Legends Gonarezhou in Old Series Land Rovers

Legends Gonarezhou in Old Series Land Rovers was a real African bush adventure where we experienced everything you can imagine. We encountered swollen rivers, broken bridges, we got stuck, broken down and even had to make an emergency satellite phone call.  It was an epic overland trip in Old Series Land Rovers.

Back in the 90’2 before Facebook and WhatsApp we were all part of a Land Rover mailing list called the ZALRO. One of the members Hennie Rautenbach decided to organise some overland trips with Series Land Rovers. The idea was to visit a cross-border offroad destination, which demanded complete self sufficient travel, and which wasn’t too far. And so the Legends Gonarezhou trip in Old Series Land Rovers was organised by Hennie in 2001

The trip was made up of 12 Land Rovers, mostly Series 3 LWB, a Series 3 SWB, Series 2 LWB and a V8 Range Rover Classic.

The trip plan was meticulously worked out. But like any decent overland adventure it never goes according to plan. But we were prepared for anything and luckily we were because we were going to need it.

Departing to Gonarezhou Zimbabwe

The meeting point was the Zambezi Petroport at around 5am in the morning. It was a bit of a gamble to know if everyone would make it. The weeks before saw engine and gearbox rebuilds, suspension recon’s and extra fuel tanks fitted and all sorts of other prep work. But Everyone had arrived and we were ready to roll to Gonarezhou in old series Land Rovers.

First stop was the Lion and Elephant Motel and we arrived before sunset in time to setup camp and enjoy a beer or two. The next morning we were up and ready to roll by 9am and Hennie gave us a break down of the days plan.

The End of the Road

This is where the fun started as we regrouped and an ominous signboard said that the road was closed in 34km. When we arrived at the Lundi bridge over the Runde river we could see why. The devastation from Tropical Cyclone Eline in February 2000 had left the bride over the Runde river destroyed. We had to cross over to get to Chipinda Pools. So we had to make a new plan to get to Gonarezhou in our old series Land Rovers. Driving all the way back over that corrugated road was not an option.

Luckily there was another open entrance to the park on this side of the river so we headed back. It was clear that no vehicles had been into the park for months as it was very over grown and clearly not in use but no problem for the Landys. Fresh dung in the road and broken mopane branches everywhere were tell tale signs of the Elephants although we never saw any. It was getting late as we drove up and down through washaways, overgrown tracks and past fallen trees.

Chinguli Camp

After a bit of a drive we arrived at Chinguli camp. It was a shock to see how this campsite had born the brunt of the Runde river in flood as it looked pretty battered and neglected. There were no facilities and no water but luckily we were all self-sufficient. But it was still and awesome privilege to camp in such a remote spot.

The next morning we settled into our new home and took in the amazing views and the sights and sounds. Chinguli was our base for the week and most of us took the day to relax. A few members of the group decided to drive further north and see if they can find the bush camps where we were booked to sleep that evening.

After a relaxing day we decided that a proper bonfire was in order. There was a lot of drift wood from the floods and one particularly appealing log that we needed for the fire. It was a great excuse for entertainment and use of the Landy. Dave Immelman volunteered his Series 3 SWB for the task. Entertaining it sure was as the Landy had many attempts in a variety of gears. But finally 1st gear low range slowly but surely pulled the log into place. And then we had a proper bond fire going.

Exploring Gonarezhou Zimbabwe

The next day we set out on an expedition to explore the park. We drove down towards one of the old causeways, which was completely washed away. A narrow line of rocks at the bank showed its previous existence. Dave Immelman drove into the riverbed and over to the water to see if it is shallow enough for us to get through to the other side.  

The river was still flowing strongly and didn’t look fordable. But Brian decided to have a closer look. He didn’t even make it close as he got bogged down in the wet sand with front and back diff locks engaged. With some air out the tyres he managed to recover himself.

Chilojo Cliffs

With no possibility of crossing the river we set off towards Chilojo cliffs. It was still *very* hot and we had a nice drive through the bush and through various riverbeds.

We stopped off at an empty Hlaro Camp to admire the Chilojo cliffs in the distance.  It was a fund drive getting up to the viewpoint and the view was breathtaking. It is one of those iconic African views that has to be ticked off your list. Just imagine the flood water coming through here it must have been spectacular.

Camping in Gonarezhou in Old Series Land Rovers

After a fun but hot day out it was back to the camp where a cool dip in the river and some ice cold beers awaited.

We had to be cautious of the crocodiles who were clearly visible on the opposite bank. So with some lookouts and a safe spot in the shallow flowing section of the river we took a cool dip. We were served beer by Manie van Eden dressed like a waiter.

That night we enjoyed another amazing fire in the bush. We reflected on an amazing few days that we had had and we were reluctant to leave the next day. We enjoyed another late night with many jokes around the campfire.

The highlight was when we all crowded around Brian’s sat-phone to make an urgent phone call. It was to our friend Paul Oxley to ask him if he can send us more beer. It was a fun end to an unforgettable week.

Break Down Repairs

The next morning we were packed up and ready to go but Manies bonnet was up and had drawn a crowd. Turns out that his clutch master cylinder had packed up. The culprit was some faulty seals. In a flash his bonnet was off and the repair work had started. In the meantime Jaco provided entertainment as he interrogated Daves tool box.

Meanwhile the work carried on and Dave dug into is very well kitted out tool box to find a set of replacement rubbers for the master cylinder. With many helping hands the clutch was back in and being topped up with new fluid.

Our only option was to drive out the way we came in through the mostly overgrown tracks. On route we had to rescue a chameleon who wasn’t impressed at being rescued but looked quite happy with the tree that we chose for him. Once back on the tar we stopped off for some supplies and then headed for the border. Or overnight stop was across the border back in SA at  Aventura Tshipise.

Here we spent the night and then said our good byes in the morning as each of us headed back home. It was a great trip to Gonarezhou in old series Land Rovers that will be remembered for years to come.

Gonarezhou in Old Series Land Rovers Video

Trip Log

JHB – BubiN1 via BeitbridgeTarElephant & Lion Motel R30 p/night
Chingulivia Rutenga, BoliGravel, with severe corrugations and pot holesChinguli next to Runde river (3 nights)
ThipeseSame as above via MessinaAs aboveThipese Aventura R106 p/night
JHBvia N1Tar

Weather – Clear skies for all days except last day started overcast then cleared, temperatures above 30C. Nights warm, temp 20-25C. One storm at sunset with no rain.

Leave a Reply