crocodile Tour is in the bag, done and dusted. I especially had doubts that my typist’s arms would cope.
Richard Stubbs found us the perfect overnight spot in an idyllic bay on the north side of Namembere Island complete with a resident herd of elephants, until the elephants charged off trumpeting and with ears flapping. Elephants don’t much like sailboats.
We counted 17 elephants on Namembere, and many more on the Bumi Hills shoreline as we paddled towards the Matusadona. We paddled alongside eland and zebra, warthogs and impala, massive flocks of Spurwing geese and other water birds, and the hugest pods of hippo so far. I didn’t see any crocodiles. Luckily I only ever seem to see crocodiles when I am standing on land or the deck of the yacht.
I am so happy to put out positive reports on the wildlife. Matusadona remains one of Africa’s premier wildlife destinations, thanks entirely to the efforts of the conservation teams like the Bumi Hills Anti Poaching Unit, Africa Parks, and Musango Safaris.
The infamous Bumi rollers rolled in on cue as we paddled into the Ume river. They were small fry as compared to the waves in Sengwa basin, but Wayne was able to fall off his surf ski nonetheless, becoming our first capsize statistic of the Tour. The Ume river is no place to go swimming and Wayne was back in his boat in a heartbeat, but not before polluting the river. I think his anti-crocodile defense strategy is centered on the premise that they would rather not swim in stinky waters.
We were hosted at Musango Safari Camp by Steve and Wendy Edwards. It truly is one of the best wildlife camps I have ever stayed in. And what charming and gracious hosts. And the food was that good I worried that I wouldn’t fit back into my kayak. Please be sure to put Musango at the very top of your bucket list destinations.
Steve Edward is one of Zimbabwe’s most highly regarded professional guides. Worried that we have become complacent over the last 10 days, we asked him to give us a refresher safety lecture on the crocodile threat. Steve told us that we would be paddling through some of the highest population densities of the crocodile and hippo in Africa. Their Musango bay was home to some absolute dinosaur crocodiles that have accounted for 11 people in the last 2 years. After Steve’s safety lecture,, I was rather keen to stay at Musango and photo shop the remainder of the Tour.
We are paddling to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help them by following the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.com
In closing, a big shout out from Mark Johnson to grandchildren Oliver, Pia and Daisy. He loves and misses you lots
Until my next blog from Sampakaruma Island – enjoy and paddle if you can, but don’t get eaten by crocodiles – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.
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