In 2000 the idea was born to arrange tours for Land Rover Series vehicles only. Three of us did a tour to Liuwa Plain N/P in Barotseland, Western Zambia the previous year using only Series vehicles. It was such a fantastic adventure that I decided to arrange a similar trip for drivers of older Series type (pre 80's) Land Rovers who share a similar passion. I invited pre-80's Range Rovers along. The idea was to visit a cross-border offroad destination, which demanded complete self sufficent travel, and which wasn't too far. I decided on northern Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, identified a suitable weekend, then mailed an invitation to the za-lro mailing list. I was completely surprised by the response as enthusiastic confirmations came in. I initially planned on a cut-off number of 8 vehicles but had to push it up to 12 as some folk simply didn't want no for an answer. :-)

Date: 26 April to 1 May 2001

Distance (from Pta and back): 1850 Km's


Jaco Rautenbach

Land Rover Series III Hardtop

(LR 2.6 S/V)

Hennie Rautenbach

Land Rover Series III Hardtop

(Chev 4.1)

Jacque Fernihough

Land Rover Series III S/W

(LR 2.25P)

Paul Snyman

Land Rover Series III S/W

(LR 2.25P)

Dave Immelman

Land Rover Series III SWB

(LR 2.25P)

Johan van Staden

Land Rover Series II H/T


Shaun Callaghan

Land Rover Series III S/W


Alan Cotton

Land Rover Series III H/T

(2.5 td)

Brian Cotton

Land Rover Series III H/T

(2.5 td)

Vaughn Cleminson

Land Rover Series III S/W

(2.5 Chev)

Manie van Eeden

Land Rover Series III H/T

(3.0 V6)

Bibi Whittle

Range Rover


Our roughly planned itinerary was:

Thursday 26 of April. 05H00. Meet at Petroport north of Zambezi Drive, Pretoria. Drive from Pretoria to Messina (461 Km). Enter Zimbabwe at Beit Bridge border post. Stop and change currency to Zim $ at the BP plaza. Drive to the Elephant and Lion Motel "Bubi River" Zim (80 Km). Choice of accommodation between campsites and rondavels.

Friday 27 of April. 08H00. Drive from Bubi River to Rutenga (56 Km's). This is the last fuel-stop where we will try and fill everything. From here we take the dirt road east to Gonarezhou (+- 150 Km)(This route is 150Km's shorter than the tar road via Chiredzi). It is slow, corrugated, rough going and will take some time. We'll book in at Gonarezhou (a very slow process which sometimes takes hours, please exercise patience) and drive through to Chipinda Pools where we'll camp for the night. There are hot-water ablution facilities at Chipinda Pools. We'll be entertained with the grunts and bellows of many hippos’ while we watch the elephants come down to the water to drink. Chipinda Pools gets visited by a resident hyena so don't leave any food/valuables out in the open. Be very careful of crocodiles next to the riverbank.

Saturday 28 of April. 09H00. Drive from Chipinda Pools to Lisoda (a bush camp in the northern parts.) Half the group would stay over at Lisoda and half at Chitove. There are no ablutions other than a field latrine at these camps. Getting there would entail a scenic 4x4 drive through various riverbeds that are very wet that time of the year. The rivers will have lots of water (+- 120 Km). Might be a challenge of note. We might have to take alternative routes to get to Lisoda, Chitove. The scenery along the banks of the Runde River is spectacular. We'll stop to make lunch at the Fishans Picnic site where there is a beautiful view of the Chilojo Cliffs.

Sunday 29th of April. 09H00. Drive from Lisoda and Chitove camp back to Chinguli camp where we sleep next to the "potholes" that evening (+- 75 Km). There are hot-water ablutions at Chinguli.

Monday 30th of April. 08H00. Drive from Chinguli back to Rutenga. Drive to Messina and stop for lunch at Bubi River. We can sleep over at the "Big Boabab" Caravan Park or "Aventura Tshipise".

Tuesday 1st of May. Take a leisurely drive back to Pretoria.

Most of the participants had to embark on all sorts of repairs ranging from gearbox rebuilds to suspension recon's to fitting additional fuel tanks etc. I helped Jaco with a complete 2.6 sidevalve rebuild which we only fitted into the vehicle and fired up 5 days before departure. The engine hadn't even done 200Km's when we embarked on the trip. My own truck received a new front diff casing, reconditioned gearbox, and many odds and ends to get her back into shape after some neglect. Manie van Eeden and Jacque Fernihough among other had extra tanks fitted. Paul Snyman's Landy got a new water pump and Brian Cotton did all sorts of repairs to leaks in his fuel tanks. In short, the weeks prior to trip saw some frantic activity and was mostly taken up by preparations and repairs to the vehicles. These trucks should now be able to do a trans-African journey without any problem.

The day prior to our departure I received a call from Shaun Callaghan who just had a gearbox failure on his Series III. This on a gearbox that was rebuilt not too long ago. Needless to say Shaun wasn't too happy. At the time I though Shaun wouldn't be able to make it anymore. He however rushed the vehicle to Mark Rademaker who immediately started the removal of the box to see what was wrong. Later the evening Shaun phoned me to let me know that they've found the problem and was busy fitting a "loan box" and that he'd miss the departure but will catch up with us. Now that's the spirit!

Thursday 26th of April:

I arrived at the Zambezi Petroport at about 04H30 suffering from a lack of sleep. Jaco was already there and soon after that Johan van Staden and the Cottons arrived. Everyone else arrived within minutes too. It was cold dark and quite a spectacle to see the old Landies lined up in "full battle dress" ready for the journey. The row of vehicles drew a lot of attention. Manie van Eeden was at the tail when we all started up and left in pre-decided pairs at 05H20. We received a "good wishes" call from Greg Mollink. Thanks Greg... :-)

Picture of my vehicle parked in front of Jaco's at the head of the convoy.

Our first designated stop was at the Kranskop One-Stop where we received a call from Manie van Eeden that he had some problems and have fallen behind a bit. Manie converted back to drum-brakes from a disk-brake conversion just prior to the trip and somehow the wheel-studs worked themselves loose. While the rest of the convoy drove on Johan van Staden and myself waited for Manie to catch up. Luckily the One-Stop had a workshop where we found a mechanic and soon they started repair with a welder to the loose studs while Johan and I drove on.

Picture of some of the vehicles at the Kranskop One-Stop. The sun just out.

At Pietersburg I started catching up with the rear-most guys. Manie phoned to let me know that he's just back on the road and have lost about 2 hours. The rest of the drive up the Beitbridge border post went fairly quick and uneventful. We stopped at the Ultra-City just before the border post to fill all our jerry cans and to change some ZAR's to ZIM$. Exchange 1 to 12. We also used the opportunity to stash away our meat and milk, which we thought, might be confiscated at the border post. Beitbridge is still the last bastion of bureaucracy and our crossing through didn't distract from it. Dave Immelman discovered that he'd left his vehicles registration certificate at the office in Jhb. A quick dask back te the police station in Messina to get a temporary certificate and he was sorted out. At about 14H00's we were in Zim putting all the meat back into the freezers. We waited for everyone to catch up and then drove on to Bubi River where we stopped briefly at Bubi Village. Here I showed some of the guys the tame giraffe and kudu they have there. We then drove the remaining distance to the Lion and Elephant Motel.

Picture of some of us parked at Bubi Village.

Some of the guys have driven directly to the Lion and Elephant and have found themselves campsites in the meantime. Everyone was settling in and started to unwind after a long day on the road. Jaco and me decided to reap the rewards of the terrible exchange rates and opted for bungalows instead of camping. We later had a swim, good braai and ended up in the pub where we left just before midnight. Much wiser the experience... :-)

Picture of my Landy parked next to our bungalow at the Lion and Elephant Motel. Look Ma, no dust (yet).

Friday 27th of April:

Our scheduled departure time was 09H00. After a good breakfast and packing up we drove to the campsite. Much to my surprise Shaun Callaghan was there busy packing up too. Our group was now complete. Shaun came in just after 23H00's the previous evening. Once everyone was packed we moved the vehicles into a rough circle for a photo and held a quick briefing to discuss the route. We'd first drive to the Kalahari Kiosk to buy some nice Eland biltong and then drive to Rutenga where we'll leave the tar and head due east.

Picture of the group in a circle in the campsite.

Picture of the lineup from the left.

Picture of the lineup from the right.

We left the Lion and Elephant and started our drive. Bought some biltong, bought some beers along the way and drove the terrible Rutenga/Boli road east. The road was corrugated something awfull. Not even deflating the tires helped. We rattled, we shaked, we bounced and our vehicles sucked dust. At the Boli/Chipinda Pools intersection we waited for the convoy to catch up. This is also where our fun started. A sign planted at the intersection warned that the bridge over the Runde was washed away at the 34Km peg. Some local folk suggested all sorts of alternative routes to get to Chipinda Pools on the other side of the river. Most of them entailed a fairly long drive back on the same terrible road we've just driven. Dave Immelman, Dave Cochraine and me decided to go investigate. We told the group to hang tight and if we stay away too long that they should follow. It was quite evident that the bridge had to be washed away because the road was in a terrible state. It was clearly no longer in use by vehicles. The closer we got to Chipinda Pools the narrower and more overgrown the track became. When we covered the 50Km's and reached the bridge our predicament was clear. There was just no way we were going to get to the other side.

Picture of the bridge towards Chipinda Pools.

Picture of the bridge from where we came.

It must have been some sight when she went. Fortunately there is an entrance to the Park at our side of the river too which was open and unmanned. We decided to drive back to the group to inform them of the news and make alternative arrangements. About ten kilometers back we encountered the rest of the convoy approaching us. We stopped and discussed the situation. No one felt like driving the alternative route to Chipinda and opted that we stay south of the Runde River in one of the bush camps. We turned around and the whole convoy drove back towards the bridge. While some vehicles stopped to have a look at the broken bridge some of us started our drive into the park. It was clear that no vehicles had been into the park for months. There were no vehicle tracks, the vegetation was lush and the tracks overgrown. Dave in the front picked up lots of grass seeds with his radiator.

I'm sure there had to be many elephants in the park as their evidence was everywhere. Fresh dung in the road and broken mopani branches everywhere. Unfortunately we didn't see any throughout the trip. While Dave Immelman, myself, Jaco and Alan Cotton drove on towards Chinguli the rest of the group had some "official" fun. A warden rowed across to our end from Chipinda side to fetch a person who was at our end of the river and who worked in the park. Johan van Staden went down the river bank to meet with him and explained to him who we were and what we were doing there. He rowed back to go fetch his paperwork. Rowed back again and collected the payment from those guys who were there. The rest of us were well on our way inside the park. The rowing business was very time consuming and the group started their drive into the park quite late. Time was now approx 17H00. The warden also demanded that we all be back at the gate the next morning to complete the payment of the guys who were already in the park and also to provide us with an official receipt.

In the meantime we were waiting for the group to catch up with us at various intersections without success. We marked our way and decided to head on so that we can reach the camp before sunset. It was up and down through washaways, overgrown tracks and past fallen trees. When we reached the camp I was shocked to see how badly neglected it was. The river had swept through it and due to the broken bridge no maintenance crews have reached it yet. Despite it's sad state it was on the waters edge with soft sand everywhere and lots of place for us to settle in. The ablutions and water supply didn't work at all. My front hubs were still unlocked and I promptly got stuck when I drove into the soft sand trying to reach a nice spot. I locked the hubs and just dug in deeper. Dave Immelman snatched me out and within minutes the rest of the group came driving in. Everyone tired and thankful that we've reached our camp.

Picture of me stuck as we drove into Chinguli. The sun setting.

Saturday 28th of April:

Johan van Staden told me about the meeting at the gate (which was quite a long drive back) and I suggested that we miss it and settle the payment when we leave the park as we'll exit through that exact gate. Johan felt that he had to honor the meeting and volunteered to drive to the gate. I collected the payment and Johan went on his way, keen to do a bit of game-spotting while at it. 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. In the process Vaughn Cleminson got stuck for more than 2 hours with Lily (the cow Landy). Jacque Fernihough and Paul Snyman managed to get through and drove onto Lisoda which they reached at 17H00 the afternoon. Johan van Staden (who was back now and who had settled the admin), Vaughn and Bibi Whittle decided to stay at Fishans camp, which had some nice shady trees. The rest of us decided to relax and use Chinguli as our base and explore from there. It was incredibly hot and humid and the day was spend mostly in the river, swimming, relaxing, performing essential repairs to vehicles and collecting driftwood for a spectacular fire that evening. It was good to be out there in the bush.

Picture of Dave Immelman tightening a wheelbearing.

Picture of us having a swim in the river amongst the crocs. Note Chilojo Cliffs in the background.

Picture of our campfire in Chinguli.

Picture of Dave Immelman pulling a log up the riverbank.

Picture of the sunset on the cliffs opposite our campsite.

We had a good braai that evening with many campfire jokes and went to bed late.

Sunday 29th of April:

Having had the whole previous day to relax our energy was restored. We decided to explore the park a bit towards the north. On the way out Shaun Callaghan's Landy gave some electrical problems, which with lots of enthusiastic help were soon sorted out.

Picture of Shaun's Landy just outside our campsite.

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.

Picture of the causeway. Note Dave Immelman's Landy in the far distance.

We decided to drive towards the water too and have some fun in the sand. The river wasn't deep but was flowing strongly and the surface was very soft. We decided not to attempt a drive through.

Picture of some of us parked in the soft sand near the water's edge.

Picture of Brian Cotton deep in the wet stuff. He got out all by himself.

Picture of Shaun Callaghan's very neat Landy.

Finished with our playing in the river we carried on towards Chilojo Cliffs.

Picture of the convoy as we head towards the cliffs.

It was still *very* hot and after some nice driving through the bush and through various riverbeds we reached the cliffs. We passed a large herd of waterbuck on the way. The view from the cliffs was spectacular. I would have loved to see the river in full flood from there.

Picture of the pinnacle at Chilojo Cliffs. View to the west.

Picture of Chilojo Cliffs. View to the north.

We decided to drive back to camp to enjoy another swim in the river. The heat was incredible. On our way back we met with Johan and Bibi who came to tell us that they will be staying at Fishans a second night. Back in camp was Jacque and Paul who had a good trip back from Lisoda. Everyone was in good spirits and we had a good laugh as Manie van Eeden dressed as a waiter took cold beers down to the guys in the river. Another late night with many jokes around the campfire followed. The highlight when we all crowded round Brian's sat-phone to phone our friend Paul Oxley to ask him if he can send us more beer. His cell-phone was on voice-mail which was perhaps a good thing. :-)

Monday 30th of April:

Our trip had almost come to an end and it was time to pack up and head home. Manie had lost the clutch on his Landy and we quickly replaced the master-cylinder seals.

Picture of Manie van Eeden's Landy.

The weather was overcast and pleasant for driving. We had so much fun that we were all reluctant to leave. Johan radioed us to let us know that they will meet us at the exit. The drive back went fairly quick and without any major incident. Manie had a battery bracket short and Jacque had a flat wheel on our side of the border. We bought cold drinks in Rutenga while we waited for the vehicles to arrive. Here Vaughn Cleminson, Carrie and 1 year old Emma left us to fetch Vaughn's 80 year old gran in Bulawayo. There is something poetic about fetching your 80-year-old gran in a Landy painted like a cow. I'm sure it doesn't happen too often. :-)

Picture of Vaughn and Bibi's vehicles parked at Rutenga.

We hit the border at 17H00's and the crossing went smooth as silk. At 18H00 we were the first to arrive at Aventura Tshipise near Messina. We all camped out on a large lawn and created quite a spectacle. Manie made a nice speech and handed me a fat carved hippo as a token of the group's appreciation. Thanks guys. Had a good braai and spend the remainder of the evening in the hot pool soothing the tired muscles. Went to bed after midnight.

Tuesday 1st of May:

We woke up to an overcast sky. It was my birthday and our trip was at an end. All to do was to head home. It was lots of fun and can't wait to do it again. A final word of thanks to all the participants who made it a very special trip and who were lots of fun throughout. Until the next one...