Africa


The next day – after dropping annie off at the airport for her 30 hour flight home to brisbane! We took Dean’s gardener Robson out to his village with a huge pile of building scraps. Dean’s family had given these to Robson after renovating their front deck. The drive out took about an hour and a half arrving – unfortunatley for us – at the hottest part of the day… As we arrived we were greeted by the whole family led by the running smiling kids and followed by a very happy (clapping) ‘gogo’ Robson’s Mum. GoGo is shona for Grandmother – this gogo is in her late 80’s with only two teeth and not a word of english. In shona when you are greeted or thanked they take their two hands and clap in front of thier chest once or twice, in our case I think she was very grateful as she was clapping, dancing on the spot and nodding vigerosly everytime she saw us! The kids in Robsons village we’re a delight, they love to have their photograph taken and then view it on the screen. At one stage I showed them how to take a photo and gave it to them to take thier own photos, they came up with some georgous picutres which I later printed out for them.

After unloading the truck we were thanked with freshly picked corn (mealies), tomatoes, mangoes and the real treat of prickly pear (so yummy!) and some native berries that suck all of the juice from your mouth! The plot of land that Robon has is small but as the family has grown the communal land that they own is now considerably large and plesantly shady. Covered by Mango trees, mulberry trees, and the native berry fruit tree (I can’t remeber what it is called…). There are fields full of maize and tomatoes, an area for cattle and even a family cementry. All of Robson’s siblings, bar one, have died in the last few years from different illnesses that are sadly far too common in africa; aids and aids related illness, malaria, and poor health.

One of the things that strikes me the most about the people in zimbabwe is the zimbabwean nature… they are unlike any other afican I have met. They are humble, kind and generous and they always have a smile and a wave for you. Considering the poverty that they have suffered, especially in the last 10 years or so, the crime rate is no where near as bad as you would expect, they seem to have a deep understanding of what is happening around them and despite their suffering they have a hope and grace about them that brings a stillness to the mind. In the rural areas they are a very neat and organised people. This you first notice as you drive along the roads and peer out at the people selling their wares. The maize is always stacked into a pattern or sculpture, the tomates are piled neatly into little piramid shapes and the bowls of fruit are always neatly and artistically arranged. But it is only until you visit their villages that you really start to notice how much pride and care they take of their few belongings. The sand on which you walk on around their cicular huts is swept into patterns, the kitchen hut (generally placed in the middle of the village) has polished concrete, cleanly swept and wiped, and both hand made and new pots, positively shining, are neatly stacked against the wall. The fire place in the middle of the kitchen you can hardly tell ever held fire except for the tell tale smoke discolouration that lines the underneath of the thatch roof.

I wish that all the bad people could be sifted out they way that they sift the husks off of the wheat, those with no dignity or respect, being whisked away by the breeze. I wonder then what zimbabwe could become. Both whites and blacks in zimbabwe are amoung some of the nicest people I have ever met. I honestly hope that one day it becomes what it is meant to be…

before I begin, I just would like to express thanks from both Matthew and his father Sam to all those who helped with the fundraiser in 2007 for Sam’s heart operation… He recovered well and is still able to farm in his late 80’s.
Chitungueza is located on the outskirts of harare and up until recently has been violently subject to the ZANU-PF manipulations, resulting in many people having to flee thier homes. Matthew, for those who don’t know, is a musican who performs with political band. In 2007 they were banned from zimbabwe as thier music was too political. In this same year a group with the lead singer sporting long dreadlocks stepped too finely over the political line – the government ordered all dreaklocks to be banned. If you we’re seen with them they would take you and cut them off. In these years Emmanuals family was threatened multiple times by government officals and we’re eventually forced to flee to south africa. Matthew through his connections with his band went to europe where dale and I worked (to no avail) to get him refugee status there. After a year of much frustation at the system and Matthew living on couches unable to work to support his family – he returned home – here he found his house had been burnt down and his wife and two boys still remained worried and peniless in south africa.
Matthew returned at a time when the MDC party had just been allowed into parliment and he was lucky enough to be able to present his case to the rural land committee (just neighbouring chitungueza) they understood his harships and gave him a new plot of land to build on for $22US a year. When I visited this year his house was almost finished and he has great plans to turn this plot of land into a music school for the kids of chitungueza. He wants to pull the kids that can’t afford school and school leavers that are unable to find work and teach them keyboard, guitar, bass guitar, mbira, djembe and vocals. Including him, there are four others who are willing to donate thier time to teaching the instrument that they know. Eventually his plans are to build a staged area for the kids to then put on alcahol and drug free family performances and to set up a small recording studio. His idea is to get the kids would otherwise fill their time with drinking and taking drugs and filling their time with teaching them musical skills and talking about what they want to do and what they can do with thier lives. To keep the project afloat Matthew wants to buy a communter bus to use part time for the music school and most of its time to hire a driver and join the flock of zimbabwean commuter buses. He also plans to have a chicken rearing program on the land for the pupils to partake in, as well as small sections of farm land.
On my return home I plan to write a grant for this project and do as much fundraising as I can. The benefits of this project are far reaching and it is an amazing oportunity for him to make a difference to the lives of many zimbabwean kids and subsequently thier families.  If you want to help with this project or at anytime donate money or fundraise send me an email and we can make a plan!

Chitungiza is located on the outskirts of harare and up until recently has been violently subject to the ZANU-PF manipulations, resulting in many people having to flee thier homes. *Matthew, for those who don’t know, is a musican who performs with a band. In 2007 they were banned from zimbabwe as thier music was too political. In this same year a group with the lead singer sporting long dreadlocks stepped  over the political line – the government ordered all dreaklocks to be banned. If you we’re seen with them they would take you and cut them off. In these years Matthews family was threatened multiple times by government officals and we’re eventually forced to flee to South Africa. Matthew through his connections with his band went to Europe where Dale and I worked (to no avail) to get him refugee status there. After a year of much frustation at the system and Matthew living on couches unable to work to support his family – he returned home – here he found his house had been burnt down and his wife and two boys still remained worried and pennyless in South Africa.

Matthew returned at a time when the MDC party had just been allowed into parliament and he was lucky enough to be able to present his case to the rural land committee (just neighbouring chitungueza) they understood his hardships and gave him a new plot of land to build on for $22US a year. When I visited this year his house was almost finished and he has great plans to turn this plot of land into a music school for the kids of Chitungueza. He wants to teach the kids that can’t afford school and school leavers that are unable to find work musical skills. Including him, there are four others who are willing to donate their time to teaching an instrument. Eventually his plans are to build a staged area for the kids to then put on alcohol and drug free family performances and to set up a small recording studio. To keep the project afloat Matthew wants to buy a communter bus to use part time for the music school and most of its time to hire a driver and join the flock of zimbabwean commuter buses. He also plans to have a chicken rearing program on the land for the pupils to partake in, as well as small sections of farm land.

On my return home I plan to write a grant for this project and do as much fundraising as I can. The benefits of this project are far reaching and it is an amazing opportunity for him to make a difference to the lives of many Zimbabwean kids and subsequently thier families.  If you want to help with this project or at anytime donate money or fundraise send me an email and we can make a plan!

*Names have been changed

By Sophie

Hello from Zimbabwe!It’s Annie here. I realise I said to keep an eye on deanloades.com for the adventures of the group, and also that deanloade.com has been somewhat quiet since I got here. Apologies. We have been (a) very busy, and (b) busy in places that don’t have internet, let alone a powerpoint, so Dean has fallen a bit behind. In an effort to give him a hand, here is an entry from me…its deanloades.com, annie style.
So Africa hey. What can I say? It’s different, and slow moving, and extreme, but very pleasent and totally aweome. Zimbabweans, both black and white, are lovely people and Dean’s family are so hospitable and caring.
I wont go into detail on what, where and how we have been doing things, Dean is onto that. But I shall give you a highlight of today, which just happened not half an hour ago. Infact it’s a good example of how nice Zimbo’s (Zimbabweans) are.
We are currently on a road trip back from Mozambique, where we spent new years on the beautiful beaches there eating copious amounts of sea food, mmmm. We are now heading to Bulawayo. We spent three nights in the Chimanimani Mountains, and have been to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins on the way, but I am sure Dean will have more to say on those subjects, so I’ll leave you in suspence. Anyway, we just stopped for fuel in Msvingo. While we are stopped at the station a lady and her son asks if we would like to buy some mangoes. We say how much, she says one dollar each, we say ok, we’ll have three. Meanwhile her son pops around the other side of the car with his tray, he looked about sevenyears old. We picked some ripe ones out of his tray and pay his mum. He gives us a big happy and embaraseed smile and sophie and I melted. Sohpie asked him his name and he says “my name is Terrance” and looks very embarased. We say thank you Terrance and we were all smiles. A minute later he turns up brandishing another mango and saying “parisa”! The fuel station guy says that means ‘for free’. He gives us one of those simles and soph and I melt again. It was so sweet.
So Soph and I head into the super market, high-fiveing Terrence as we go past, which was aparently very funny according to all the people hanging around. While we’re in there we buy Terrence a chocolate bar and give it to him when we get out. He was so chuffed, we get a low-five this time, then he runs off to show his mum and it falls out of the bottom of the packet and onto the ground, but he doesn’t mind and we all laugh. I think it made both of our days.
Anyway keep an eye out for more stories, and if they don’t get here before I get home you just have to hear them straight from me. I think that’s a better deal anyway cause I’ll do them with all the voices and the actions.
Peace out, Annie.

Hello from Zimbabwe!

It’s Annie here. I realise I said to keep an eye on deanloades.com for the adventures of the group, and also that deanloade.com has been somewhat quiet since I got here. Apologies. We have been (a) very busy, and (b) busy in places that don’t have internet, let alone a powerpoint, so Dean has fallen a bit behind. In an effort to give him a hand, here is an entry from me…its deanloades.com, annie style.

So Africa hey. What can I say? It’s different, and slow moving, and extreme, but very pleasent and totally aweome. Zimbabweans, both black and white, are lovely people and Dean’s family are so hospitable and caring.

I wont go into detail on what, where and how we have been doing things, Dean is onto that. But I shall give you a highlight of today, which just happened not half an hour ago. Infact it’s a good example of how nice Zimbo’s (Zimbabweans) are.

We are currently on a road trip back from Mozambique, where we spent new years on the beautiful beaches there eating copious amounts of sea food, mmmm. We are now heading to Bulawayo. We spent three nights in the Chimanimani Mountains, and have been to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins on the way, but I am sure Dean will have more to say on those subjects, so I’ll leave you in suspence. Anyway, we just stopped for fuel in Msvingo. While we are stopped at the station a lady and her son asks if we would like to buy some mangoes. We say how much, she says one dollar each, we say ok, we’ll have three. Meanwhile her son pops around the other side of the car with his tray, he looked about sevenyears old. We picked some ripe ones out of his tray and pay his mum. He gives us a big happy and embaraseed smile and sophie and I melted. Sohpie asked him his name and he says “my name is Terrance” and looks very embarased. We say thank you Terrance and we were all smiles. A minute later he turns up brandishing another mango and saying “parisa”! The fuel station guy says that means ‘for free’. He gives us one of those simles and soph and I melt again. It was so sweet.

So Soph and I head into the super market, high-fiveing Terrence as we go past, which was aparently very funny according to all the people hanging around. While we’re in there we buy Terrence a chocolate bar and give it to him when we get out. He was so chuffed, we get a low-five this time, then he runs off to show his mum and it falls out of the bottom of the packet and onto the ground, but he doesn’t mind and we all laugh. I think it made both of our days.

Anyway keep an eye out for more stories, and if they don’t get here before I get home you just have to hear them straight from me. I think that’s a better deal anyway cause I’ll do them with all the voices and the actions.

Peace out, Annie.

After our short stay in Bulawayo we went to Matopos National Park which is nearby. It is an area filled with spectacular lichen covered granite kopies and wildlife. Its here that Cecil John Rhodes is buried, amongst yellow and orange boulders. That was where we stopped for sundown on our first night, its a beautiful spot to be buried. Under the rocks are hundreds of rainbow coloured lizards which come out when you whistle, so long as you have a few bits of food to throw them. The is also, interestingly, a little shrew who lives alongside the lizards. We remembered him from our previous visit three years ago.
Our visit to Matopos was funny in that fact that, without any conscious reference to our previous visit three years ago, we ended up visiting the exact same places, and they were not the easiest places to get to either. So, despite being entirely unoriginal, they were still very beautiful spots.
On the third day I was not feeling too hot so we headed back to Bulawayo and I was sent straight to bed, while the girls went for afternoon tea at the amazing Nesbit castle. It is a crazy old castle, built years ago by a prominent, yet very eccentric Bulawayo resident, and now restored with full medieval furnishing and operating as a very fancy hotel. When they finally got home from their tea and scones, Soph took my temperature and I had a fever. Maria quickly passed the diagnosis of probably malaria. Being something that is best treated ASAP, we picked up a treatment from the pharmacy first thing in the morning and set off back to Harare.

After our short stay in Bulawayo we went to Matopos National Park which is not far away. It is an area filled with spectacular lichen covered granite kopies and wildlife. Its here that Cecil John Rhodes is buried, amongst yellow and orange boulders. That was where we stopped for sundown on our first night, its a beautiful spot to be buried. Under the rocks are hundreds of rainbow coloured lizards which come out when you whistle, so long as you have a few bits of food to throw them. The is also, interestingly, a little shrew who lives alongside the lizards. We remembered him from our previous visit three years ago.

Our visit to Matopos was funny in that fact that, without any conscious reference to our previous visit three years ago, we ended up visiting the exact same places, and they were not the easiest places to get to either. But, despite being entirely unoriginal, they were very beautiful spots.

On the third day I was not feeling too hot so we headed back to Bulawayo and I was sent straight to bed, while the girls went for afternoon tea at the amazing Nesbit castle. It is a crazy old castle, built years ago by a prominent, yet very eccentric Bulawayo resident, and now restored with full medieval furnishing and operating as a very fancy hotel. When they finally got home from their tea and scones, Soph took my temperature and I had a fever. Maria quickly passed the diagnosis of probably malaria. Being something that is best treated ASAP, we picked up a treatment from the pharmacy first thing in the morning and set off back to Harare.

We spent a couple of nights in Bulawayo with my dad’s cousin Maria and family. It was so good to be sleeping in an actual bed again! Both nights were very festive, the last one involving a long session of drinking with my cousin John and his girlfriend Jenny which culminated in us sneaking into his old highschool for a midnight swim. Yes very mature I know.
We also had a wonderful long lunch with my aunt June and family.
During one of the days we visited the Art Gallery, which always has a lot of interesting stuff. They also have several small studios on site that they rent out to local artists, so we were able to go and meet some of the artists. Annie and Soph were very quick to make friends with some of them, with Annie keen to try and help them out by getting some of their work over to Australia. I think chatting to Annie they were a bit disheartened to learn that its just as hard to make a living from selling art in Australia as it is in Zim.

We spent a couple of nights in Bulawayo with my dad’s cousin Maria and family. It was so good to be sleeping in an actual bed again! Both nights were very festive, the last one involving a long session of drinking with my cousin John and his girlfriend Jenny which culminated in us sneaking into his old highschool for a midnight swim. Yes very mature I know.

We also had a wonderful long lunch with my aunt June and family.

During one of the days we visited the Art Gallery, which always has a lot of interesting stuff. They also have several small studios on site that they rent out to local artists, so we were able to go and meet some of the artists. Annie and Soph were very quick to make friends with some of them, with Annie keen to try and help them out by getting some of their work over to Australia. I think chatting to Annie they were a bit disheartened to learn that its just as hard to make a living from selling art in Australia as it is in Zim.

The drive out from Chimanimani was a long one but in comparison with Mozambique the roads were amazing and the scenery was nice too, with baobabs a plenty, kopjies, and little groups of the classic Zim thatched mud huts. THe huge arch of the Birchenough bridge came as a bit of a surprise after the kilometers of mud huts. As we approached Masvingo the GPS sent us on a scenic shortcut around Lake Kyle. 30kms of dirt road through what I sure would have been very nice scenery, had it been light enough to see anything. We finally arrived at Great Zim in the dark and set up our camp.
In the morning we explored the ruins and the museums, getting some interesting talks from the guides. The main attraction is the great enclosure. A complex surrounded by enourmous walls, a couple meters thick and probably 12m high, made from granite blocks and entirely without mortar. The ruins are said to have been left by the old Shona civilisation a few hundred years ago.
After having our fill of ruins, we continued on yet another long drive, this time to Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe.

The drive out from Chimanimani was a long one but in comparison with Mozambique the roads were amazing and the scenery was nice too, with baobabs a plenty, kopjies, and little groups of the classic Zim thatched mud huts. The huge arch of the Birchenough bridge came as a bit of a surprise after the kilometers of mud huts. As we approached Masvingo the GPS sent us on a scenic shortcut around Lake Kyle. 30kms of dirt road through what I sure would have been very nice scenery, had it been light enough to see anything. We finally arrived at Great Zim in the dark and set up our camp.

In the morning we explored the ruins and the museums, getting some interesting talks from the guides. The main attraction is the great enclosure. A complex surrounded by enourmous walls, a couple meters thick and probably 12m high, made from granite blocks and entirely without mortar. The ruins are said to have been left by the old Shona civilisation a few hundred years ago.

After having our fill of ruins, we continued on yet another long drive, this time to Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe.

Another one of my favourite places in Zimbabwe, the Chimanimani National Park is an area in the south of the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. It is a fairly small area of rolling grassy hills, bounded on the east and west by tall mountains of rigged weather carved stone. Throughout the park are numerous little streams running with crystal clear water, and many of the huge rocks strewn across the landscape have been carved out by weather to form caves, many big enough to off shelter. It is an amazing place to walk.
With Annie not being a happy camper like Soph and I, we planned for only 3 nights in the mountains. Even this amount of time she was a bit concerned about, but we assured her that it wouldn’t kill her. After the first day of hiking we reached Terry’s Cave, where we spent the next two nights. The cave is carved out of the underside of a huge boulder, amoungst many other huge boulders. Nearby is a beautiful stream of clear gold tinted water with pools big enough to bath in. All about the rocks are intricately carved by the weather. I could spend days just exploring all of the caves, crevices and huge deep chasms between the rocks. Our first night the rain comes down all night and the wind blows unrelentingly, but we are all very snug in our sleepingbags tucked in the back of the cave, thankful for the huge rock around us. The next day we spend exploring the area. In the afternoon the clouds came down again and we could see the rocky peaks poking out the the mist dramatically.
After two nights we set off northwards. This is a fairly flat walk through plains on which the strange gnarled rocks sit like sentinels, all the while the higher peaks loom above us threateningly. We pass a stunningly beautiful creek where the golden water runs over clean white rock, falling down into quite a deep cocacola coloured pool. We are compelled to stop for a quick swim here. At lunch time we reached our destination, Peterhouse Cave. There is a smaller cave here, right on the main river that flows through the area, the Bundi. Slightly downstream the river tumbles down into a large deep pool, this is Peterhouse Falls. The pool offers one of the best natural cliff jumps I have ever come across. The pool is wide and very deep, the depth making the tinted water appear black. On the one side a jagged wall of rock rises maybe 25m above the pool. Its from here that one can jump, with the waterfall thundering below. Although its quite safe (don’t try this at home kids), the dark, choppy, cold water, thundering waterfall and the ledge below that obscures your view of the landing spot, and the sheer height make it a very very scary jump. Its almost a spiritual thing for me now, I do it each time I go to the Chimanimanis.
The next day we hiked up out of the valley, past the beautiful Digby’s Pool. Here as in many of the other streams, the rock is washed clean by the flowing water, revealing seams of shiny metallic rock. Into the pool the water flows down the rock in a beautiful widening cascade. Up Up we went, past the National Parks Hut and onto the Moon plateau. Our path winds amongst more amazing carved rocks. Many of them have strange craters carved out of them, making them look very moon like. Other rocks stand in ranks of rocks all pointing up to a certain point in the sky. It could easily be a scene out of the Lord of the Rings. Its hear that naviagtion gets a bit tricky. There are a lot more paths than are indicated by our map. In the end we ended up going down the wrong pass and spending a lot longer getting back then we needed to. Nonetheless it was a beautiful trip with even Annie admitting that she really enjoyed it. We all had a shower before stopping at Chimanimani Hotel for a cooked meal.
Now all we had to do was drive the 3 hours to our next stop, The Great Zimbabwe Ruins.

Another one of my favourite places in Zimbabwe, the Chimanimani National Park is an area in the south of the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. It is an area of rolling grassy hills, bounded on the east and west by tall mountains of rugged weather carved stone. Throughout the park are numerous little streams running with crystal clear water, and many of the huge rocks strewn across the landscape have been carved out by weather to form caves, many big enough to off shelter. It is an amazing place to walk.

With Annie not being a happy camper like Soph and I, we planned for only 3 nights in the mountains. Even this amount of time she was a bit concerned about, but we assured her that it wouldn’t kill her. After the first day of hiking we reached Terry’s Cave, where we spent the next two nights. The cave is carved out of the underside of a huge boulder, amoungst many other huge boulders. Nearby is a beautiful stream of clear gold tinted water with pools big enough to bath in. All about the rocks are intricately carved by the weather. I could spend days just exploring all of the caves, crevices and huge deep chasms between the rocks. Our first night the rain comes down all night and the wind blows unrelentingly, but we are all very snug in our sleepingbags tucked in the back of the cave, thankful for the huge rock around us.

The next day we spend exploring the area. In the afternoon the clouds came down again and we could see the rocky peaks poking out the the mist dramatically.

After two nights we set off northwards. This is a fairly flat walk through plains on which the strange gnarled rocks sit like sentinels, all the while the higher peaks loom above us threateningly. We pass a stunningly beautiful creek where the golden water runs over clean white rock, falling down into quite a deep cocacola coloured pool. We are compelled to stop for a quick swim here. At lunch time we reached our destination, Peterhouse Cave. There is a smaller cave here, right on the main river that flows through the area, the Bundi. Slightly downstream the river tumbles down into a large deep pool, this is Peterhouse Falls. The pool offers one of the best natural cliff jumps I have ever come across. It  is wide and very deep, the depth making the tinted water appear pitch black. On the one side a jagged wall of rock rises maybe 25m above the pool. Its from here that one can jump, with the waterfall thundering below. Although its quite safe (don’t try this at home kids), the dark, choppy, cold water, thundering waterfall, the ledge below that obscures your view of the landing spot, and the sheer height make it a very very scary jump. Its almost a spiritual thing for me now, I am compelled do it each time I go to the Chimanimanis.

On our last day we hiked up out of the valley, past the beautiful Digby’s Pool. Here as in many of the other streams, the rock is washed clean by the flowing water, revealing seams of shiny metallic rock. Into the pool the water flows down the rock in a beautiful widening cascade. Up Up we went, past the National Parks Hut and onto the Moon plateau. Our path winds amongst more amazing carved rocks. Many of them have strange craters carved out of them, making them look very moon like. Other rocks stand in ranks of rocks all pointing up to a certain point in the sky. It could easily be a scene out of the Lord of the Rings. Its here that navigation usually  gets a bit tricky. There are a lot more paths than are indicated by our very simple map. In the end we ended up going down the wrong pass and spending a lot longer getting back then we needed to. Nonetheless it was a beautiful trip with even Annie admitting that she really enjoyed it. We all had a well deserved shower before stopping at Chimanimani Hotel for a cooked meal.

Now all we had to do was drive the 3 hours to our next stop, The Great Zimbabwe Ruins.

Chimanimani Hike
Chimanimani Hike
Part of Zimbabwe’s eastern highands, on the border with Mozambique
We were now in the Chirinda area. An area of absolutely beautiful forest. I found it to be similar to the Bvumba forest, but the canopy is higher, the trees bigger and older. Coming from the border quite late in the day we were keen to find a place to stay. We’d seen on one of our maps the obscure marking “Big Tree” and had seen a couple of signs saying the same. What was this Big Tree? We stopped to ask a couple of locals walking along the road. “Ah Yes, Its a BIG Tree”, “Aaahh, I suspected as such. Have you seen it?”, “Ah Yes, Its very enourmous!”. Sounds good, we follow the track indicated and soon come to a car park. Its flat and there is even a braai area, albiet somewhat overgrown, so we decide to camp there for the night. In the dying night we take a quick walk to find the fabled tree. It turns out to be a big tree, the legends are true. Its a huge tree reaching up above the canopy, with ancient roots spreading out into the underbush.
That night, trying to finish off some of the cans we’d inherited from the Morrungulo food, we dine on tinned asparagus and butter beans with tomato, served on water crackers. It goes down well. After dinner we sat in the dark and watched while hundreds of blinking fireflies layed trails of dashes in the forest around us.
In the morning after another walk in the forest we head to the closest town, Chipinge, where we stop for a new tyre and some supplies, then we drive on to the next stage of our adventure, a hike in the Chimanimani mountains.

We were now in the Chirinda area. An area of absolutely beautiful forest. I found it to be similar to the Bvumba forest, but the canopy is higher, the trees bigger and older. Coming from the border quite late in the day we were keen to find a place to stay. We’d seen on one of our maps the obscure marking, “Big Tree” and had seen a couple of signs saying the same. What was this Big Tree? We stopped to ask a couple of locals walking along the road. “Ah Yes, Its a BIG Tree”, “Aaahh, I suspected as such. Have you seen it?”, “Ah Yes, Its very enourmous!”. Sounds good, we follow the track indicated and soon come to a car park. Its flat and there is even a braai area, albiet somewhat overgrown, so we decide to camp there for the night. In the dying night we take a quick walk to find the fabled tree. It turns out to be a big tree, the legends are true. Its a huge tree reaching up above the canopy, with ancient roots spreading out into the underbush.

That night, trying to finish off some of the cans we’d inherited from the Morrungulo food, we dine on tinned asparagus and butter beans with tomato, served on water crackers. It goes down well. After dinner we sat in the dark and watched while hundreds of blinking fireflies layed trails of dashes in the forest around us.

In the morning after another walk in the forest we head to the closest town, Chipinge, where we stop for a new tyre and some supplies, then we drive on to the next stage of our adventure, a hike in the Chimanimani mountains.

Chirinda Forest
Chirinda Forest
Forests on the border of Zimbabwe, near the towns of Mt Selinda in Zimbabwe and Espungabera in Mozambique.
The next day we set out to return to Zim via one of the more remote border posts, near Espungabera / Mt Selinda. I was a bit unsure of this route to say the least. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t sure if the border post was actually operational, it lies about 200km off the tarred road that we had driven down. Having seen the state of the EN1, which is the main artery down the length of the country with its section of 60km of bumpy dirt, one is not filled with confidence in any of the less important roads. We decided to play it by ear and see what it looked like at the turn off. So, a couple of hours later we arrived at a dirt road that we hoped would get us to the border. We stopped there for a while for some ummming and aahhing, trying to work out how adventurous we were feeling. It wasn’t long before a truck came down the road which we waved down. We managed to poke some broken words out of him to the effect that yes it would take us to the border, so we decided to give it a go.
The road turned out to be ok for most of the way and took us through some really beautiful bush. I was very happy to be on the adventurous route rather than the boring tar road. It was dotted with more tiny villages and towns. At one point I was very excited to see marula fruits scattered on the road, so I stopped to collect a few. They have a really nice sour, tangy taste. The GPS seemed to know where it was taking us, the road the wasn’t too bad and we were going along happily. Just then we came round a bend to see a big river with what looked at first glace to be half a bridge on it. My heart fell. On second glance though I realised that it was some kind of ferry contraption, with a barge and cables with a winch. There were african kids jumping off it and swimming, women washing their clothes and people in dugout canoes rowing past, but noone seemed to be in charge of the contraption. So we edged closer and after a brief look we drove up onto it and I got out to try and work out how to activate the thing. It was all very exciting to come to such an interesting means to continue our journey. Soon a bunch of guys appeared, apparently amused by my close investigation of the winch handle. Chatting in Portuguese they climbed onto the barge and with one hand each they took hold of the handle and started winding it. The barge slowly moved across the river. One of them gave me a ticket and asked for 10mets (30c). We eventually reached the other side and were able to drive on.
Later on the terrain became more hilly and road began to get a bit more rocky and a bit more windy. With only a few km to go I started hearing a noise from the car. We got out to see that one of our tires was absolutely shredded. With the smell of cooked rubber in our noses Soph and I got to work changing the tire while Annie made us some tea. It wasn’t long before we were off again, praying that we wouldn’t get another flat. We didn’t fortunately, despite sliding off the road and into a rather deep gulley at one stage.
At about 5pm we were standing nervously at the customs desk. “Where is yoa freeeege?” the chubby officer asks. Oh No. In Morrungulo we had swapped vehicles and documents with my dad. He had brought down a bar fridge to keep our drinks cold. We hadn’t thought it worthwhile to cart 100kg of fridge all over the country to keep our drinks cold so it had gone back with my dad, but now we had a customs form boldly declaring a bar fridge. He shrugs his shoulders, “You must go back and fetch it…”. “Is there anything else we can do?”. Silence. He points to the declared value. So begins the tedious process of negotiating how big a “fine” we have to pay. “No sorry, we don’t $200 with us”. In the end we grudgingly cough up $50 and move through. In Mozambique its hard not to feel as if everyone is out to get you with the police and their ridiculous fines, officials wanting bribes and scammers on the streets all wanting a piece. So it is with relief that we step into Zimbabwe again. The officials are friendly and helpful and speak english. We even try our luck and ask if they have any cold cokes and to our amazement they have some cold fantas to sell us! Happily we drive on the last few km to Mt Selinda as the late afternoon light lights up the picturesque hilly countryside.

The next day we set out with the intention of returning to Zim via one of the more remote border posts, near Espungabera / Mt Selinda. I was a bit unsure of this route to say the least. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t sure if the border post was actually operational, it lies about 200km off the main tarred road that we had driven down on. Having seen the state of that road, which is the main artery down the length of the country, with its section of 60km of bumpy dirt, I was  not filled with confidence in the state of the less important roads. We decided to play it by ear and see what it looked like at the turn off.

So, a couple of hours later we arrived at a dirt road that we hoped would get us to the border. We stopped there for a while for some ummming and aahhing, trying to work out how adventurous we were feeling. It wasn’t long before a truck came down the road so we waved it down and managed to prod some broken words out of the driver to the effect that yes it would take us to the border, so we decided to give it a go.

The road turned out to be fine for most of the way and took us through some really beautiful bush. I was very happy to be on the adventurous route rather than the boring tar road. It was dotted with more tiny villages and towns. At one point I was very excited to see marula fruits scattered on the road, so I stopped to collect a few. They have a really nice sour, tangy taste.

With the GPS seeming to know where it was taking us and the road not too bad we were going along happily. Just then we came round a bend to see a big river with what looked at first glace to be half a bridge on it. My heart fell. On second glance though I realised that it was some kind of ferry contraption, with a barge and cables with a winch. There were african kids jumping off it and swimming, women washing their clothes and people in dugout canoes rowing past, but noone seemed to be in charge of the contraption. So we edged closer and after a brief look we drove up onto it and I got out to try and work out how to activate the thing. It was all very exciting to come to such an interesting means to continue our journey. Soon a bunch of guys appeared, apparently amused by my close investigation of the winch handle. Chatting in Portuguese they climbed onto the barge and with one hand each they took hold of the handle and started winding it. The barge slowly moved across the river. One of them gave me a ticket and asked for 10mets (30c). We eventually reached the other side and continued on our way.

Later on the terrain became more hilly and road began to get a bit more rocky and a bit more windy. With only a few km to go I started hearing a noise from the car. We got out to see that one of our tires was absolutely shredded. With the smell of cooked rubber in our noses Soph and I got to work changing the tire while Annie made us some tea. It wasn’t long before we were off again, praying that we wouldn’t get another flat. We didn’t fortunately, despite sliding off the road and into a rather deep gulley at one stage.

At about 5pm we were standing nervously at the customs desk. “Where is yoa freeeege?” the chubby officer asks. Oh No. In Morrungulo we had swapped vehicles and documents with my dad. He had brought down a bar fridge to keep our drinks cold. We hadn’t thought it worthwhile to cart 100kg of fridge all over the country to keep our drinks cold so it had gone back with my dad, but now we had a customs form boldly declaring a bar fridge. He shrugs his shoulders, slouching even further back into his chair, “You must go back and fetch it…”. “Thats impossible, is there anything else we can do?”. Silence. He points to the declared value. So begins the tedious process of negotiating how big a “fine” we have to pay. “No sorry, we don’t have $200 with us”. In the end we grudgingly cough up $50 and move through. In Mozambique its hard not to feel as if everyone is out to get you with the police and their ridiculous fines, officials wanting bribes and scammers on the streets all wanting a pieve of our hard earned cash. So, believe it or not, it is with relief that we step back into Zimbabwe. The officials are friendly and helpful and speak English. We even jokingly ask if they have any cold cokes and to our amazement they she brings out some cold Fantas to sell us! Happily we drive on the last few km to Mt Selinda as the late afternoon light lights up the picturesque hilly countryside.

Vilanculos is the biggest Mozambican town we saw, with a fair bit of infrastructure in the town centre, just about all of it Portuguese. It even has a bit of a sprawl of suburbs, but again the houses are mostly simple huts in yards fenced with grass or palm fronds. Not knowing where we wanted to stay we drove around for a bit and eventually ended up on the beach. At this point the tide was out, with sandbanks stretching for miles out into the shallow, turqoise water. There we found a quaint little backpackers called Zombie Cucumber and, not too keen to have to set up camp again, decided to stay there. It turned out to be a pleasant stay with the exception of the unfriendly manager.

Soph and I spent the afternoon exploring the bustling market which seemed to stretch forever under a low roof made from countless bits of plastic, cloth and tin, all very dodgily held together with wire and rope. The african printed fabrics being sold were really nice and we bought a few. Later we set out to try and find a restaurant as the nasty Zombie lady had forbidden us to cook on the premises. After quite a search we did eventually find a pizza place, although it took us across most of Villanculos via dodgy sand roads through the suburbs.

Next Page »