28-Sep-2005 -- Although I knew about the Confluence and its proximity to the place we were visiting last year (Massingir Game Reserve, see below), no opportunity had presented itself for an expedition to find it. We had driven along a "road" that runs North-South past the Confluence, but its closest approach to the Confluence was still over four kilometres.
This year I was determined to make an attempt, even if it meant a 4 km hike through the African bush. Luckily my son, who works at Massingir Game Reserve, had realised that there was another "road", also running North-South, but running almost directly towards the confluence. We followed the track as far as it was negotiable, but we were still about 2 km from the Confluence when we could get no further in the truck. Leaving my wife in the truck with a book to read, we (my son and I) set off for our 4 km plus round-trip hike in the midday heat.
Although I had downloaded: a Landsat image of the area; the 3" Digital Elevation Model (ref), and the RSA 1:250,000 maps, which spill over into Mozambique to the Confluence - the detail is not great and we had not examined them - we just set off in the direction indicated by the GPS. We sometimes walked along a dry watercourse, but mostly trudged along in a beeline towards the Confluence, concentrating on avoiding the thorn-bushes. A couple of times we had to backtrack a short distance when we reached an impassable thicket. Being decidedly unfit, I did not get a chance to fully appreciate the beautiful trees and scenery (we did see a pair of Nyala - in my opinion the most beautiful of southern Africa's antelopes).
Eventually we came to the foot of a rise about 100 m from the Confluence and, after negotiating a fringe of thorn scrub, had a short, clear climb through a Mopani copse to the Confluence. After taking our "evidence" pictures, we decided to continue up the hill to see what could be seen from the top. The "top" turned out to be more extended than expected and is actually the mini "plateau" of the surrounding area, with the confluence lying about halfway down the gully formed by the stream.
The trip back to the truck was made a lot easier by our acquired knowledge of the area and we followed the watercourse even though, at one point, it went at right angles to our intended direction of travel. The loose round stones that covered the floor of the watercourse don't make for easy walking, but at least it was nearly level and free of thorn bushes. The trip back was significantly quicker than the outward-bound one and, apart from a heart-stopping rustle of undergrowth as a "Grysbok" dashed off, uneventful. The plot shows the two routes as drawn by GPS Trackmaker - the more direct outbound route and the meandering return journey.
Other visitors to Confluences in Mozambique have warned about the presence of land mines (a legacy of the devastating civil war that wrecked the country), this Confluence is lucky enough to have had no strategic value (neither being on the way to somewhere important nor having resources like water that needed to be protected), and so is free of mines. Although the Confluence itself is on community grazing land, the track we followed crosses land belonging to the Massingir Game Reserve concession and in any event will be flooded when the Massingir dam [see below] is filled.
The Degree Confluence Project specified this Confluence as being situated 4.4 km WNW of Bassequete in Gaza Province, Mozambique and, although a Google search will dish up several map service links (and "Yellow Pages" even offer to list your business in Bassequete), no such place exists any more. The Confluence lies on Cubo village's Thalani community grazing lands. Cubo is situated in the Massingir district of Gaza province close to Massingir dam which stretches from the dam wall at Massingir village to the South African border (the dam can be seen as a big 'M' shaped dam on Landsat images). Access to the area has been made easier by improvements to the road by the construction companies involved in upgrading the dam wall of Massingir dam. These improvements and the installation of the sluice-gates will raise the height of the water retention barrier and cause the reservoir to push back across the SA-Mozambique border into the Olifants River gorge (of concern to ecologists and conservationists in SA).
The Massingir Game Reserve where we were staying is a 20,000-hectare area being developed as a game reserve with private lodges (similar to the private game reserves bordering the Kruger National Park in South Africa). A 50-year concession has been granted to develop the reserve (see Inyatsi). Bordered in the west by the Kruger National Park (across the border in South Africa), and on the North by the Limpopo National Park, the reserve has occasional visits by members of the "big five" (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard). These visits by dangerous wild animals are more frequent near the Olifants River in the North than in the area where we were walking.
The local people speak Changana (Shangaan/Tsonga) and Portuguese and live mainly in the three villages Cubo, Canhane and Massingir, the latter being almost a town in comparison to the other two (although Canhane does have a primary school).