A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 2 – From Johannesburg to Chilo Gorge

Grahame Snow of Reach Africa Birding Safaris picked us up at 4:30am in Johannesburg and we set out along with two other clients for Zimbabwe.  An early start is always advisable if one is to attempt the border crossing at Beit Bridge!  Fortunately it was a Sunday morning and the school holidays were over, but we nevertheless had quite a job getting through.  Grahame has good contacts, so we were able to make it into Zim in only two hours (people have been known to spend days there!).  I did a count of the trucks parked on both sides of the border, using GoogleEarth imagery, and was astonished to note 606 extra heavy vehicles!!

Once across our main problem was the state of the roads.  Potholes abound and one has to be really careful as the highways (not the right word at all) are full of extra heavy, articulated vehicles.  We looked for the elusive Boulder Chats in the granite koppies, but were unsuccessful, so pressed on to Triangle, where we stayed at the Country Club, a pleasant venue set amidst rolling cane fields (all now producing the raw material for ethanol).

We crossed the Mutirjkwi river nearby and it was a great birding spot, revealing numerous species, including African Finfoot as well as many Coucals and passerines.

Next morning we set out for Chilo Lodge on the Save river at the northern end of Gonarezhou National Park.  The roads got worse and we were amazed to find a local resident driving an expensive sports coupe over rocks and ditches and scraping the bottom all the way!

Chilo Gorge was beautiful and we occupied the old lodge (a new one has been built close by, where we had our meals).  The gardens were full of sunbirds and the river wound slowly past, with crocs and Fish Eagles aplenty.  We looked forward to crossing it and a visit to the Park.

To be continued…..

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