Back to Mana Pools

9 04 2014

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been to Mana Pools Game Reserve on the north-western border of Zimbabwe. It is perhaps one of the better known game parks in the country and is very popular “in season” which is usually taken to be June through to the end of September after which it gets too hot for most people. Situated in the Zambezi Valley it can easily get into the mid 40 degrees (Celcius). This time of year it gets into the mid 30s during the day and can be humid to boot and the bush is relatively lush after the rains. There is water everywhere so the game is more widely dispersed than in the dry season when it congregates at the pans and the Zambezi River. But it’s still worth a visit and is far from over-crowded as we discovered this last weekend.

Bee season

13 08 2013

I got in late last night from a successful day’s flying in the Zambezi Valley. 7.5 hours driving 1h40 flying, 1100m height gains but no big distance. That is a successful day for a paraglider pilot, especially one who doesn’t get much opportunity to fly these days.


It’s easy to be a celebrity in the Zambezi Valley (near Muzarabani)

day end

Day’s end – the crowd moves off one by one


Richard and Craig offloaded the wings, commented on the bees in the dining room and left. I didn’t bother investigating further; there are often bees swarming in my chimney, especially at this time of year and they get trapped inside the lounge. No big deal, I’d get the vacuum cleaner out in the morning and suck them up.

This morning I walked into the lounge and discovered a swarm of bees had moved in during the day. There’s not a lot I can do at this stage except leave the windows open and hope they move off to a better location. In the meantime I think I’ll go somewhere else while they make up their mind!

Not a pretty sight early in the morning!

Not a pretty sight early in the morning!

Whither the weather

15 01 2013

gwebiThis is the Gwebi River on the road into town this morning. From Friday to Monday 90mm of rain fell – not exceptional but still a lot. A customer who deals with small scale farmers in the Zambezi Valley area told me that the rivers up there are starting to flood. Again this is not that unusual for that area which, being a flood plain of a major river, does tend to be prone to flooding during times of heavy rainfall. Most of Zimbabwe is relatively steep so does not flood that often. A friend who lives in Mutare in the east of the country said they had 300mm of rain from Thursday night to Sunday night which is very damaging given that it is the first major rain they have experienced this season. So you may think we are having a good rainy season in Zimbabwe. Sadly this is not the case as the distribution in time and location has been highly inconsistent.

The first rain fell at my work on October 16th, 14mm. Not a lot but certainly useful if followed by more rain. But nothing over 5mm fell until 4th December when 12mm fell. This effectively marked the beginning of the season for us though it was 3 weeks later than it normally is. Elsewhere in the country they have been less lucky, especially in the south, south-east and west. In theses areas, although it is raining heavily now, there will be no meaningful crops this year.

This will be the third year in a row of erratic and patchy rains in Zimbabwe. I would be reluctant to say it is the result of climate change because it is probably within the natural variation but certainly, the regular daily thundershowers that I remember in my childhood appear to have gone.

Brothers in the sun

10 07 2012

“Do you have a letter?” the tax official at ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) asked.

“What letter?” I replied.

“There’s a notice on the door” he waved vaguely in the direction of the entrance. “You need a letter from your company authorizing you to collect the ITF263” he continued.

“But I am the director!” I exclaimed.

“Well in that case we need to see your CR14 and your ID”.

I got up more than a little perplexed. I’d been to Kurima House in Harare to get an ITF263 (tax clearance form) and never been asked for company documents (the CR14 lists the names and addresses of a company’s directors) but I’d never won an argument with a tax official so there was not a lot to do except go and get it back at my house. I checked on the door on the way out and there was indeed a notice listing the requirement for a letter for a non-company official to collect the ITF263 but nothing else.

Arriving back at the tax office this afternoon the tax official banged on the office window as a walked past and told me to come directly inside ahead of the queue. Given the length of the queue I didn’t think that was a bad idea. I went to the next free desk and nobody there was interested in my CR14!  Just less than an hour later, with just 5 minutes left on the parking ticket that I’d bought, I was back at my truck with the precious green document and feeling more than a little pleased with myself. All the tax payments had been in order and though I had to visit a few other offices in the interim I was now clear to import raw materials for the next 6 months.

I was waiting for the traffic to move behind me so that I could reverse when the man with albinism appeared at my window. Blacks with albinism are easily spotted in this country of a black majority and while once they were shunned they have become much more accepted in the last 10 years or so. He held up a container of sunblock and said “Can you help me please sir, I need some money to buy some more of this?”

I paused a moment and then reached down into the foot well of the passenger seat and retrieved the ¾ full bottle of factor 30 sunblock that I keep in the pickup and handed to him. Fully expecting him to be disappointed at not getting cash to spend as he liked I was pleasantly taken aback at his obvious delight. I gently remonstrated him for not wearing a hat but he explained that he’d washed it that morning and it was still wet.  I’d once given my cap to an albinistic girl in the Zambezi Valley when paragliding there but unlike her this man did seem to be looking after his skin. The poor girl whom I gave my cap to was pathologically shy and was obviously taking the brunt of the teasing of the other kids.

I thought it a smart move approaching a white man who’d very likely be sympathetic and know what sunblock was. Blacks do of course get sunburnt but nothing like the extent that we whites do in this tropical climate. What the man who’d approached did not know was that I was a soft target on another front – my mother died of malignant melanoma in 1992, a high price for living in the tropics.