This article appeared in the October 2010 issue of ‘Caravan & Outdoor Life’ magazine:
Many years ago (I was 9) my dad took us on a trip to Gona-rhe-Zhou game reserve, in Zimbabwe. At the entrance gate, the game rangers said the road was strictly 4×4, thanks to the mile of sand in the LundiRiver, which had to be crossed to get to the campsite. This was on the banks of the river at the base of the Chilojo Cliffs, and our old Toyota Hiace would not get there.
My father, never one to give up or turn around, discovered that the old road to the camp site still existed – sort off. They would let us take that route at our own risk. So off we went – it was about 25 kms to the camp site, no big deal, right? Well, it took us 5 hours to travel that 25 kms.
At one point, my father got the Hiace up a steep track covered in rocks, definite 4×4 stuff. The Hiace stopped, so my parents got out to look at the road and decide which way next. We were parked on a steep slope, with a long drop off the side. The Hiace suddenly started to slide backwards. Did I mention my brother was physically handicapped? He flung himself off the front seat into the footwell and jammed his upper body on the brake-pedal. My dad got control again, we crept on up the hill, and down the other side, zigzagging down a track of sand and loose stone. I remember my father saying ‘have to go on now, can’t get back up there’.
Eventually, it was dusk, and we were bumping along a dry river bed. My mother said she could smell elephant, and I climbed out from under a blanket on the floor where I was hiding to see the ghostly grey shapes of elephants around us.
Not long after that, we saw campfires – we had made it. As we pulled in to camp, we were met by campers wanting to know how we got there in a Hiace. They helped us set up, and we had a wonderful stay.
We made it out safely, the game rangers towed us out through the sandy riverbed; but to make the vehicle as light as possible, my mom and I had to walk across the riverbed behind them. I will never forget seeing the Land-rover towing our car disappear across the river, while we trudged through two km of sand, watching the reeds warily for hippo and lions, and the eyeing out the herd of antelope in the distance.
When we got home to our farm near Harare, my dad sold the Hiace and bought a Land-rover, pronto. Then our travels really started.