Day 245. Thursday, 24 August, 2023. From Panda Rest Camp in Pandamatenga, Botswana to Robins Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Miles 211350.

Panda Rest Camp.

Late yesterday afternoon, Dennis reported that I was sewing a new zip into the Carenex. It is a task I have undertaken twice before, with our previous tent and is something I had been trying to avoid having to do again. However, the zips don’t like the dust and sand and finally give up. I didn’t complete the task before it got dark, so will have to continue later today.

After this exercise, we decided a drink in the bar would be a good idea. There was a TV showing the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. We didn’t even know it was happening. We watched some of the events and then started to wander back to Poki to cook dinner. After a few steps we changed our minds and returned to the restaurant to eat. I didn’t feel like cooking.

After burgers and apple crumble and ice cream we retired to Poki and an early night. It wasn’t peaceful though. I woke because I thought I could hear rain pattering on the Caranex. Odd I thought, it doesn’t rain in the dry season and there is no rain on the roof or coming through the vents. I realised Dennis was awake and he said it was the wind. It didn’t seem right some how. Next minute Dennis says it’s fire!

We leapt, if you can leap out of bed in Poki. Dennis said he thought the ablution block was on fire. However, we soon realised it was the bar and restaurant. A pretty, thatched building. It was well ablaze and roaring away. I was afraid it would catch the trees and spread to us. Dennis said we would be okay as the wind was blowing away from us. We watched for a while, then returned to bed. There was no sign of any fire brigade.

It wasn’t easy to get back to sleep. I was worrying we may have to evacuate and people were making a lot of noise, talking and moving things away. Eventually we slept and in the morning there was just a smouldering, gently smoking ruin. The blackened remains of the TV we were watching last night, remained attached to the wall.

TV still on the wall. Nothing would stop fire in the thatch once alight.

At around 9am the fire brigade turned up and started pumping water from the swimming pool on to the charred remains. A bit late in the day! A policeman had also turned up and people were milling around looking on.

The truck involved yesterdays accident.

Border crossing into Zimbabwe.

We left for the border, a short ride away. Arriving at the Botswana side, we were the only people there. A very friendly, efficient young lady gave us exit forms to complete, stamped our passports and also our Carnet and within 15 minutes we were passing through the gate into Zimbabwe.

A slightly different procedure here. 3 Desks. The first for our passports. Another form to complete and visas to be purchased. USD55 for mind and only USD30 for Dennis. Next desk was for Poki. All the vehicle details were recorded on a computer, our Carnet stamped and USD50 paid for insurance. The third gentleman was the customs agent and went out to Poki asking a few questions. They were all friendly, efficient and chatting and laughing with us. One of the nicest borders we have crossed.


Immediately quite different to Botswana. A narrow gravel, stony, corrugated track. No more tar seal, or deep sand. It felt much more like wild Africa. Almost immediately we saw Giraffes, Warthogs, Elephants and various deer. 

We passed one vehicle and sometime later were behind a bus. Overtaking wasn’t easy so rather than be smothered in dust, we stopped for a coffee/hot chocolate. As we were in the middle of nowhere and pulled well off the road. Dennis decided it would be a good idea to change Poki’s oil. While completing this task, I made a start on today’s blog. The air has been a bit blue with expletives regarding the vagaries of British engine design. Plus it’s hot work. 

Dennis had dug a pit for the oil, but on leaving it was all buried without a trace. Along with the washer from the sump plug which fell in and could not be located. He had to craft a new one out of Teflon!

Carrying on to the gate to Robins Park a very friendly, laughing young man greeted us. Dennis filled in the details he requires in his book and we headed for Robins Camp. We are greeted by a very smart looking place. Lodges surrounded by flowers and green grass. Sprinklers are going everywhere. I go to reception to ask about camping at two further locations which Laura had recommended. I am advised there is a different office to book these, around the other side of the lodges.

Symbolic of earlier times?

We turn around and scatter a multitude of mongooses. When we get to the other booking office, I find a young lady eating her lunch. She tells me the gentleman who makes the reservations won’t be back until 3.30. It was only 2 o’clock. We decided we would go back to Robins Reception and book a night there.

It is a large site with just 3 other lots of campers, spread far apart. We had lunch, then I washed our sleeping sheet and pillow cases, while Dennis put up the Caranex. I then spent another couple of hours on the zip. It is still not finished. One side is done and about a quarter of the other. It is a far larger doorway than the previous Caranex. I reckon about 10 metres of hand sewing.

We had an early dinner and are just relaxing, listening to music and, once I have finished writing, some reading. It will be an early night, after a shower. There was no water this morning, after the fire.

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