Andrew Bone

2013 - Chitake Expedition

Almost 10 years has passed since we have left our native Zimbabwe. The same crazed megalomaniac clings to power; the country continues to be in the grip of abject poverty, corruption and nepotism. Stories of fuel, food and water shortages are no longer news worthy. None of the circumstances that forced us to leave have changed, but I miss the Zambezi valley desperately.

I arrange with a friend still living in Zimbabwe to book us into a camp site at Chitake springs. Bookings through National Parks are not easily available but my dates are flexible and we manage to secure 5 nights.

In the early 80’s I was sitting on the Zambezi river bank with the chief research office at the time and we were discussing a little known spring nestled in the foot hills of the escarpment. Called Chitake after the local chief, very few knew of its existence. At that time fuel and vehicles were difficult to come by for the cash-strapped National Parks and we arranged that we would attempt to find the spring the next morning using my land rover.

Using maps and game trails (GPS’s were not in existence) we bashed our way to the spring eventually. It was as though we had happened upon an oasis of wild life amongst the most challenging and harshest terrain I had ever encountered. As the only water source for miles around animals are forced to brave the dangers of predators to drink. The spring itself seeps from the porous shale river bank and runs along a ‘U’ shaped river bed for about 500 m. The river bed varies in width and from the high banks all manner of animals wait to either drink or prey upon those who have to drink. Buffalo herds numbering up to 1500 animals, kudu, eland, impala, baboon and elephant share this life-giving gift.

Since my first foray to the springs, I returned many times. There is now a well-established road to the 3 camp sites, but there is strict controls regarding the number of people and vehicles allowed at the spring. In the 10 years since my last expedition to Chitake documentaries have been made and the area seems to be on everyone’s bucket list.

Since my first foray to the springs, I returned many times. There is now a well-established road to the 3 camp sites, but there is strict controls regarding the number of people and vehicles allowed at the spring. In the 10 years since my last expedition to Chitake documentaries have been made and the area seems to be on everyone’s bucket list.

Lion and buffalo rule. I decide to go for a walk down the middle of the river bad and am charged by an enraged lioness. It’s been 10 years since my last ‘incident’ with lion. The baboon still do not associate man with food or fear and share the spring’s gifts of water and shade. Breeding herds of elephant walk soundlessly past the campsite beneath the light of the full moon. A leopard coughs and a pair of hyena lap at the water’s edge. Always there is life and death.

Zimbabwe is bruised and battered but the valley is changeless.

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