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Pumping Legs for Water Report

Pumping Legs for Water Report

Pumping Legs for Water Report

Well, the year has come around again and the weekend of 27, 28 and 29 July saw Hwange Main Camp full to the brim with riders, families, friends and organisers for the annual Pumping Legs for Water fundraiser.  Not only was Main Camp bustling with PLW participants, there were several busloads of school children coming and going throughout the weekend.  The vibe around camp was wonderful and its always heartening to see the camp chock-a-block.  It would appear that the water woes in camp of last year have been remedied and everyone could enjoy a hot shower or bath, with water AND electricity available throughout the weekend.  Well done, Main Camp.

On our way up to the Park, near Gwaai River, we passed Rodney Spencer, a delightful young man, who had taken it upon himself to cycle all the way from Bulawayo to Main Camp for the ride.  He managed to get an amazing amount of sponsorship for his incredible feat!  He and his back up team had left Bulawayo at half past four on Friday morning and finally arrived to a rousing welcome at Main Camp at about half past seven in the evening.  AND Rodney was cheerfully back in the saddle the following morning!  The rest of Friday evening was given over to completing the registration of riders, handing out ride packs, receipting sponsorship, briefing the escort drivers and giving everyone a general run down of the following day’s events, making sure that everyone knew which group they would be riding with, who their captains were and their start times.  We had 85 riders register and 83 turned up to ride, with riders from all around the country as well as Zambia, South Africa, Botswana as well as a Canadian from Tanzania!  Despite the early morning chill, camp was abustle again by quarter past six on Saturday morning with the restaurant providing tea and coffee along with egg and bacon rolls.  We left just before seven as the first group of riders were gathering at the gate and believe that the first lot of riders got away on time. 

Once again, we were in charge of the halfway water stop, which was based at the Kennedy One picnic site.  This year, all four groups got to see some game during their ride on the first day which was great with one team having a bit of a close encounter with an irascible elephant bull.  Fortunately, the female scout on the back of their lead vehicle very calmly loosed a few rounds above his head as he rattled his ears, bellowed and threatened to charge, which sent him dashing off into the bush.  With that bit of excitement out of the way, the riders could safely let out their breath and continue the ride!   The first two groups of riders got through to Ngweshla fairly comfortably but the second two groups, particularly the last, got down to the camp later than anticipated.  However, all was well and no one had any serious spills in the thick sand.  As always, there was plenty of banter and ribbing and although there were some fairly sore muscles and bottoms, everyone was in good spirits.  Prize giving and the evening around the braai at Waterbucks Head was well attended and full of chat, laughter and camaraderie although most folk didn’t linger too long, heading for bed in anticipation of another day’s riding.

Sunday morning was again pretty chilly as participants began gathering.  We set off for our water stop which we were setting up once again in the teak forest just beyond Dopi pan.  On our way through, we spotted a leopard slouching along a game trail at the top end of the Dopi vlei.  A beautiful animal which sat a while, quite close to where we were stopped, glaring at us with its penetrating yellow gaze before moving off, deeper into the tree line.  The first two teams came through earlier than we’d expected and were soon moving along.  The second two groups were a bit behind but came in together and were not too long getting back to Main Camp for the final prize giving at lunch time. While some of the participants and followers had to leave for home, a fair number of people stayed on for another night, with most going off for a late afternoon drive around the park ending up gathering at the Nyamandhlovu platform.  It wasn’t too long that evening, however, before everyone was bedded down for the night and camp was pretty quiet – everyone exhausted!

While in the park during the weekend, I took the opportunity to take a look at some of the water points.  The park is desperately dry and already looking like the end of the dry season almost.  Everyone is struggling to keep up with the pumping and keeping the engines up and running.  The main pan at Ngweshla is dry now but the pan near the camp is holding good water despite endless problems with the pumping there.  It sounds as if the pipes need replacing in the borehole.  It was so disappointing travelling through the Mangas after the ride on Saturday, to find the pump at Manga Three silent.  Although there was a bit of water still in the pan, there were several herds of elephant hanging around and more pouring in as we drove up to and away from the pan.  Apparently, Somalisa, who oversee this point, were expecting a part for the engine and pumping was to resume soon.  There was no pumping going on at Manga One either and no water in the pan.  There was fair water at Jambile.  Dopi was up and running again with nice water in the pan and the trough at Caterpillar was full and overflowing into the pan.  Unfortunately, Makwa is at a very low ebb at the moment although pumping continues 24/7 and there’s an excellent flow of water into the pan.  Sinanga is also pretty low but the trough was full and spilling down into the pan.  Kennedy One held good water.  Kennedy Two was also a bit of a disappointment as the solar unit continues to struggle along but the diesel engine on the new borehole was out of fuel.  I took the opportunity on Sunday afternoon to drive down with Gary to refuel and get the engine started up again.  It wasn’t long before three old elephant bulls appeared out of the bush, went straight up to where the fresh water comes out and helped themselves, right next to where we had parked to inspect the flow!  As we had been a bit late leaving, we were passing Makwa enjoying a spectacular sunset over the pan when a pride of seven lion appeared!  A wonderful sighting in that late. dusty afternoon light.

On Monday morning after packing up our chalet, we decided to go and have a look at Matoa ruins now that most of the road has been graded.  Along with two other vehicles we got to see the ruins before heading on to Inyantue where pumping had only just been resumed after a few problems.  There was quite a bit of water in the pan and while there, we watched one of the research units setting up a camera trap over the pan.  We didn’t see much game while travelling on through to Shumba but did come across two gorgeous cheetah, one of which appeared to be chasing our vehicle as we came round the corner.  Unfortunately, they didn’t stick around for a photo shoot!  As the wind was blowing great gusts, the windmill at Shumba was certainly doing its stuff and there was fair water in the pan.  Martin Peters at Nehimba, has started pumping water into Danga pan so we nipped in there to have a quick look.  The water flow looks good so hopefully that will continue.  The windmill at Shapi was also working flat out and although the trough was full and overflowing, there isn’t much water in the pan itself.  There was not much water at Guvalala but pumping was in progress.

The weekend was a huge success in terms of enjoyment and as a fundraiser and the organisers must be commended on another sterling effort, not only for all the hard work involved over many months but also the excellent sponsorship they had managed to secure for this year’s event.  Grateful thanks to National Parks, Area Warden Jura, for allowing WEZ to hold this event, the Waterbucks Head staff and chefs for their efficient and friendly service, keeping everyone fed and watered over the weekend and the scouts that accompanied the riders each day.  Many, many and grateful thanks too, particularly to the riders and those who came along as back up as well as to the escort drivers for the hours they put in and without whom the teams could not head out in the first place.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 09, June 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide: