The bad & the ugly, there is no good!

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) will link the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique; Kruger National Park in South Africa; Gonarezhou National Park, in Zimbabwe. The GLTP will bring together some of the best and most established wildlife areas in southern Africa. The park will be managed as an integrated unit across three international borders.

Those are two sentences from one of the websites telling us how wonderful the ‘transfrontier’ park is. So for those that have not been there and might one day think this is a good idea; let me tell you about our wonderful experience in that not so wonderful part of the park.

We left Letaba camp early in the morning, on 26 December 2013 and drove to Giriyondo Border. From here it is about 300 kilometers to Bilene, Mozambique. Using a clever website to calculate distance and arrival time, it gives me an estimate of 5 hours 34 minutes driving (with no stops).

We arrived and started our trip from Giriyondo border at ‏‎08:04:43 AM recorded on my phone when I took this picture.

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The border opens at 08h00; so we were by no means off on a late start!

Bright and early, no queues, we were the only ones at the border. Here we had to pay the ridiculous fee of R740.00 (that was for the four of us and the car) to gain entrance into the Parque Nacional do Limpopo – Limpopo National Park.

While still in the border reception area I saw this very informative customs poster about the travellers allowances – note the sentence about perfume and toilet water!?

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Eau de toilette and toilet water are NOT the same thing, and one should not use these words in the same sentence. Duh! Anyway that funny, but bad translation should have been a good indication of the not so wonderful park we were about to drive into….Alas we still went in.

Hubby wanted to buy a map of the park; he was told there was no map and they told him there were road signs along the route that he could follow.

It is advisable to use a GPS in the Limpopo Park – signboards are scarce and the roads can be somewhat confusing. Any vehicle with high ground clearance will make it although one might need a 4×4 after heavy rains.

Another useful nugget from another informative website. Yeah we did have a GPS, just that the thing was rather confused and not sure which roads to send us on. The road signs, if we were lucky enough to find them, were faded and you could not read names or distances of where you were going. To drive in this so-called park you definitely need a 4×4 don’t attempt this with a normal car, unless you hate it so much you want a forced upgrade as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Anyway we continued….the scenery is pretty for now, there were lots of trees on either side of the road and I was still in “romance” mode and took a few pictures of the colours in front of me.

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Lush green bush and trees that have both red and green leaves. It’s very pretty. But so far no animals. We noted that it was ok to throw cold drink bottles out the window because we saw many of them on the road. It was also ok to speed because so far the first two cars coming in the opposite direction flew past us. We quickly closed all windows so we didn’t die from the dust inhalation.

Then in the middle of nowhere and unannounced we reached a boom gate.

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We had to sign a book and add registration number and hubby asked:

“What is the boom gate for?”

“Oh it’s for traffic control”

“Do they have elephants here?” we asked and where?

”Yes, they are in the bush” was the reply

Oh dear, I thought we were already in the bush. Anyway we continue our slow drive always in search of animals. The road is so bad, so bad, that you feel like popcorn in the car. There are speed bumps all over and with no warnings. Very soon we started having car trouble. The bolts on the brake calipers broke on the right front side of the 4×4, cutting off the brake pipe, which in turn made quite a racket as the caliper scraped against the inside of the mag wheel.

Lucky for us, our driver (daddy & hubby in-car) knows more about cars than just filling it up with petrol. We made a few stops so he could tighten and fix some things and try to get us to the end of this trip safely and in one piece.

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I could see he was worried. The times we did stop the approaching cars slowed down enough to pass us by and then kept driving. There is nothing in sight. Nothing civilised or helpful to anyone in this situation. Animals in this national park consisted of these cows – 595

Then we came across two villages

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By now it is very clear that this is nothing like the Kruger National Park and that the advertising and websites telling us this area combines the three established wildlife areas in southern Africa is a load of bull shit. I can’t comment on the Zimbabwe side of the transfrontier park, but the Mozambique side is not a national wildlife park. That is all fake or old news that has not been updated.

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We finally reached the end of this horrible dry piece of land they claim is a national park. Filled a complaint in their book which I’m sure is just ignored, but there is a toilet at this gate and I suspect the complaint book is the toilet paper, who knows. We left the park and drove through Massingir, Chokwe and Macia towards Bilene beach.

We stopped at Macia to have the brake pipe replaced and continued the trip. Luckily we found some friendly locals at a kind of metal scrap yard and they made a plan and got us a brake pipe for the Toyota. By now we are starving, thinking that a late breakfast or early lunch at Parque Nacional would have been possible, water was just about the only thing we had in the car. Parque Nacional does not have animals let alone places to eat or toilets. Maybe the camp sites in this park have some kind of facilities, we never visited, not even out of curiosity. With car problems and the state of the roads no one was in a mood for another adventure.  From there on it was just driving and trying to arrive in one piece at our destination – Bilene.

We now see lots of little tables on the side of the road with people selling fruit. But hubby (my bear) is too miffed to stop one more time not even for food and I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the mangos or bananas!

We arrived late afternoon, it was pass 17h00, a little more than 9 hours to do 300 kilometers! Tired, hot, hungry and very unhappy! Not because of the car problems but because we were cheated of a Transfrontier National Park – bush to beach experience and to top it all we paid what I think is a small fortune. For what?

Oh yes that was for the pleasure of driving with no front brakes thanks to the many high-speed bumps and kak roads. For the pleasure of no direction, no sightings, no support or security. Whatever you do, don’t visit Parque Nacional do Limpopo – Limpopo National Park, the name is misleading, the experience is bad and the association with our national park is embarrassing!

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