26 January 2012
My normally lonely camp in the bundu has been a busy place lately.
The group of wise men who came to visit spiced things up with their conversation and general good company, but on Sunday it was time for them to go their various ways again, one of them as far as Tanzania. Some were flying out by helicopter, the others would go with the plane.
Early in the morning I went to drop off the pilot to pre-flight his plane (when Stef stepped out in his crisp white shirt and epaulettes the herd of impala on the airstrip bolted!). At the same time I collected the guards who’d been left overnight to stop elephant from toying with the aircraft. Then I shuttled the passengers, their gear was loaded and the props started turning. The plane soon followed the helicopter that had already banked away towards Maputo and, as the sound of spinning blades and engines faded into the distance, birdsong ruled the bush again.
Back at camp I packed the necessary and then set out east with the Nissan. The shipwrecked Cruiser and its crew were still camped on the bank of the Limpopo and had to be rescued.
They were really glad to see us when Man Friday and I finally arrived there. A strong rope was hitched and we started the slow, laborious tow of nearly 70km. It wasn’t easy. What passes for a road out of the Limpopo valley is really just a strip of alternating ruts, mud, washaways and sand, and the load I was pulling was a heavy one. Only eight km’s into the tow the Nissan’s heat guage started creeping up to the red. When I stopped, the radiator was already gurgling steam and there was a smell of burning coming off the clutch.
I couldn’t risk losing my only means of transport in this vast million hectares, so I had no choice but to abandon the effort. After waiting for things to cool down, I towed the Cruiser to a nearby rangers’ post where we left the vehicle and two guards. W and the other guy on his crew found seats in my vehicle and we returned to camp without further mishap.
I was also expecting artist Keith Joubert and his friends for a visit on Monday but by Sunday night I’d still had no news of the condition of the road they would have to use. The Canadian researchers who left camp last Wednesday had been turned back by the floods and departed again on Friday. They’d been spotted from the air where they were parked before the flooded Shingwedzi crossing but I’d had no word of their fortunes since. Had they managed to get through? Would Keith make it in?
I was disappointed when a message arrived to say he’d decided against risking it, but I quite understood. His overseas guests might miss their flights if the journey here turned out to be too much of an adventure.
On a more positive note: W’s misfortune with the Cruiser turned out to be a blessing for me. Stranded here for three days until help would come from the south, he and his righthand man kept themselves busy around camp. The broken spring mounting on my trailer was repaired, staff matters were dealt with and an inquest was held into the theft of my solar panels. It was quite a relief to be able to try and catch up with writing without having to concern myself with other issues.
Then, yesterday, A arrived from the south to come and salvage the Cruiser and its crew. He’s an old salt of the bush, with a well-equipped truck and good savvy. His wife M loves it out in the sticks as well and goes everywhere with him. The road was usable, they reported. Two wet river crossings and some mud and washaways, but otherwise OK. After a quick bite to eat they all departed the other way to try and haul the Cruiser in with the steel towing bar A had brought along for the purpose. When they returned in the late afternoon, it was with the crippled vehicle in tow. Six days after it had left Massingir, 125km away, my supplies finally arrived in camp.
This morning all the visitors departed, leaving the drowned Cruiser behind. It would have been too difficult to tow, given the conditions of the road, and will somehow have to be fixed here.
Later in the day I too head south. There’s an important meeting in Maputo tomorrow that I must attend, even though it’s a long drive. I drive as far as Massingir and then decide to overnight there and get off to an early start tomorrow.