Mikumi National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:03 pm
Jun 232011

We left Ruaha and headed back to Iringa, where we stayed at the Riverside Camp. A number of other travellers also turned up and we spent a nice night gathering information for our onward travels and sharing what we knew. I managed to sleep in until 8am, we had fried eggs on toast for breakfast which made a welcome change to cereal and finally we left about 11am, the latest we have ever started the day.

Tan-Swiss Camp in Mikumi was our stop for the next 2 nights. It is just outside the national park, so is very conveniently located. We spent the afternoon relaxing and ate in their restaurant both nights we were there which is a bit of a treat these days.

The road is now the main road from Dar Es Salaam and it has become crazy. There aren’t nearly as many people on the road, but there are loads of suicidal buses and trucks. The number of trucks that have crashed off the road into the ditch or rolled is incredible. There must be so many drivers killed. We try to stay away from them as much as possible and always assume they are not going to do the most logical thing that you’d think they would. Apparently the road has become the main road for goods into Zambia as the railway is no longer running, as well as a major route into Malawi and across to the Congo.

The main road transits through Mikumi National Park, so you can see wildlife along the side of the road. We saw giraffe, impala and baboons just on the side of the road. When we were in Etosha we thought there were a lot of giraffes, but it was nothing compared to how many we saw in Mikumi. There were groups of 30 odd all moving along together, which was an awesome sight. We saw a group of 4 lions lazing in the morning and then we saw, we think, the same group again in the afternoon except there were actually 5 of them and we parked about 3 metres from them and watched them for a while hoping they would get up and move. As we were driving along one of the roads in the thick bush out popped a Serval, then a couple of hundred metres further on another one appeared and then I think a third one crossed the road a short time later. That is the first time we have seen them, and given they are nocturnal and this was at lunchtime we were pretty impressed! Our wildlife sightings also included a huge herd of buffalo, warthogs, impala, an eland, loads of zebra, baboons, jackals, elephants, a bushbuck and hippos.

Mikumi National ParkImpala, Mikumi National ParkWildebeest, Mikumi National Park

Whilst in the park we took some of the less travelled roads. One of them though was a bit of a disaster. Firstly the road started to fall away at the sides due to erosion until there was no longer physically enough room for our tyres to fit so we had to reverse out of there and bypass it. Then the road  started to become more overgrown when I told Wayne there was a huge hole on the left, to which he replied ”is it a wheel rut”.”Yes but it is huge” was my reply, next second our wheels were in it, the car was on a huge sideways tilt with the right wheels barely touching the ground and we were stuck! I had to climb out the driver’s door as I could not open mine, the track was only as wide as the car and there was thick grass taller than the car on either side. By now I was having a slight panic attack as being stuck in a national park, in thick grass when you know there are lions and elephants around is not the most enjoyable experience. We both looked at the car and thought we were going to be there for ages. I tried standing on the right side of the car to get traction on the wheels, but that was no good. We swapped and I got in the driver’s seat and Wayne went to the passenger’s side and using the roof rack (which was below his shoulder height now) he pushed the car over and the wheels got enough traction to get us out – thank goodness! It probably only took us 5 minutes and we were both VERY relieved to be out. We continued on a bit further but the road got worse and then there was a river crossing that had just crumbled and we decided to turn around. Wayne got out and guided me backwards for some distance until I could finally do a 500 million point turn and get the car facing in the right direction and we eventually made it back onto the main drag.

Mikumi National ParkLion, Mikumi National ParkBuffalo, Mikumi National Park

Our last night at Tan-Swiss there was one other person camping, a single guy on a motorbike. He was lighting a fire and was using petrol to do so. The jerry can was standing beside the fire and next thing a spark landed on the still open jerry can, which then exploded. The guy tried to move the jerry can and in doing so got quite a nasty burn on his hand. The fire was now all along the ground heading for some outdoor furniture so he came and grabbed our fire extinguisher to put it out (Wayne was on the roof of the car undoing the tent so had to tell him where to find it). I missed it all though as I was in the loo, I just heard the commotion outside. We got talking to him after dinner and he told us that the police had come through earlier and told him not to worry, they were just going to fire some bullets into the bush as there was a thief in there! He was a very interesting guy as he was a documentary maker who had been up in the Sudan, Ethiopia region for some time filming the wars going on. Some of the stories he told were fascinating yet horrendous. No wonder he had had enough and was heading back to South Africa and getting away from the war.

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