30-Aug-2004 -- We had only been back from a Kariba fishing trip a few days when our oldest daughter Clare phoned to invite us to join them on a camping trip to Mongwe, a marvellous fishing spot on the Zambezi River, about sixteen kilometres downstream from Chirundu. Having been given their marching orders from their farm, Clare and Hamish, together with our granddaughters, Camilla and Alice and our one year old grandson, Angus are making plans to emigrate along with many other displaced farmers.
As loving parents and grandparents, Julie and I had no option but to accept the invitation so as to spend as much time with them as we could before their departure for foreign shores and just "put up" with having to spend 4 days drifting down the Zambezi on Hamish's boat with a tiger fish trace on the end of our lines - What a pleasure and, what's more, just six kilometres due north of a Confluence on the Mongwe river! The camping party was completed by their friends, Derrick & Sue, who also brought their boat, our youngest daughter Debbie, and Alice's school friend Ralsy.
Mongwe is in the Urungwe Safari Area between Chirundu and the famed Mana Pools Game Reserve and is tucked up against the mighty Zambezi River, our border with Zambia. Being a hunting area, the National Parks Department strictly controls access and the leaving of ones vehicle to walk is prohibited for the normal visitor on the way to and from the fishing camps. For this reason, and also to seek permission and cooperation for our confluence visit, we approached the Ranger in charge, Petros, when we booked in at Marongora, the Park's headquarters for the area. He in turn gave us a note for Ranger Batsiro at Mongwe camp, requesting him to accompany us to the Confluence.
All was set. After arriving at lunchtime on Sunday, we made camp in the one-roomed thatched cabin we had leased from friends of Hamish, launched the boats, and had a super afternoon fishing and drifting down river with sundowners in hand. As was arranged on our arrival at Mongwe, Hamish, Batsiro and I set off on our confluence hunt at 07:00 the next morning.
It didn't take long for us to make our first and only mistake, we found that we had taken the wrong road after leaving Mongwe camp, which should have taken us to a track within three kilometres of the Confluence. We ended up doing a long loop and only arriving at the desired point an hour later. The track on the 1:50,000 map which would have taken us to within 500 metres of the Confluence was found to be impassable by motor vehicle and was probably an old elephant track picked up from the aerial photo by the map makers. We drove on another half a km, parked and set out on foot for the now two and a half km (as the crow flies) walk to the Confluence. I should mention here that Hamish is a learned Professional Hunter, having passed various exams and practical training, he is just waiting to complete his bag, final exam and proficiency test. With a PH in front and Ranger Batsiro behind, I felt quite safe traipsing through the three km (crows don't have to negotiate dry river beds, ridges and skirt around thick bush) of Mopani trees in their winter state of undress, Combretum in full leaf and, fortunately, not too much Jesse bush.
With tracks of elephant, buffalo and leopard very much in evidence, I was quite relieved only to have seen a few impala, plenty of birds and a couple of kudu cows on the 45 minute walk to the site. As we drew closer, we found many inlets to the dry Mongwe River, which we had to negotiate. On the way out, we took a fairly wide excursion to the east to avoid all the climbing in and out of dongas. The site itself was on the edge of the steep north/eastern bank of the Mongwe River in a slight depression between two trees. We found the zeros on the GPS, took pictures and relaxed for about half an hour before making our way back to the car. Now that we were on the right road, it was only about twenty minutes back to the camp on the banks of the Zambezi where we arrived at 10:39 and had a hearty breakfast prepared by Julie and Clare.
On a previous confluence visit, I made reference to the usefulness of sons in law; I stand by what I said and thank Hamish for his tremendous knowledge, support and companionship. I also thank Batsiro for the fantastic assistance; assistance that I am becoming accustomed to from the Parks' personnel. With quite a few more confluence sites in our National Parks, I am somewhat surprised that no one else has 'been there and done that'.
This confluence walk, together with the rest of the four days of fishing and just enjoying the Zimbabwean bush, the mighty Zambezi and the wonderful company of family and friends was truly a magnificent experience!