On 14 December, Jean and the kids and I, accompanied by my parents and my sister, Laura, departed Harare for our great Zimbabwe vacation. We would drive a clockwise tour around Zimbabwe, beginning in Harare, getting to Big Cave Lodge in Matopos, shooting up to Victoria Falls, then coming back down a bit to Hwange National Forest, then over to Lake Kariba where we’d stay a night before taking Kariba Ferry the length of the lake and then deboarding for a short drive to Chinhoyi Caves and finishing in Harare again, six days later.
The Maruti, made new with fresh suspsension upgrades, a new water pump, timing belt, new head lamps and other miscellaneous improvements, held half our crew, while our CRV held the other. We had basic provisions and a few jerry cans of fuel to hold us if we ran across a dry spell.
The first morning we made good time from Harare, though about an hour out, Merrill decided to empty her breakfast onto herself and the floor, lending a characteristic smell that would last the entire journey. We made Kwe Kwe before lunch and refitted and watered, then made Gweru by lunch where we stopped for fuel and lunch at a Chicken Inn (South African version of KFC).
By late afternoon we arrived at Big Cave Camp, parking our vehicles in the scrubby shaded brush at the bottom of a kopje (KOHPYEE or KOHPEE), a rocky outcropping on top of which was the series of buildings at make up the camp. The hotel staff drove down a safari-converted pickup truck (benches and awning in the bed) drove down and picked us and our luggage up, crawling up the steeply canted sheer rock face to the reception and dining area.
We split up among a few stone cabins, Jean and the kids and I ending up in “Ingwe,” or “leopard.” After exploring the rocks for a few minutes, observing many different types of lizards running about, we retired to the pool and enjoyed the late afternoon sun while the kids splashed around.
Dinner was a pleasant affair in the main dining room, though instead of lingering to chat, we excused ourselves just after dessert to view the stars, quite plentiful since we were well removed from civilization. I snapped off a few 30 second exposures on my tripod. Star trails will have to wait until I get a remote for the camera. We slept well, protected by our mosquito nets, though there were none to speak of in this season or elevation.