Knowledge had re-assured me that the people in Busi Valley knew we were coming to do five days field work. My plan was to drive down to Gokwe, a little town in the Midlands of Zimbabwe, stay at the Tsetse camp there and then progress on to Busi the next day, arriving by mid morning, meeting Edmore, who was to be our guide, and then set up camp and start work by afternoon.
Bob had been at home the last few days since we returned to Harare form the north, and Jo and I had gone back to the Cresta Oasis in town, incredible luxury after three weeks in the bush, South African Cable TV, a huge firm double bed, soft lighting and new furnishings everywhere, and a superb power shower. The wonderful buffet breakfasts in the hotel dining room, with fresh fruits, croissants and eggs any style. We had a couple of days to clear things with Tsetse control off Borrowdale Rd. Jo and I were worried about our Land Rover, Judith, as it was still causing us problems. We got the battery recharged at a BP station in Vainona, and we managed to acquire a spare battery from Tsetse. We met up with Alan Gardner, a co-worker who knew the Busi Valley like the back of his foot. He gave us some equipment and the name of the chief who stored his other camping equipment in a hut. We would find Edmore at a school in Busi Valley and he would get the key. Finally, we realised that we would be about seventy kilometres (three hours driving on those roads) from the nearest petrol station, so we got six canisters in which we could store fuel. We also did another mammoth shop in Avondale as we needed enough supplies for six days to get us down there, around Busi and Chizarira and then on to Vic Falls where we were to pick up Ben Manyuchi. I also had to make arrangements not only for this segment but also for the final week in Kariyangwe. I was disappointed that I could not get to stay at Binga Rest Camp as I had done three years before. They were fully booked for the Kariba regatta. There was nowhere at that time in Kariyangwe, but I managed to get permission to stay in Lusulu tsetse camp, about thirty miles east of Kariyangwe. So Jo and I were busy, but we kept in touch with Bob to ensure we were OK about getting him away on time. Poor old Bob was not the best at organising himself or extracting himself from suburban Harare life. I telephoned him several times over those few days and got a hesitant answer “Yes I shall be ready”. As the time drew nearer I realised I should listen more to his hesitation than his words. It was eventually about 2 in the afternoon when we got going. We drove down the old Kirkman Rd west out of town. The A5 was being dualled and the roadworks were leading to lots of delays so we skirted to the north. We eventually got back on the main road and drove through some of the most incredible country in Zimbabwe, not because it looked spectacular in any way, but because it looked like the open prairies of the mid west, organised, huge rich farms. The most amazing of these was the estate just beyond Norton which blazoned its name in white rocks on the kopje hills to the east, and the huge farm house overlooking vast green irrigated fields stretching to the horizon. The Africanness of the area barely exist here, some names of villages have been changed, although traces of the old names still leak through. Norton still exists, but Hartley has been replaced by Chegutu. It was just this side of Chegutu that we stopped for a very late lunch, again at a most remarkable place. We were just about to head off into the deepest bush, to camp in tents, get our water from pumps and cook over an open fire. And we started by having a lovely salad lunch in a pristine café as part of a garden centre in the centre of the commercial farmlands. It was deadly quiet, and the three of us were immersed in our own thoughts. I was increasingly worried about how this segment of the trip was to go. There seemed to be a whole load of missing links, and potential areas for disaster. Despite our three weeks in the north, we still felt very inexperienced about bush work. Bob didn’t worry but I always suspected that any field trip he had done was in a similar style to our previous three weeks, with a whole army of camp wardens, cooks and supporters. This was different, we would be on our own with perhaps one or two local guides whom we had never met.