Monday, May 24, 2010

Shingwedzi Trip - Day Eight - Welcome Relief!

Wet! Wet! Wet!

Slipping and sliding, everything saturated! Relief had come at last!

What was powder yesterday had turned into thick chocolate mousse! Who knows what the road would be like? We could only wait and see.

Walking anywhere was a precarious affair and poor little Sean had found himself in the same situation twice in a row, in the same spot. Shoes, feet and legs, if not all working in harmony, can be a bad combination when it comes to sludge and the poor boy had decided that, after his two slips and thuds, he doesn't like camping anymore.

I told him it was just a test we were all being put through. That it can't always be dry and sunny. That we have to learn to deal with different situations and we can, when we have to. When I asked him how long he had been camping for his little eyes lit up and he said since he was three years old. He said he has been to many places and partaken in several field courses so he knows quite a bit about the great outdoors. Just imagine, he may very well grow up to be an inventor of equipment for people who haven't mastered the art of mud treading! Watch this space over the next thirteen years...

We all packed and washed up and rinsed off until it was time to leave Sondolo and at 10:00 it was only 21 degrees, by far the coolest morning of the entire trip.

We left the comfort of our camp and met up with deep, tractionless waterholes, caravans swinging in all directions as they were pulled through the altered terrain.

Frans and Denise were ahead of us and there were times my heart stopped as their caravan swung dangerously to the left or right as though it had a mind of its own and wanted to break free.

Nerves turned to steel. Tyres turned to giant mud pies, the tread completely gone and all traction lost. Everyone's driving skills were put to the test. You could feel the tension as we all negotiated the dips, turns and dongas that had been painfully dry just the day before.

The road improved a bit with longer stretches of "dry" patches and shorter waterholes.

A few more dips and twists and we started travelling on a stoney road, which was a lot more solid, had better grip and this enabled the mud to fling off the wheels as we went along.

We went through a village with lots of cows and kids, mielies and melons,

and learnt that the locals have a method of transporting goods on a 'sledge" made from thick branches or small trunks. This is hitched to the cattle and dragged along with a load of wood or locally farmed produce.

Just past this village we stopped for about half an hour in the riverbed in the Shingwedzi, had a bite to eat and skipped some stones with Sean and Alan.

It was quite amazing to see many seashells in the sand there.

Then we drove across the river,

through Mopani forests, where the trees range from saplings to fully matured.

We drove in and out of dongas,

up steep climbs and down slippery decents and came to a stop at about 12:30, and with a tight squeeze, a VERY tight squeeze, we settled in at the hot and humid Mbora Khaya Camp which, when translated from Swahili, means "best households".

Bushcamping at it's best! Nothing! A makeshift loo was set up with strict instructions to make sure all paper was burnt and buried in the hole afterwards.

Everyone just had to take their own seat along but it wasn't the most pleasant experience. Digging with Doug was the better option but Johan had apparently had the unfortunate task of picking up and discarding "liefies" that had not been properly buried and so this system was implemented.

Anyway, the campsite is situated right on a "cliff" edge, where the river has eroded away the land leaving a sheer drop from where we were camping. Again, no fences, so no wandering around at night - could just disappear over the edge, with a soft "plop" on the sand far below!

There was quite a bit of evidence of animals having been down by the river and some of the guys took a walk down and tried some fishing.  No luck for supper!

We wedged ourselves into an alcove that was surrounded by Golden Orbs suspended by their giant parachute webs. They were everywhere!

There were also termites busy cleaning up, dragging bits of grass down into their nests... hi-ho, hi-ho...

and everyone got busy setting up their camps and making themselves as comfortable as possible in the limited space of this site.

Without much else to do we sat and relaxed, reading, chatting and admiring the scenery. Lichen and unusual beetles...

A huge fire was made but by the time it came to braaing it had almost burnt out and more wood had to be added.

We decided that with it being so humid we would settle for a light supper of Avo, tomatoes, boiled eggs and biscuits instead, and that made for a pretty wholesome meal, which was very satisfying without being heavy.

We all retired at about 21:30 and silence befell the camp once more with stillness that soothes the soul and the anticipation of what tomorrow would hold...

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