On Sunday 22nd December, myself and three members of my family (one being Daniel the Spaniel), left for Archipelago Resort. We were on the road by 5 a.m. and reached Forbes Border Post just after 8 a.m. We executed our customs & immigration duties in under one hour and were on the road again just after 9 a.m. Travel to Muxungwe was uneventful and we arrived just after 12 a.m. A good place to await the convoy is under the shade of the Flamboyant Tree to the left of the BP garage. The convoy, which is supposed to leave at 1 p.m., only left at 2:30 p.m. This is quite common because the north-bound convoy, which can contain 200 – 300 vehicles, runs late and also due to the fact that the army personnel stop to have their lunch in Muxungwe before heading south again. There are approximately two to three military vehicles per convoy as well as 80 to 100 military personnel who distribute themselves amongst all the vehicles. We joined the convoy three to four kilometres back from the lead vehicle, which we believe to be a safe position, remembering that these convoys can be anywhere between 10 to 20 kms long.
It is important to note that the lunchtime convoy, to the best of our knowledge, has never experienced an incident. We believe that the early morning south bound convoy has experienced the majority of the incidents. Our senior housekeeper at Archipelago Resort, Joel, had firsthand experience of an incident when he was travelling in the early morning south bound convoy in a vehicle eighth from the front. When the convoy came to a standstill and he saw two poorly-dressed, middle aged men firing at the lead army vehicle approximately 150 to 200 meters from the side of the road and then proceeding to run away. They were chased into the bush by the military. It was a minor incident of no major consequence and the convoy carried on to the Save. It is interesting to note that RENAMO are claiming that the majority of these attacks are carried by renegade RENAMO bandits.
We travelled at a steady 80 to 90 kms/hour, staying in front of the heavy vehicles, which were slow, and keeping up with the fast moving traffic. We felt completely safe and relaxed while driving in the convoy. We reached the Save bridge in an hour twenty minutes. From the Save, we proceeded to Archipelago Resort on a well-patched road, arriving at approximately 5 p.m.
We spent a glorious eight days in a sadly empty resort. The weather was pleasant, with a lovely breeze blowing off the sea keeping the temperatures down. We thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas lunch of ham and prawns under the tree by the pool and were just sad that there weren’t any Zimbabweans to enjoy it with us.
To journey home we used the 9:30 a.m. convoy from the Save, which only left at 11 a.m. To our knowledge that convoy has not experienced any incidents to date; the reason being the 7 a.m. south bound convoy usually clears the road. The rest of our journey was uneventful, our greatest concern being the fact that Daniel the Spaniel got covered in burrs and paper thorns while sniffing along the road while waiting for the convoy! We arrived home in Harare at 7 p.m.
For those wishing to use the alternate route, the journey, which must be broken into two full days, can include a very enjoyable stay at Gonarezhou. An alternative to staying at Chipinda Pools or Triangle Club is to stay at the National Parks camp called Swimuweni. Bruce and Grace Campbell and their children drove the alternate route in a Toyota Landcruiser and stayed at Swimuweni, where they saw elephant, giraffe and lots of plains game. (Please see below for the Campbell’s description and pictures of the accommodation.) Once they’d crossed the border, the Campbells bought Movitel cell phone number which gave them cell phone coverage for the whole journey. I would recommend travelling in pairs, although we do know of many people who have successfully travelled this route on their own.
We look forward to seeing you all at the resort in April!