I was tired of the sadza porridge that was being served up, especially as we had brought along all these English style goodies from the supermarket in Avondale. So I showed Second a whole load of stuff, including a large can of Heinz Baked Beans. I asked him to serve it up. I went off to my ablutions.
We had a gentlemen’s agreement about washing arrangements. We had a couple of buckets, and would fill them with water then go out of the camp to wash. As we could also fulfil other bodily functions at the same time, we agreed that we would each take a sector. I would go west, Joe north and Bob east, which meant the Land Rover and visitors could approach the camp from the south without fear of stepping on something. Not that it was that simple, we took the Joe’s pick with us and dug a hole for the dung, which we then used and refilled to ensure that it would not be taken over. We must have fertilized several parts of that farmer’s maize field in the five days we were there. Funnily enough, our gentleman’s agreement may have completely fell apart without our knowledge as we never asked Edmore and Second what they did.
When I got back breakfast was ready. Along with the sadza were the Heinz Baked Beans, and I relished the idea of them. I took my first spoonful, and almost spat it out. They were stone cold, and I got the taste of strong tomato sauce on bullet like beans. With the guy’s Sadza, it was one of the most disgusting combinations I had come across, but rather than ask them to be heated up (we were running late already) , I tried to swallow as many of them as possible. I did make a mental note, though, to ensure I always gave Second explicit instructions on what I wanted cooking in future.
We started the drive to the park camp. After about ten miles of cultivation we turned into a little used track and human activity almost completely evaporated. Apart from the occasional cut tree and the track we were on, we were in Chizarira Park. The scenery was thick mopane woodland for a long period. The track was often overgrown and we had to squeeze Judith through thick scrub. The track gave little concern to the topography, at one stage we had to drive up a 1 in 2 rock face. At one point, the bush was so thick, it bashed against the right hand wing mirror shattering the glass. Judith performed admirably and my training in Muzurabani a week before meant I controlled the vehicle pretty well. Beyond there we reached the Hot springs at the top of the Busi Valley.
The salt springs of Busi are an incredible moonscape in amongst the bush, where hot volcanic springs leave crusty deposits in a series of ponds and rivulets. It is rare to see running water in northern Zimbabwe in the middle of the dry season, but this is even stranger. A series of different coloured algae live along the salt springs, each one tolerant of both the exact temperature and salinity it finds at that point. Animals come down to the salt spring, knowing which are the poisonous wells and from which they can gain some salts they crave. We saw many birds on that first morning, no animals, but the well trudged ground showed that elephant and antelope regularly made their way down here. There was also a baby elephant skull half-emergent in the fine mud around one pool.
We did not linger but headed along the ridge of rock in which the springs were situated and then dropped through the thick green riverine woodland to the edge of the Busi River. Still wide at this point, it was a mass of sand. Unlike other tracks we had been on the river had cut away the old entry point, and there was a steep drop of about ten feet to the riverbed. We could see that the track rose from the bed more gently on the other side. I hesitated at the lip of the river but Bob, always full of helpful back seat advice, urged me to go on. So I eased Judith over the lip and we plunged into the sand below, bouncing up onto the riverbed once the back wheels hit the floor. The reaction stalled Judith. She started with ease, thanks to the guys in Gokwe we did not have the old starter problem, but when I tried to move off, the wheels dug into the soft sand. I eased her into four wheel drive (probably the only time I used the Diff Lock on the whole trip), but she still spun. The care with which I tried to build up acceleration, ease my foot off the clutch and try not to lose traction would have made Tiff Nidel sit up and take notice, and we glided across the sand bed like an ice skater on hallucinogenics. We struggled a little to rise onto firm ground at the far side, and when I paused to take the Diff Lock off, I wiped the sweat from my brow and saw the other three do something similar.