Monday, September 13, 2021

Mitini to Pumbe via no Rest Camp. (Approximately 120km)

We had been warned that today was going to be a very long day so everyone was up early, courtesy of the fish eagles calling, and I think that by 06:30 we were all ready to hit the road hopeful that we don't have a repeat of yesterday caravan experience.  Apparently Doug was making some noise during the night which kept Tony awake but I heard nothing at all and we were equidistant from Doug's caravan.  I don't know why but I really seem to sleep better in the bush even with the possibility of elephants, lions or buffalo being around.  Day one's assessment of the time that it takes to strike camp comparing ground tent to caravan to rooftop it seems that there isn't much in it.  I definitely didn't feel rushed to keep up with the rooftop tent or caravans so my apprehension about this turned out to be misplaced.

We brewed enough coffee to have a cup with a breakfast of biscotti rusks and made some more to put into a flask for when we are getting desperate around lunch time.  Jonathan and Amanda discovered that the gas plate and the gas bottle they had purchased for the trip were from two different manufacturers and weren't compatible so we boiled some water for them as well and shared some of our coffee with Edward who was having his own gas problems.  There is meant to be a gas bomb in the car that he uses for the trip but someone either forgot or took it out so Edward was also having some kit challenges.  It did make me feel a little better for having left our camping table at home not to mention my lighter.  Fortunately Caron doesn't go anywhere without at least one, normally two spare lighters so that wasn't too much of an issue.

The road, as promised, was long and bumpy with many sections that we needed to do in low-range even though it was flat or downhill.  It seems to me that the secret to rough driving is to gauge how fast one needs to go that one keeps moving all the time without going so fast as to destroy one's car or partner and at the same time maintaining control.  Once one gets a feel for that then choose high or low range and the gear to suite having the motor in it's power band which, in my case, is about 1500rpm and then just let the car dawdle it's way over the ground.  The important thing is to keep the momentum, as opposed to speed, up and because the engine is in the power band if one suddenly needs a little extra it is readily available. Just my assessment of course, it comes with T&C's.

Baobabs. Photo courtesy of Amanda

We had a break next to a dry river bed at around 11:00 in the shade of some big trees.  There was a yellow-billed kite hovering around and "someone" whom I won't name, I think more as a joke than anything else, threw a small piece of boerewors out into the bush about 10m away from us to see what would happen.  I think I was as surprised as everyone else that the kite had not only seen it but understood that it may be edible and dove down and snatched it and we could see it flying around having a snack as it flew.  This is NOT good advice to give anyone to do, it really can lead to habituation which in extreme cases leads to having to put wild animals down through no fault of their own but it was amazing to see.

Starting the convoy again Tony volunteered to drive right at the back so when he called over the radio that there were two lions getting frisky just off the road we all, including the two caravans, had to turn around to go back to see.  Tony, it turns out, has very sharp eyes and this wasn't the last time he would call out something over the radio for all of us to look at.  By the time we got back to the lions the male had moved off but we still had a great sighting of the female who was really in excellent condition.  The sighting, by the way, was only about 200m from where we had all been nonchantly walking around during lunch throwing titbits to the yellow-billed kite.  A little sobering but no harm done.

Close than one would like ... Photo courtesy of Amanda

 By the time we stopped again at the lookout above the Nwandzi river which was quite an awesome view, the temperature was climbing past 37 deg C and time to close the windows and put the aircon on.  The dust today wasn't that bad and just hanging back a bit meant that there wasn't much to speak of.  Having driven many, many kilometers in other's dust as well as listening to the vociferous complaints of other's who have been in my dust it can be quite a contentious topic but really not a problem at any stage on this trip.

We had stopped again just after a dry river crossing for a comfort break but as soon as we got out of the cars we could smell that burnt rubber smell which meant that someone had a problem.  It turned out that Amanda's Dodge had a flat tyre and they hadn't realised it so they had driven on the flat tyre for a least some time and totally destroyed the tyre.  Fortunately it looks like the rim was fine but the tyre was finished so for the second day in a row we were under one of the vehicles.  The dodge doesn't have any hard points to put a jack under so Tony climbed pretty much right underneath the car to position the jack on the chassis itself and then some power from Edward had the car up off the deck in no time.  Also learnt a nice trick when replacing a wheel because it is often difficult to get it to the right height to put the stud bolts back through but, as demonstrated by Edward, using the wheel spanner as a lever to get the tyre to the right height and the bottom of the tyre tucked in at the same time really works well.  There was a problem with putting the mag tyre back under the truck because the centre hole on the mag rim is much smaller than that of the steel rim so in the end Pieter strapped it onto the top of their roof rack with another of my ratchet straps so now spare ratchet straps has been noted as a required item in future trips.  The dodge has 20" rims which are, compared to local rims, huge and when it came to picking the wheel up we were all amazed when Amanda just picked it up as if it was no big deal.  It is a big deal, it's rather heavy but it turns out that Amanda, in addition to be a Scientist is also a power lifter but I do think that she is a little worried about the next three days because now she has no spare at all!

Photo courtesy of Tony
What not to do to a tyre. Photo courtesy of Tony

Dougs comment that he was surprised that we had only had one tyre issue thus far and I must agree with him; the going is quite rough and I would not be surprised if we have some more issues with tyres in the coming three days.

Some shade at last. Photo courtesy of Amanda.

The day was not yet done with us and we had just started off before we had to stop again as a tree had fallen over the road but between my axe and Edwards strength it only took about 10 minutes in all to chop through it and to drag it out of the road.  It was only about 120mm in diameter so not really a big tree but defintely thorny enough to require that we had to be sure that it was right off the track so that we don't have any further tyre troubles.

Arrival at our destination of Pumbe camp was at 17:30 only 30 minutes behind schedule and the day didn't disappoint, it really was quite a long 120km drive. It doesn't sound like very much but when one really can't travel at an average speed of more than 10 to 15 km/hr it just takes a long time to traverse any kind of distance. By 18:15 I think everyone had their tents or caravans setup and we were all sitting around the fire having some chips or cheese and wine.  A very pleasant end to a long day and while we were around the fire Edward pointed out that we could see Mercury, Venus, Mars as well as both Saturn and Jupiter all at the same time.

Sunset. Photo courtesy of Theresa

I had brought a gas powered water heater with us because the deal with Caron is that she doesn't mind how rough the trip is as long as she can have a hot shower at the end of each day so is in.  As it turned out, all my careful planning in this regard, was superfluous.  Each camp has separate men's and women's showers and toilets and for hot water Edward has a steel container that one put's one's water in and it sits next to the fire and by the time the evening braai is done, there is lots of hot water to go around. Scoop out about 5l of hot water and add another 5l of cold because otherwise it is scaldingly hot and that is enough for two people to get nicely clean before turning in for the evening.


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