We met at Forever Resort Phalaborwa for the first evening. The next morning we were through the Kruger gate and on our way to Tsendze Campsite where we were to spend the next two nights and days in the Park. On the morning of Thursday the 14th we set forth on our journey to Bilene via Giriyondo Border Post. There we stayed for three nights and two wonderful languid days before setting off on our return journey home. We arrived at Komati border post at about 13h00 after which we parted ways with Mark and Pamela, continuing to Belfast where we said goodbye to Dave and Jenny and from then home.
Our trip in detail
We (Maryke and Dave) set off on Saturday morning stopping to admire the breathtaking view from the veranda of the delightful old Magoebaskloof Hotel. The views over the Kloof were absolutely breathtaking as was the rest of the drive through the kloof to a delightful campsite at Magoebaskloof Getaway. We spent the next day visiting the Debegeni Falls, the massive Sunland baobab with a bar built into the hollow of the trunk and enjoyed the stunning view over the Pekoe tea plantation while sipping tea and eating cream scones. On Sunday evening we were joined by Mark and Pamela and enjoyed the company of new friends.
The next day (Monday) saw us packed up and ready for our rendezvous with the gang in Phalaborwa, but first a visit to the big foefie slide – otherwise known as the a canopy zip-line tour. We had a great time zipping over waterfalls and rivers. Unfortunately the heavens opened up at the end of our tour and we were thoroughly soaked. In the meantime Dave and Jenny were having their own problems in Dullstroom, where a would-be “smash and grabber” damaged his (Dave’s) passenger window in a futile attempt to gain access to their vehicle. With some duct tape to the rescue this unpleasant situation continued until the replacement window became available on Tuesday – not an ideal situation for Jenny who was trying to do game viewing through a shattered window covered in duct tape!
At the end of the day we all arrived safely at exactly the same time at the gate of the Forever Resort in Phalaborwa. Michiel and his brother Charl were the fourth party in the group. Michiel informed us that his wife, Chanel, was expecting their baby in six weeks’ time and that his trips were going to be curtailed for a while after that.
Early on Tuesday morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed we broke camp and were getting ready for the next stage of our trip when Michiel informed us that Chanel had gone into early labour and that he needed to get back home urgently. Sorry to see them go so soon we wished Michiel and his family well and said our goodbyes.
And then we were three – a small group indeed, but full of excited anticipation of what was yet to come. For the first time in FWDCSA history Isuzus have outnumbered all the other vehicles in the convoy… 2:1!
Dave Mac set off to town in the hopes that the window might have arrived, but no luck.
Our trip to Tsendze Bush Camp (just south of Mopani Camp) was relatively uneventful game wise. We checked in at the main office and took in some game viewing on our way to camp, where we arrived to find a rustic but awesome campsite that easily accommodated all three vehicles. The campsite was quiet despite the number people – that is except for one campsite where we were having a wonderful evening again with friends.
The next morning (Wednesday) we all climbed aboard Dave Mac’s magic Land Rover for a sunrise breakfast at Mooiplaas waterhole. Not a whole lot of game to see, but the bird life, small crocs and view over the river, were perfect.
After that Dave went back to Phalaborwa to have his window fitted while we packed away our roof-top tents and set off for a day’s game viewing. Again we saw plenty of the usual game but nothing extraordinary until we came across a large pod of hippos which made for great photo opportunities. Late in the afternoon we stopped at Letaba camp for sundowners. This turned out be a stunning camp site (touristy) with a marvellous viewing veranda. From here we could clearly see a big tusker elephant. Again, we had good photo opportunities. Then back to camp for another lovely evening with some amazing owl sitings in the bush.
Thursday morning saw us up bright and early in preparation for our trip to Mozambique. First stop was back to Mopani camp to refuel for our trip ahead. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a better look at the restaurant area. What an awesome view over the lake from the main deck. We will definitely be back in the not too distant future.
On our way to Giriyondo border post the dirt road was quite acceptable all the way through the Kruger section. This gave us no indication of what to expect from the roads on the other side of the border.
Crossing the RSA border post went without a hitch. The same building houses the Mozambique park and border controls as well, but that is where all similarities end. What a pain working our way through all the Moz. red tape with no English. When finally we had it all sorted out, we were out of pocket for R300 each. What for, no one actually knew. We then had to go through the park entrance to The Great Limpopo Park. We were charged R150 p.p. and R150 per car plus R80 per trailer.
After that little exchange we set forth once again with great anticipation. After 1½ hours and 70 km of driving on the most atrocious roads, even worse than the Molopo trail and totally devoid of any game, we reached Masingir Dam. This is an amazing feat of engineering, but we could not help but ponder who financed this scheme and what its purpose was. It is a beautiful big dam with the longest wall ever, but no signs of any irrigation schemes or power generation. There was some fishing though.
From there on we hit tar roads – Yay! you might say. It didn’t take us long to realise that we had been better off on the dirt roads. Mark must have been an expert dodgem car driver in his day because he seemed to be coping remarkably well. Dave Mac in the front was having a great time with his trailer bouncing all over the place. The traffic around Chokwe was like any other crowded African town, but we stoically pushed on, tired but not deterred. At 181 km after entering Mozambique we arrived at Macia and thanks to Dave’s trusty GPS we were soon on our final 43 km leg to Bilene.
Having checked in at Palmeiros campsite and set up camp, we then took a stroll down to the beach. Wow! It was like a tropical beach picture post card. The beach was clean with raffia sunshades dotted all over and in front of us a clear blue lagoon with water lapping gently at our feet. In the distance the dunes separated the lagoon from the sea.
Naturally the next point of order was to down a cold 2M beer on the stoep of the restaurant and let this all soak in. After the prerequisite sundowners followed by a very adequate meal, we made our way back to camp and not long after that some us were in the land of Nod after a tough day’s drive. Note I said some us, because there were others who had only just begun to party.
Friday was spent just chilling out – taking walks along the beach, visiting the street market and generally taking in the lie of the land – and restaurants. On Saturday we hired a boat to take us across to the mouth of the lagoon where we could spend time on the beach see the sea and do a spot of snorkelling.
Whilst there was no coral, there was a good bit of colourful sea life in the water. After another languid day on the beach we made our way back by boat to enjoy another picture perfect sunset. What a wonderful way to end a beach holiday – beer in hand, idle chatter, a game of backgammon while just chilling in the last rays of the sun before finally finding a good plate of sea food and heading home the next day.
The next morning (Sunday), we were packed and ready to leave bright and early. After some discussion we decided to take the turn off at Palmeiros and head home via Xinavane sugar mill and the dirt road which eventually meets the national road just before the toll gate and about 50kms before Komatipoort border post. Most of the road was idyllic sand road that one could wish to drive forever, but the last 20km or so were as bad as Moz roads can get. All in all it was a good leg which cuts 111 km off the route via Maputo and saves all the aggro and frustration of driving through 24/7 rush-hour chaos.
Once through the border we had our last meal together at the Border Country Inn. From there we took our leave of Mark and Pamela who were off to a stop over in Waterval Boven on their way home. The rest of us – Dave and Jenny, Maryke and Dave – met up again at Belfast Engen Wimpy for waffles and ice cream. From there we bade our fond farewells as we would be splitting at Witbank before our final stretch home.
In conclusion, the rest of the crew would like to thank Dave and Jenny as well the FWDCSA for making this trip possible. We had a great time, made some new friends and fond memories. Unfortunately we lost one vehicle crew along the way, but the upshot of this is that Michiel and Chantel are now the proud parents of a bonnie baby, Danika. We wish them all well, God speed and may we share many more trips together