Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Go Buffalo!

In a previous issue we met DONNA and KEVIN KRUMMECK on their epic journey from Dundee in South Africa to Dundee in Scotland. This time they explore a little closer to home in their new home on wheels.

After fetching our custom-built Motorhome Overlanding truck from AC Motorhomes in Cape Town in October last year, we drove it back to the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal… along the back roads, over two weeks, getting the feel of it and how all the appliances, tanks and battery systems worked. It was a pretty mild run of about 4 000km, none of which required that we test the low range of the Buffalo – as our ride has been christened. Basically, it was a sedate and adrenaline free trip home.

After that, we had the decal made up and stuck on and put her into storage in Howick, while we worked through the ‘silly season’ and attended to the official handover of our business to my son and daughter-in-law since we officially retired at the end of February this year.

Since 2018, the Gonarezhou National Park in the southeastern corner of Zimbabwe, has been a bucket list destination that we just couldn’t manage to make happen. So, it was a natural destination for our first ‘proper’ trip in our new truck. We decided to drive there via one of our favourite places on earth, the Kruger National Park and entered the park at Crocodile Bridge, where we met up with friends and family and then slowly moved up through the park to the north, over three weeks.

The initial plan and dream were to exit the park at Pafuri into Mozambique and hopefully drive through the Limpopo River, up the cutline border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe and enter Gonarezhou through the Chicualacuala/Sango border.. We kept a close ear to the ground about the water level of the Limpopo and, when we realised that the river would just be too full to drive across, we started exploring options of crossing with a ferry at Mapai, about 90km further down river.

The problem was to find a ferry that could carry our sixtonne rig across. Through various connections we heard that there was, in fact, a ferry that would be able to take us. However, the information was too vague and unreliable, so we decided to rather exit at the Pafuri gate, cross into Zimbabwe at Beit Bridge and then drive up to Gonarezhou, entering the park in the north.

When we previously did our drive from Dundee in South Africa up to Dundee in Scotland in our Land Rover Defender, we made a point of not discussing border crossings, and the less said about Beit Bridge the better…

We eventually entered the Gonarezhou National Park at Chipinda Pools and what a surprise! The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful and made checking in a very pleasant experience. Just a note on taking an overlanding truck into the park: they do monitor the size and weight and although we were allowed in, larger rigs were denied access.

You can circumvent this problem by emailing them in advance and getting confirmation prior to arriving. (the responses are incredibly fast and professional). If you are driving a large rig, be prepared to pay an additional daily fee of USD20 for the vehicle, as compared to a paltry USD2 for normal sized vehicles.

We booked in for two nights at Chipinda Pools Camp, two nights at Chinguli Camp and one night in the south at Mabalauta Camp. All three camps are big-rig friendly. We were pleasantly surprised by how well maintained the campsites are and the ablutions were also way better than we expected. It’s obvious that the park fees are well spent and managed… kudos to management. The staff at all camps were amazing and need to be highly complimented.

All the roads we travelled in the park, are driveable and accessible with a big rig. At times we did go into four-wheel drive, but I’m sure we would have managed without. Low range is recommended for the causeway river crossings and river banks though. We got stuck on a riverbank and had to severely deflate the tyres, but this was mostly attributable to driver error.

The drive from Chipinda Pools to Chinguli Camp is challenging in a larger vehicle. Low-hanging branches and bushes obstruct the route and have to be carefully negotiated if you want to avoid too many scratches to your vehicle.

We had decided that we did not want to go home via Beit Bridge and made the decision to head to the south of the park and exit Zimbabwe at the Sango/ Chicualacuala border into Mozambique. We wanted to attempt the river crossing of the Limpopo before heading back into the Kruger through the Pafuri gate. We were told that it was a two-and-a-half-hour drive to do the 60-odd kilometres through Gonarezhou from Chinguli to Mabalauta, but this was not to be. The road is severely closed in by bush and trees and it took us eight hours of serious driving, sawing back branches and bushes and detouring low hanging trees. As a result, the Buffalo gained some serious character from all the scratches, otherwise known as ‘bush rash’. It was certainly a fun experience, but we recommend you rather leave the park and drive the gravel road before re-entering at Bolie, which will make it a substantially shorter trip.

Crossing the border from Zimbabwe to Mozambique was a painless experience and the drive from Chicualacuala to Mapai was on a fantastic tar road of 90km. From Mapai it’s about 20km of rough gravel road down to the Limpopo.

We were ever hopeful of being able to cross the river (either drive or ferry), but this was not to be. Due to the water levels the large ferry wasn’t able to take us across. So, we drove along the river in 4L for 15km, seriously contemplating driving across. Fortunately, brains overcame emotion, and we decided it just was not worth the risk. We decided to head back to the tar road and drive south towards Chokwe to cross via the bridge.

We made it just as the sun was setting and decided we would take the road from Massingir through the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park to enter South Africa and the Kruger at the Giriyondo border, just north of Letaba. After a rough tar road drive, we eventually pulled over into the bush at about 21:00 and had a good sleep before setting off again at dawn to reach the entrance gate of the Limpopo National Park at 06:00. The 68km road was horrendous and it took us four long hours, but it was so good to get back into the Kruger, where we spent another few nights before heading back home to KwaZulu-Natal.

It had been a memorable 5 000km trip in our magnificent Buffalo and we will soon be heading out again… this time to the Kgalagadi. Adventure calls!

Follow the travels of Kevin and Donna Krummeck on Facebook and Instagram: @TheBuffaloOverlander.

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