25 June 2011
I´m up at a reasonable hour today. It´s 8am. I´m excited (which since I´ve arrived here in Beira is a rareaty). Today I´m going to Gorongosa National Park where I will spend my weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve done some exploring. Usually when I plan things like this, I take a more backpacker approach and do some hardcore bathless bedless camping. This time round, I’ve done the opposite. I’m too tired to worry about all of these things, so I’ve booked my trip with Explore Gorongosa, who will take of everything once I arrive at camp. The only bit of work is getting to the park and for that I’ve rented a car and only done so as it is the quickest and cheapest (and most comfortable) way to get there.
As always I manage to generate some interest around the trip with some people I work with and the group fluctuated between 3 and 6 people, however in the end, we are only four. I prefer it this way, large groups are a hassle in my experience. So four people in cars was the plan to get to Gorongosa, the rest were in the capable hands of the Explore Gorongosa team.
Marcio and I left at around 11:30 am and only arrived at the park at 2:45pm. You´d think the distance was great, but it is not. The roads are attrocious. Full of pot holes almost all the way along the route. Fortunately the car we hired had quite bulky wheels which meant that the few odd times I missed spotting the holes and went over them, the wheels were ok. When we finally arrived at the park, Geoff, one of the Explore Gorongosa guides was already waiting for us and so was João and Vivian. With our cars parked in the lot, Geoff loaded us onto safari pick up, or Bentely as the staff affectionately called it. First positive for EG team, was Geoff. He is one of those gregarious and sociable characters you like to see on these types of tours.
The fifteen minute drive to the camp was filled with Geoff making jokes and at the same time giving us information about the park and the eco systems in it. We arrived at the EG camp, welcomed by part of their team with fresh juice and hot towel (it’s like flying). We were introduced the rest of the staff and given quick tour of the camp and an induction. Then we were quickly wisked unto Bentely once again so that we could start our first game drive.
As our first game drive started and the bushveld air brushed across my face and filled my lungs, I was content. I didn´t care anymore if I saw any lions, elephants or any other animal as I was in the bush again and that was all that mattered. There’s a saying in South Africa which goes “You can take the boy out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the boy” and this certainly rings true for me. I felt at ease. The bushveld is a peacefull utopia for me. All I needed at that point to be in absolute bliss was the person who stole my heart, Raquel, but unfortunately she wasn´t here.
Andy, our guide, was great as he constantly pointed out the different game, birds and flora to us. I want to write more about the park, but I’m at a loss for words. It’s beauty is beyond description. You are once again made aware of your place in the world and how we humans can cause so much destruction (the wildlife in the park was almost decimated during the civil war). We drove for around an hour and a half taking in the size and sheer beauty of the landscapes before reaching a point where the escarpment led off to mount Gorongosa.
It was here that Andy brought out drinks for us to enjoy while watching the stunning African sunset. I have been fortunate in seeing some amazing sunsets all over the world, however none of them come close to a Bushveld African sunset. It was here while having a beer and chatting to Andy about this amazing park that I wished Raquel was there to share this with me.
The sun finally dissappeared behind the horizon and accordingly the temperature dropped significantly, which was the cue for our drive back to camp. We were expecting to see some animals during our night drive, however lady Safari luck was not on our side and the cold chill of the open top safari pick up started to bite at our skin, despite the warm blankets, so we were really looking forward to getting back to camp.
Back at camp the fire was ready for us to huddle round to warm up; the dinner table was ready and dinner was being prepared. Around the fire were the staff and some of the other guests at the camp for the evening: A South African couple who were birding enthusiasts; An American, Laura, who was on a solo two month trip in Mozambique; Andy, Clea, Kate and Geoff from the EG team. Around the fire we enjoyed the bushveld night with the bush sounds in the distance, the fire crackling, an Amarula coffee and good conversation. It is great to be reminded of how nice a setting can be without any technology around.
“Dinner is ready!” said one of the helpers, before telling us about the menu. The food was simply sublime. I know I complained about the food provided at work in Libya, but Beira has topped the absolute awfullness of canteen food, which is why the great food prepared by the EG team was such a welcome change.
The temprature kepts dropping but blankets were brought out to combat the cold while continued conversing about various topics, one of which was about me and Marcio’s experience in Libya. However it was hearing Clea, Andy and Geoff talk about how much they love what they do that captivated me. It is rare hearing people talk about their proffession with such that it sometimes puts into perspective what you do (especially here where I have not been enjoying work as much as I should).
With the cold making its presence felt and early wake up calls we all retired to our tents (I struggle to call those tents as they are so much more than that!). Despite the cold, the beds were surprisingly warm. The silence outside was minimaly interupted by bush noises which made falling asleep quite easy.
Despite the comfy and warm, I didn´t sleep well (Probably work keeping me up). Waking up to stillness of the bush is nice, though it was strange not hearing the waves breaking onto the beach (Isn´t that a great thing to complain about!). I got out of bed and felt the cold chill cut through my body, but soon after a EG staff member came to the tent bring a bucket of hot water for us to clean ourselves up.
While Marcio got up, I headed towards the common area where Clea and Andy were waiting for us with coffee, cake and fire for us to warm ourselves. While everyone was getting ready, I was chatting to Clea about staying in the bush and how relaxing it was. She said, as she had done the night before, she wouldn´t swap her life of living in these slightly desolate camps for anything.
Once everyone was ready, we got onto Bentley (this time armed with blankets) and started our final game drive. We were on the look out for lions and elephants which we hadn´t seen yet during our previous drive. The drive lasted for a good couple of hours, however ludy luck was once again not on our side as we didn´t see a pride of lions or the elephants.
After stopping for coffee and a morning snack, we drove around for a few more hours in the hopes of finding the sought after animals, but no luck, so we returned to camp where we had a delicious brunch waiting for us. Together we had breakfast with staff and exchanged stories about african beaurocracy need to do certain things.
With brunch over with we said our goodbyes (it felt like leaving a friend’s house after spending a weekend there). We were taken back to our cars back at the main camp and sadly left Gorongosa National Park back towards Beira. To say it was great weekend is not doing the trip any justice, as I was honestly sad to go back home, but unfortunately it is all the time off I had but I will definitely make my way back here!
**I have to make a special note about the Explore Gorongosa team and packages. The packages aren´t cheap but believe me, they are worth every penny! The camp is simple but extraordinarily comfortable! The accomodation tents are more luxurious than some hotels I´ve stayed at. The food is delicious. And when they say, everything is included, they mean it as I was never told that something is an extra. Most importantly, the staff are amazing. Very friendly and attentive. At the end of the trip you feel like you’ve known them for a lot longer than a couple of days!
So if you do plan on coming to Mozambique and specifically to Gorongosa National Park, I highly recommend you try Explore Gorongosa for an awesome stay. Click the link below: