Mozambique’s Game Reserves Revisited (4 of 5)
Inside Bamboozi’s Restaurant/Bar – Best in Mozambique?
Now I knew, by turning off the E.N.1 and heading west, that we could be headed for a Tsetse-infested swamp with roads frequented by dugout boats, but I did not tell Dave, Chris or Debbie as this may have meant me doing the Zinave thing alone. We did stock up on plenty of ‘PÃƒÂ£o’ (Portuguese-style bread) at the Mercado Municipal (great basketweaving here) as well as plenty to drink as I knew we wouldn’t find anything on offer in the park. All of our maps (we have the full set  of the large-scale 1:250,000 sheets) indicated a turn from the main-road at Mapinhane, and then on for 120km to Mabote.
After Mabote? Well then the touring map had us go directly north through a town called Chico and then into the Park. This was not to be the first time various marvellous maps had almost got us into the wrong country, and the expressions on the faces of the people who we asked for ‘Chico’ when we eventually arrived at Mbabane (five hours to do 200km), indicated we might end up at the Zimbabwe border after all if we insisted on blundering on ahead in the dark.
Obviously, after a flip of the bottle-top, we blundered ahead with a compass which pointed south instead of north but there were no clouds to curtain the greatest show on earth (the sky) and so the southern cross revealed that we were going vaguely the right way until 9pm (the sun drops at 5pm hereabouts) when it was time to throw up the tents and dream of the days when this area trembled at the feet of a hundred thousand elephants (your homework is to read T.V Bulpin’s Ivory Trail). Sunrise on day five was at 0600 (big tip, when in Moz in winter, move your Rolex’s one hour ahead, as if you use SA time be prepared for a 5pm sunset. Finding a local to ask where the increasingly indistinct track we were on lead to (any question which can be answered with a ‘yes’ will be) proved difficult until an old lady tending to her sorghum said ‘Mucuvane’.
‘Mucuvane?’ Not Zinave? Or perhaps ‘Parque Nacional?’ No, these got a blank response and so we poured over the 1:250,000 maps and yes there it was, and it was where wanted to get to before swinging right, into the Park which now has a guarded entrance and basic facilities (a thatch shelter and pit-toilets) at its ‘Acampamento Principal’ (Main Camp). Now none of us expected to see vast herds of wildebeest and buffalo nosing across the endless plains (this was dense brachystegia and riverine forest anyway), but one impala, a few waterbuck, a hippo and a handful of ground squirrels later and that was it. The birdlife is however prolific and so if that is what revs your motor, then Zinave is to be highly recommended. Also we did have the entire park (apart from Warden and staff) to ourselves and we very nearly launched my boat on the sinuous Save, which would have been very nice, but….
Perhaps then I should now explain how I came to park the Landrover at that impassable angle metres from a mighty river? Well a very sprightly and hugely helpful fellow called JoÃƒÂ£o was assigned to show us the track down to the water from the camp (the original Zinave HQ overlooked the river but it was destroyed by last-year’s floods) and sure-enough we got the boat onto the sandy bed easily enough but got two wheels stuck in deep holes the locals dig for their drinking water. Just under the crust of compact sand there proved to be watery mud and much jacking and pole packing was needed to coax the Landy out of a sticky situation. JoÃƒÂ£o had obviously had much experience of silly tourists messing about with boats and 4×4’s and he directed operations and insisted on doing most of the digging himself.
With only potential disaster ahead in 3 directions my only option (apart from all the other 99) was to reverse back up the steep, loose bank but this also involved a sharp turn halfway up. Our Landy was equal to the task except that I turned too soon and we ended up with two wheels threatening to slide away, taking the vehicle over with it. I am sure that a shorter wheel-based vehicle would have flipped (no jokes), so note that the 130 may have the turning circle of a small truck and the propensity to get stuck on the top of very big bumps, but length is very much on your side when it comes to stability. We carefully made our preparations and I drove (slid) the Landy back onto the river bed, let down the tyres and then drove out forwards – harrowing but much better than in reverse!