If we thought that the day driving from Antelope Park to Mana Pools was a long one, then we were sadly mistaken. Although that day had been longer in terms of kilometres, the day to Tiger Bay was across the most appalling roads and so took hours longer, eventuating in what no-one wants to do in Africa - drive after dark. On top of that one of the cars was having alternator problems and so was lacking a functioning battery to start the motor, use the radio or power the headlights.
We drove the 80kms back out of the park on the usual dirt roads back to the bitumen highway and climbed the Zambezi Escarpment with its expansive views back over the floodplain to the mountains in Zambia beyond. At a little whistlestop settlement called Makuti we refuelled, bought a few things in the little store choosing from amongst its meagre offerings and spend a few dollars at the roadside souvenir stall with its soapstone and wood carvings, jewellery and toys. Anyone who knows me well will not be surprised to learn that I bought a piece of petrified wood as my souvenir!
After turning off the south-bound highway at Makuti, we started west along a path that would take us along the southern side of Lake Kariba.
There was no direct road to go west here - no highway, no bitumen and certainly no maintenance on the roads. We turned onto this track and that, weaving through some of the remotest countryside we have ever been in. Tiny settlements, sometimes large enough to be called villages, housed a few people in neat and tidy, round, thatched-roofed houses gathered around in a spotlessly swept dirt compound. Sometimes a few vegetable plots or maize fields were evident; sometimes a few chickens roamed around. There always seemed to be lots of kids everywhere and they waved enthusiastically with the biggest smiles despite our covering them in a shower of dust as we passed!
We finally reached a 'main access road' (as it was euphemistically labelled on the map) towards the north and the southern side of the lake. This 'main road' deteriorated to a goat track in many places with ruts and potholes and washaways and creek crossings … and then it would get worse. More than once we had to engage low range with our speed down to less than walking pace for long stretches. As dusk approached we knew we wouldn't get to Tiger Bay by nightfall. This became a problem for Howard and Lyn with no headlights and they hugged close to the car in front of them whose hazard lights helped a just a little in the dark.
The last stretch into Tiger Bay Lodge was through the narrowest road yet with thick bush encroaching the road on both sides. It seems people arrive at the lodge by water and so this land approach is seldom used.
We also though we were staying in some ready-erected tents but, as is common in Africa, there was "a problem". But the outcome was a good one: we were all upgraded to an individual thatched-roofed bure with big beds, an en-suite and mozzie nets, completely open at the front to look out over the lake!
Since we weren't camping, dinner was the next problem to overcome. The lodge had some fish but not much else, so we emptied our larders, handed over potatoes, tomatoes, onions and capsicum and were dining, courtesy of the cooks who were still up, on fish and chips and salad. And the local fish was absolutely delicious!