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Trip to Zim in Dec
05-05-2011, 01:00 PM
Post: #1
Trip to Zim in Dec
Hi All

We are back from our Zim trip.

It was really great. We all met at the Total just north of Pretoria on sat Dec 11at 5am, we were 4x syncro’s. Myself and Lindy in the 2.2td syncro, my parents in their 2.6 syncro, paul in his 2.6 Doka and Derek and his family in their 2.5 syncro.

We drove via Polokwane and Tzaneen to Kruger Park entering at Phalabora Gate. We drove up to Punda Maria as we were leaving SA at Pafuri. Game viewing was good with sightings of lion, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, kudu, nyala, bush buck to name the big ones.

The border post was quite busy but we were through in about an hour. Then we stopped at Pafuri “town” to view the ruins from the war. Next it was down to the Limpopo to see if we could cross the river near the border, unfortunately overnight rain had made the river too wide and deep to cross here. We the started to head towards Mapai to see if it was possible to cross there. We camped up a dry river bed in the bush on our first night in Mozambique.

Next morning we head down to Mapai. There is a make shift causeway and a ferry, home-made and costly at R 500 per vehicle. We walked the causeway paid our R50 toll to used it and I set off in the diesel. We made it across the one deep section, about headlight deep for 5 meters. Derek was next and stalled in the deep section, I managed to pull him out after about 3 attempts. Paul was next and made it over. My father radioed me to say that I must drive his syncro over, as he was a little nervous, so I walked across the river and drove his across, it spluttered in the deep section but made it through.

We now had to sort out Derek’s car, we pulled the plugs, removed the air-cleaner, drained the oil that now had approx 5 litres of water in the sump. After about 2 hours we had it running. We went for a swim in the Limpopo while Derek repacked his car. First adventure over, while we were fixing the car the river rose about 20cm. We had just timed it well.

Next stop would be Chicualachicuala on the Moz/Zim border, the road up is great and we cruised at 80km/h on a good gravel road. We stopped an bought a little fuel for Derek in the market, in 5 litre plastic cooking oil containers. He mixed 40 litres into the good SA fuel. We stopped for a cool drink at the Station which now is refurbished and has a hotel, really nice hotel run by a Zimbabwean farmer named Derek Lemmer. They have revamped the station building and made it as stunning as it was 10 years ago.

The Sango border post was slow, with us being the only vehicles to go through in more than a week. Every single person on the Zim side wanted to check our vehicles. We now headed up towards the Gonarezhou National Park and we saw an elephant within a kilometre of the border. We drove into the park and headed towards the only marked camp. When we arrived we were told the we needed to go to the main office to book in. The camp was really nice with chalets etc, all in fantastic condition.

We got to the main office and booked in, the campsite was at the main office, ablutions were ok with only one working toilet and 2 showers, we booked for 2 nights, the campsite overlooks the Nuanetsi River, we walked down and had a splash in the river with a smallish croc looking on from the pool in front of the camp.

The next day was really hot and we went for a drive to the view sights up the river, game was scarce but we did see elephant, eland, zebra and giraffe, as well as crocs and hippo. We also swam in the rapids in the Nuanetsi River. On the way back to camp it started to rain, not very heavy but just enough to cool of the heat. Derek was about a km in front of us and radioed that the camp site was destroyed, we all laughed but upon arrival saw it was true. A massive storm had ripped the camp site apart, our gazebo was a twisted wreck, trees were down and a branch had fallen on Derek’s Oz tent bending it slightly.

Derek’s family spend the night in the syncro, we moved camp our away from the trashed site and had a braai in the donkey boiler’s fire place. It continued to rain the rest of the night, we used the gazebo’s cover to make a make shift awning to eat under.

Next morning we packed up and headed north to Boli and towards Gonarezhou north. The road from Boli was potholed a full of huge mud pools. When we got the Runde River the bridge was washed away, there was a causeway about 3 km further downstream. We tried this but decided it was too deep to cross. Now we stayed south of the river having a picnic on the banks of the river. We then drove around the Chilojo Cliffs to the river edge again, here we set up camp for the night.

Next morning we decided to find a place to cross the river. After driving for a while we found a suitable looking place. We walked through to the other side, spend about an hour deciding on and marking the route with sticks.

I was first to try and cross, the river is about 120m wide at this point so fairly shallow with on waist deep section about 20 meters from the far side and a small island about 30m from the far side.. As I hit the deep section the diesel sucked water and stopped. With 15 meters to go I was stuck.

Paul was radioed to come and tow my syncro out. The ropes were a little too short so we added a piece of sisal rope to get enough length, as Paul pulled the sisal rope snapped. And Paul’s Doka spluttered and died. We managed to get in running again, now we tried to used the high lift jack as a winch to pull my bus nearer with no luck, we wasted a few hours on this.

Paul’s Doka had died again and we got my dad’s syncro to pull Paul out, Paul was driving and got my dad’s bus stuck. We are now 3x stuck syncro’s in a river with the 4th on dry land. We managed to start Paul’s Doka and used it to Pull my syncro onto the island.

We drained the water out the air-cleaner removed the turbo pipes, glow-plugs etc and cranked the water out the motor, by this stage the syncro had been wet up to the seats and even the fuse box had been submerged. Once it was back together it started. Paul and I decided we would tow my dad’s syncro out in tandem. We stopped in front of his syncro and hooked up to it. It hardly moved. By now it was up to the dizzy in water. Remember it is a 5cyl so that is deep. Paul’s Doka once again died, throttle position sensor had gone faulty. So we unhooked and I went onto dry land to check my syncro. All was fine with the syncro. By this stage Paul and I had spent about 12 hours in the river. My feet were raw from the water and the river sand. I was also sunburned so badly that my back was raw in patches, probably dehydrated and had a little sunstroke as well because I was shaking like a leaf.

We now had to pull both syncro’s out the river. But it was getting too dark and we did not want to be in a crocodile infested river too much at night. We jacked the Doka to be level and decided to leave the syncro’s in the river until the next morning and then get them out.

We braai’ed for dinner and Paul decided to sleep in his syncro in the river. At about 3 am the syncro fell of the high lift jack. As Paul was now awake he scanned the water with his torch and saw a few croc’s about 5metres away from the syncro, one even took a bird off the nearby island while he was awake.

The next morning I fired up the diesel syncro and went down to the water’s edge to start recovering the 2x stranded syncro’s. As I pulled away there was a loud thunk and the clutch was gone, thrust bearing had seized and come off the fork. So now we attached the rope to the front of Paul’s Doka and I would drive past slowly in “G” and Derek would attach the rope to my tow hitch, then I would accelerate and snatch Paul out. The first attempt Derek missed so I circled around and tried again, this time it worked. I managed to move the Doka about 5 meters, then I bogged down, we unhitched from the diesel and started it again in gear with a helpful push from my dad and Derek.

On the 3rd attempt we got the Doka onto dry land. We decided to get it running and Paul and Derek would go for help as my dad’s syncro was now in a huge hole from the current washing the and out from under it. And we decided not to try and pull it with no clutch on my syncro. Once Paul’s Doka was running, he and Derek went off to get help.

They managed to get to the Main camp where they found an tractor to come and tow the syncro out. In the mean time we had the batteries out the syncro and I was charging them with my bus, also running 2x fridge’s, so it stood idling for most of the day. My dad and I spend the morning high lift jacking the syncro to get it out of the hole. Well at least to get the motor out of the water, we dried everything and got the water out the cylinders and tried to start the car, with no luck. At about 2 pm we gave up. We were relaxing in the river a little later when we heard a diesel engine sound.

And on the far side bank a tractor appeared, I nearly cried with relief. We were saved. The tractor crossed the river and stopped in front of the syncro. We attached it to the syncro and pulled. The syncro moved about 2 meters and the tractor bogged down. We unhitched and managed to get the tractor out. About two attempts later the tractor had moved the syncro about 10 meters. The tractor driver then misjudged a turn and got the tractor stuck.

We spend about 3 hours digging under the tractor to free the tow hitch from the sand and high lift jacking the tractor. At 9 pm we gave up. Now we still had a syncro in the river as well as the tractor. I was past exhausted, with sore everything for a hard day and evening in the river, digging and highlift jacking the tractor to try and get it out..

We had dinner with the staff and they radioed the base camp for the 4wd tractor, bad news the driver would only be back at work the next day. About an hour later the radio crackled and the news came in that that the driver was back early. Unbeknown to us Paul had picked him up on the way from town after buying fuel. He had been walking back to work after his leave, about a 50km walk. At 11pm the 4wd tractor arrived.

He pulled the syncro out and onto dry land. What a relief. Now he had to get the other tractor out, he pulled and bogged down, but it did move, 3 attempts later it was free and across the river. We thanked the staff and they left just before midnight for their camp.

I spent the next morning stripping my dad’s car, air-cleaner off, plugs out, ECU out etc, while we waited for Paul and Derek to return with supplies and fuel from Chiredzi. They arrived at about midday. We ferried supplies etc over the river by foot. Derek then decided that it was time for them to leave and go home as the family were not enjoying the trip and all its trials and tribulations. We managed to get my dad’s syncro running after spending the whole day jumpstarting it.

Derek’s family spend the next 2 nights at the main camp, with Paul spending the first night with us. Paul was going the leave the evening we got the car running but just at dusk when we were crossing the river to go back to his Doka we saw a 3 meter croc in the pool in front of his car so we decided to stay on the south side of the river for the night. Paul slept in Derek’s Oz tent, and at 3 am he jumped up and into my folks car as 2 x male lions roared from about 20 meters away. They walked within 3 meters of our syncro, we heard nothing but the spoor was there in the morning.

The next morning we drained the fuel out of my dad’s spare take as there was water in it and he needed every drop to get to the next town. There was about 3 litres of water in the tank. And 13 litres of fuel.

Paul and I then went across to his car, while the rest packed up our camp. The river had risen once again. I returned and we all set off to the washed out bridge, as there was a small boat that could move supplies and fuel across the river for us. It was about 50 km of off road to the bridge, including some serious stream crossings and a steep rock section up to the plateau. And I had no clutch so driving was tricky. I missed one deep gulley and ramped through it in second gear. Slamming my right front shock through the rubber top mount.

Paul had bought 50 ltrs of diesel for me and 40 ltrs of fuel for my dad. This was put into the syncro’s and the containers returned. And all the rest of Derek’s equipment returned to him.

we were still a few litres short on fuel to make Triangle with my dad’s car, with help from the park staff we managed to buy another 10 ltrs from a local kid with a quad bike. This would give us just enough to make Triangle if we drove slowly.

We headed back to Boli and north to Triangle. On route we found a combi, but alas no thrust bearing, what a disappointment, clutch for was there but the bearing was gone. We arrived at Triangle Country club at 9:45 pm and they closed at 10 pm, so just in time, we looked like squatters after spending 5 days in the bush. We decided air conned chalets was the answer at $45 an night per chalet. After a nice shower we went to bed.

The next day we, started with a great $8 buffet breakfast at the club and then looked for fuel but there was none in Triangle, we tried Buffalo Range , none there either, my dad’s syncro was now below the red , so we managed to convince the garage owner to sell us 10 ltrs from his generator supply. This was enough to get us back to Triangle. At least we now had cell contact and phoned Paul in Cheredzi to bring us 40 litres of petrol for my dad’s car. We also did a bit of shopping at the local supermarket.

Paul was still looking for a thrust bearing for me in Cheredzi, he had a few leads on VW owners but nothing came to light. We decided to get him to Triangle so we could service the 2 syncro’s and head to Masvingo to look for a thrust bearing. We booked a chalet for Paul, and when he arrived we went and ate at the club restaurant, really good food at a fair price.

The next morning we serviced the syncro’s and refilled gearboxes with clean oil. Cleaned mud out from inside the cars. We decided the next morning we would leave early for Masvingo as it was two days before Xmas and we needed the parts and fuel. About 70km from Triangle Paul spotted a bay window bus next to a tavern, luck at last was looking on us. The bus was partially stripped but the motor and gearbox were still there. We negotiated to buy the thrust bearing for $15 if we removed it. We jack the bus up, took the motor out and found a really good 30 odd year old thrust bearing. We were getting there, now we could fix my syncro. The owner asked to see the part we needed, he put it in his pocket and said it was no longer for sale, this is after being paid and we spend 2 hours removing the motor to get it. Someone had told him it was worth way more than we paid plus transport plus this and plus that. I was furious and ready to kill. So I told him what he could do with the bearing and took my cash back.

We next stopped at The Great Zimbabwe Ruins and spend the afternoon relaxing and sight-seeing. This is really worth a visit. The campsite is also very neat but needs work as with most Government run camps in Zim. We walked up to top part of the ruins on the hillside and also walked to the main Ruins. They are really impressive.

Early the next morning we headed to Masvingo town and filled up with fuel and ate the Wimpy just outside town. Here I spoke to a farmer who took us into town to find a workshop that may be able to help us with VW spares. The guy knew what we needed but did not have the part. Paul and my parents were looking at the spares shops on the east of town while we looked on the western side. I stopped at the last one spares shop in town and still had no luck, they suggested I try the Toyota garage across the road.

As I walked to cross the road I looked up the road and to my disbelief there was a brazilia bay combi standing on the pavement half stripped for spares. I walked up to it and the motor was gone but there was a gearbox with a thrust bearing. I asked at the house nearby who it belonged to and they did not know. So I decided to acquire the thrust bearing. Desperation had set in at this stage.

We then went back to the workshop to see if we could use their floor and jack to remove the gearbox. It was fine so Paul and myself stripped the gearbox out, and replaced the thrust bearing, 3 hours later we were mobile and ready to go. The local mechanic could not believe what he saw as we started the syncro because his 3 staff had only removed a carb and half stripped it in the same time as we removed and replaced a gearbox.

It was 3 pm and we decided that it was best to do some milage towards Bulawayo. En route we decided to drive all the way to Bulawayo and we arrived at the municipal camp site in town at about 8:30 pm. We booked chalets unsighted and moved in, the chalets we dodgy at best but the had showers and toilets that worked, Lindy refused to sleep in the chalet and slept in the syncro as did Paul. I was so nackered I did not care, any bed would do.

The next morning we left to do the 400 odd km to Hwange National Park. We stopped at Halfwayhouse for a cool drink and then headed of the main road onto a small side road that was in a natural area next to Hwange. This area is a concession with a lot of game, we saw a herd of Sable and a few other buck and a lot of birds. Suddenly the road ended and we were in The Hwange Safari Lodge carpark, oops. They had a fuel station and my dad was a little low so he put in 30 litres, all they would sell as we were not guest’s.

About 10km down the road we entered Hwange NP. The road to Main Camp is tarred and in very god condition. Main camp is really well maintained and really great to stay at, ablutions are good but dated, the donkeys work and are maintained. We went for a late afternoon game drive and did not see much. It is really too wet for good game viewing. On the way back a termite emergence started near the road, we stayed and watched the birds feasting, there were plum coloured starlings, 3 or 4 different bee-eaters, hornbills, francolins, doves, small raptors all having an early Christmas.

It rained quite hard that night in camp but was overcast the next morning. Our next camp was to be Sinamatella. It was a long drive, but we saw elephants, lion, Giraffe, zebra, impala, sable, hippo, crocs and lots of birds. We arrived at Sinamatella at about 5:45 pm. Booked into the campsite. The camp at Sinamatella is on top of a koppie, the chalets and campsite overlook a large plain. It is very scenic and the location is stunning, the chalets are all well maintained but the campsite ablutions are terrible.

We had a nice Christmas Dinner in the campsite, all cooked on the skottle. Really good meal and ice cold bubbly.

The next morning we left for Victoria Falls, driving via Hwange town. It is nice to drive through a small town for a change, usually we just zoom past on the main roads. All the trapping of the colonial past are still there, country club, large mine managers houses, Hwange is a coal mining area. All of it still there but in total disrepair, what a waste as with most of Zimbabwe, great infrastructure going to waste.

Once on the main road, it was cruising time again and after a few hours of 100km/h we got to Victoria falls. The Town is run down but definitely coming right. We stayed at the campsite in town, not even 100meters from the town centre. It is really nice. Ablutions are new and clean and well maintained, the campsite is well grassed, with big shade trees. Lindy, Paul and myself went up to Spar for some provisions. Then Lindy and I walked down to The Falls.

It was really hot and a long walk, the price is a little high at US$20 per person for SADC passport holders, and $30 for any other countries, locals only paid $5. We walked to the view of the road and rail bridge that goes from Zimbabwe to Zambia. The structure is really impressive, they also bungi jump from it. The walk along the falls is really amazing and worth the money even if you only do it once. The rainbows are stunning and the “rain” is unbelievable, really cooling on a hot summer day. The local name for the Victoria falls is “ Mosi oa tuna”which translate means the smoke that thunders, and boy does it thunder with all that water falling over the cliffs.

On the way back to camp I bought some old Zim dollar notes including the 100 trillion dollar note. Great to be a trillionaire. The local salesmen harass all tourists for most of the time you walk anywhere. They try and sell curio’s, money, rafting trips etc.

Then next morning we got up early as Lindy and I had booked a day of rafting. My parents and Paul went across to Zambia to go and see my cousin who runs a Mission station along the Zambezi Gorge, just after rapid 14. We actually saw them at the top of the gorge while we were rafting. My cousins house overlooks the gorge.

The walk down to the start of the rafting was really hard, especially for some of the older people and the Chinese that were on the trip. We opted for the easy route going on an oar-boat, why pay and have to paddle 20km down a river. Sorry, done it 9 times before and this time was going to be the easy way. Cost’s the same just a lot less work.

This is something that one must do at least once, it is scary at times but also an adrenalin rush of note. The Chinese were really funny, in their smart clothes and windbreakers. Rest of us in costumes and t-shirts. About half the people did the half day trip but we had decided on the full day trip and for the extra $10 dollars it is worth it, $10 for half day, not such good value for money. After lunch some of the people decide to boogey board, this lasted one raid for the one guy and about three for the 2 ladies, they then joined us on the “ sunset cruise “ boat. They we exhausted from the morning “row” and the boogey boarding.

We swam through the last two rapids as they are really small. Our guide had a trainee with us and he managed to get us onto the wrong side of an eddy at the get out point. He spend about 30mins trying to get across the eddy with no luck. The guide asked me if I could row with him to get us across, I said I would try and after 5 mins we had made it, that is hard work.

The worst was still to come, the 300m plus vertical ascent of the gorge. It is really hard work, climbing over rocks and up make shift wooden ladders, but after about an hour we were at the top. Here they had ice cold beers, water and cool-drinks. Now just the bus trip back to town.

That evening we went to see the DVD of the rafting and ate pizza at the local backpackers. We headed home early as we were finished from the day on the “mighty Zambezi”. The next day was spend chilling at the camp site. My aunt and cousin came over from Zambia for the day. It rained for most of the afternoon but it was really welcome to break the heat.

Early the following morning we headed for Kasane and into Botswana. After having our veggies, fruit and eggs confiscated at the border we booked into Toro lodge campsite. Lindy and I went into town to get new veggies and eggs from The Spar in Kasane, it is fairly well stocked.

We now drove to Chobe National Park for a few hours. Here we saw fairly little game , but did see hippo, elephant, kudu, puku, red lechwe, and an African wild cat. We had booked the sunset cruise for the afternoon so our day in Chobe was cut short. While waiting for the cruise we had drinks at the Chobe River Lodge, 2 x ginger square’s cost R 140-00, a little steep. The Sunset cruise was amazing. We saw a hippo fight, from really close, giraffe, some huge crocs, kudu, warthogs, baboons and a fish eagle eating to mention a few.

Back at the campsite, we braaied and decided to have an early night as we were wanting to start the long road home in the morning.

Early the next morning we left for Nata, there were hundreds of elephants on the side of the road. At the first vet fence/ road block we were stopped and told no eggs allowed through the gate. So we stayed and cooked a five star breakfast with all out contraband food. We filled up with fuel in Nata and carried on heading south. The traffic in Francis town was terrible but we managed to get through. The locals drive really badly, overtaking on blind rises and solid lines without a thought. At one point I was behind a truck doing about 80 with a line of about 20 cars behind me, a local just pulled across from the back and stated to overtake, when he got next to me he realized that he was not going to make it passed before the oncoming traffic arrive at us, so he just started to come towards me. Sorry for him I did not give way and he had to do some sudden braking and get in behind me. After a while and at a safer point he passed us with his middle finger flying.

We made Palapye with enough time to fill up again and make the border. The queues for fuel were long but we all got enough and headed for the border. After a painless border crossing we headed to Bushman’s Safari campsite. It is small, but neat and better than average. After a braai for supper we crashed early again, as it was a long day ,driving over 750km.

The next morning we left early and decided to head to the Wimpy in Mokopane for a breakfast. This was great for a change, way better than the Wimpy in Masvingo. We all arrived home safely at lunch time.

The 2.2 td syncro gave me an average of 9.01 km/l on the whole trip, that is with speedo correction, on exact speedo ready it was 7.6km/l. the 2.6i syncro’s gave approx 6km / litre.

The trip was really great and I want to go back to Gonarezhou in the dry season. Most Zimbabweans are really friendly and helpful, the country is beautiful and fairly near to Gauteng for a trip.

Most campsites in Zimbabwe charge between $5 and $15 ppn, some are good value while other are not really. There are also $1 dollar tolls near each town in Zimbabwe.

Stuart and Lindy

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I may be a mechanic, but i can't fix stupid
Bad planning on your part does not make your issue an crisis to me
Bad workmanship by other garages does not entiltle you to better rates at me
Syncro, syncro , syncro and more syncro, this is the syncro way of life
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05-07-2011, 06:52 AM
Post: #2
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec

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No one ever ruined their eyesight by looking at the BRIGHT side!!
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05-07-2011, 07:45 AM
Post: #3
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
what are pichers?
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05-07-2011, 08:19 PM
Post: #4
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
Ons soek kiekies ;-)

Miles of smiles ;-)
Green ? a green Syncro , really ?
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05-11-2011, 08:32 AM
Post: #5
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
Here are some more pics, view theses first, else the are out of order,

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I may be a mechanic, but i can't fix stupid
Bad planning on your part does not make your issue an crisis to me
Bad workmanship by other garages does not entiltle you to better rates at me
Syncro, syncro , syncro and more syncro, this is the syncro way of life
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
12-09-2011, 12:26 AM
Post: #6
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
I just ha a read through this and really enjoyed it, I have stayed at the campsite you stayed at in Bulawwayo and the one at Vic falls too in 1997. That river crossing sounded a right drama Stuart :lol:


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12-09-2011, 07:59 AM
Post: #7
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
Zim is really great, we used to go every year in the late 80's and early 90's.

we want to go again next year, only to Gonarezhou. will probably be a 2 week trip. spending more time expolring the area where the Rundi and Save rivers converge.

Vic falls is starting to get back to the way it was in the 90's. rest of Zim is a little run down but still beautiful.

it is one of my favourite places to visit, there is really a lot to see.

I may be a mechanic, but i can't fix stupid
Bad planning on your part does not make your issue an crisis to me
Bad workmanship by other garages does not entiltle you to better rates at me
Syncro, syncro , syncro and more syncro, this is the syncro way of life
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Quote this message in a reply
12-09-2011, 09:45 AM
Post: #8
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
Have you ever done a trip up to Malawi?


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12-09-2011, 10:10 AM
Post: #9
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
No, Not yet, a place i would love to go to, but my folks did go there in 2010 with there syncro an a 3 month tour which included malawi. they now live in the UK, but are on there way to Switzerland for skiing and back to SA in early jan for 3 months of summer.

I may be a mechanic, but i can't fix stupid
Bad planning on your part does not make your issue an crisis to me
Bad workmanship by other garages does not entiltle you to better rates at me
Syncro, syncro , syncro and more syncro, this is the syncro way of life
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
12-10-2011, 05:36 AM
Post: #10
Re: Trip to Zim in Dec
Hi Stuart

I know its quite n old post but i must say i m glad yu guys had a good tym out there without n unneccessary dramma n u still hev a lot to say about my home country.

I hope also that things even get better so more people dont get discouraged, afta all it is infact a good destination for Holidays n the pple r indeed friendly as u noticed.

Ps did u know, u can also take a drive ryt up to the eastern highlands for some lekka scenery in Manicaland in the Eastern Highlands and u can still make a round trip back to RSA tHru Mozzie.

Wisshing yu an even beta experience in yo future trips up north.

Happy VWing
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