Boarder crossing pretty straightforward. Stopped in Mutare for food and fuel,a busy town and funny to hear everyone speaking English again! Very expensive, though, as there’s 40% tax on everything imported, which seems to be nearly everything. Headed for Chimanimani,taking a beautifully scenic route ,past the Vumba region .Roads good tar and for the most part, deserted.
Found ourselves a great place to camp called Frog and Fern, run by Dee and Jane, they also had some pretty little cottages,but being on a (strict) budget,opted for the tent again. Chimanimani has an unfortunate recent violent history. Michael says you must read “The Fear” by Peter Goodwin, (banned here) which provides details of the horrific events around the 2008 election. It’s strange to think that this took place in such a normal small village.
The scenery in this area is extremely mountainous, 2,000 plus metres and was the centre of the forestry industry, now dysfunctional, like the rest of Zimbabwe. The people, however are extremely friendly and welcoming with waves, whistles, cheers and thumbs up’s ,everywhere we go. The police road-blocks/average age 10, apparently wearing their Dad’s uniforms, have clearly been told to leave the tourists alone and simply wave us through.(that being said, it would appear their aren’t any other tourists, or not that we’ve seen!)
Continued South, through the mountains, then East to Masvingo and The Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site. On the way passed through an area of weathered Granite Inselbergs/ blooming huge rocks to you and me!! Amazing boulders ,balanced as if placed there by somebody, these of which Zimbabwe is famous. The most well- known being The Matopas hills further South-East, but we’re not going there so this will have to do…….anyway,there’s only so many rock photo’s a girl can take …..and I’ve taken a lot!
Spent the night at The Great Zimbabwean National Monument, camping on a lovely site and very reasonably priced at five dollars per night.
Next morning, we hired a guide called “Brighton”, a history under-graduate, on a year’s Intern ship as part of his course,which proved extremely worthwhile. A very bright guy, who was both interesting and informative. The layout of the site is quite incredible, massive stone walls with very narrow passages leading everywhere, clearly no fatties here,as you simply wouldn’t fit through the openings.
The Kings enclosure sits on top of a Granite hill with all sorts of chambers,levels etc, 350ft below,were a series of circular enclosures, housing huts for each of his two hundred wives. Separated from the Great enclosure a 250 metre circumference, 11 metre high perimeter wall which was home of wife number one. This includes numerous other walls and the stone pillar you may have seen. The whole place was abandoned in 1450, no-one really knows why,although it’s thought the empire was based on trading Gold and other artefacts as far away as China, so it’s possible the trading shifted or it was simply unsustainable.
Fascinating and mysterious, well worth the visit.
Having left there we headed to Mushandike Sanctuary, a small park,with a lovely lake,fantastic setting and must have been extremely busy back in the day, but once again we were the only ones there.
After a couple of day’s doing washing and other chores,we set off towards Matusadona NP. We drove for several hours(9 in fact) far too long ,but could find nowhere to stay, any camps on the GPS have clearly shut down some time ago.
Feeling very tired and getting extremely ratty(mainly with each other)we finally came across the junction for Matusadona and a policeman hitching a lift. We piled him into the back and carried on.
His name was James, very nice and chatty, he had to reach his home 30 k away, a small village called Chikyro and as it was in our vague direction, we were more than happy to help out.
Along a dirt road, we finally reached James homestead just as it was getting dark,so grateful was he for the lift,he said it would be possible for us to camp on his land, this was a huge relief! Introductions to the family were made to his wife,five children his sister and her children and later his father. After some good chats about their life in Zimbabwe ,James wife fed us some boiled mealie cobs and sugar cane (or something similar) and we retired to bed-exhausted, it has to be said.
The family seemed to have a very well organised set-up, consisting of five circular wattle and daub thatched rooms, two being kitchens and two living /sleeping areas, a chicken coup and housing for five donkeys, all very neat and orderly. The children were delightful and had treated us to some funky dance moves Tonga style!
Up at 6:30 the following morning,the children said there goodbyes before school,sadly, all we could offer were some pencils and sweets. It was lovely to spend the evening in such a traditional way,with a warm and hospitable family.
On arrival at Matusadona, the rangers told us the roads in the park had been washed away and bridges down, so we abandoned the idea and left for Mana Pools a bit further East (250k) along a dirt road,very remote,we didn’t see another car all day, but was mainly heavily wooded savannah. For much of the way we were travelling along the escarpment of The Zambezi Rift Valley-all very African and jolly! No towns or even villages along the way. Finally joined the main road up towards Zambia, 90k further we reached the park dropping down through stunning scenery to The Zambezi proper, quite spectacular.
Picked up two ladies and offspring at the entrance gate,who were after a lift and continued 80k through the park to a camp-site right on the banks of The Zambezi. Camp sadly quite run-down like most here, a shadow of it’s obviously former self,but superb setting nonetheless. Hippo and Hyena wandering about, one of whom tried to nick our food box,Michael is at war with the monkeys and our only neighbour informed us Lion had walked right passed us in the night roaring away, but we heard nothing,although we did hear a shot the next morning which the rangers fired to scare it away from the nearby staff accommodation!
Went on a drive this morning,didn’t see anything unusual,but it’s definitely 4×4 territory only,if you’re precious about your car don’t come here!
We knew it wasn’t the best time to come here as it’s overgrown and difficult to see animals,but it’s a nice place to be all the same.One beast we saw lots of was a thing we called green meenies. At night they came towards us in droves seemed to particularly like emma – not mutual – i had to keep picking them off everything all night while emma tried to avoid them by standing on a stool
Oh and Laura, we finally saw some REALCreasted Guinea Fowl, although I’m nor sure it counts for you to tick them off in your book!!
Having left Mana Pools,We visited Lake Kariba, after the dreadful roads in the park, The Blue Beast had developed a serious juddering problem once again. A helpful guy called Philip who worked for Zimbabwe NP recommended another called Alex who fixes all The Parks Defenders, based in Kariba, so off we juddered in search of Alex. After some time searching we tracked him down and he kindly agreed to come to our camp-site, having established the Pan-hard bushes had completely worn. He arrived complete with bushes, ten tonne hydraulic press and set to work with Michael as his assistant, no mean feat as this is in the middle of nowhere!
After much effort and a test drive, the Beast was declared fit and well once more, I hardly dare say it but he’s been performing quite well of late.
Paid a visit to Kariba Dam, a massive128 metres high and 260 metres wide,but not gushing when we were there. The Lake is also pretty impressive and beautiful with the mountains beyond.
Next day was an extremely long one,passing through Harare (the capital) and onwards towards Tete. No camping around Harare, obviously, so continued for some considerable time before finally seeing a camp-site sign advertising “The Village Place” we drove a few km along a dusty track and ended up in some sort of paradise rather bizarrely. A family run business, consisting of Chalets, restaurant and several bars with swimming pool and spotlessly clean loo’s and showers ( I would just like to mention, it’s been a while since we’ve seen any of them) The owner was a Zimbabwean banker in Harare, who has travelled the world quite extensively,,so I guess this could have something to do with the facilities!———–but what a find, especially when it’s getting dark(as it does at 6:30) it’s started to bucket down and your starving!
Left early, travelling along The Tete Corridor,a busy main route, which links Zimbabwe to Malawi,via a narrow slice of Mozambique. Two border crossings, one visa,one car insurance and two tickets for minor driving offences later,we arrived back in Malawi,with five minutes to spare until they closed the border. Next problem, to find somewhere to bed down,once again it was nearly dark and the border towns are always extremely busy and highly populated ,so feeling shattered after 400kms on the roads some of which were badly potholed, hence the bad timing,we started to look for a good wild camping spot.
I saw a sign to “camping”, we felt relieved, but not that hopeful, but set off up the dirt road anyway and continued for 16km, but still no sign of anything and about to give up we spotted a light in the distance,certainly the only one for miles around and just kept heading for it. We eventually pulled up outside what turned out to be a huge Lorry depot. The security guards there said they hadn’t heard of any camping,but understood we just wanted to park up for the night and let us camp outside the entrance. How grateful were we!————-After half a Papaya we went to sleep.
As the new web album thing seems to be working i have posted all the photos in various albums on the blog photo page – hopefully makes things easier for all.