We woke up and regretted that we really had to leave this wonderful place in the Matobos Hills already after two nights. One last beautiful, serene sunrise, soaking in the surrounding views in awe and then packing to head out to drive for 4 hrs to another must see place in Zimbabwe – the great Zimbabwe Monument.
Leaving the parking lot at the Big Rock Cave Lodge, we saw fresh leopard spoor. Those elusive animals are very hard to spot but that they are there can be heard and seen from their tracks.
Driving a rather bumpy dirt track back to tha main road and to Bulawayo, we loked for a gas station to fill up. There are only two types of fuel sold here, Diesel and Blend. Blend being the only petrol and not always available. We were lucky and found a gas station that was functioning and where we filled up.
Driving from Bulawayo to the Great Zimbabwe Monument led us on a country road that was of much better quality than the road from Dete to Bulawayo. Less pot holes. Neverthelesss we saw two nasty looking accidents which must have been collisions when overtaking.
The truck drivers are actually quite sensible with their big over height trucks, it‘s the bus drivers that drive crazy fast on those roads. Big overland coaches are the main means of transport for the normal population, some with huge wobbly loking loads strapped to their roofs, some quite new looking air conditioned coaches, both race equally fast, commanding not only their lane but also the middle section of the road. Truly hair rising when such a bullet train bus comes speeding towards you at full tilt.
Despite elections in August we saw very little posters or bilboards calling to vote. We saw only a few showing the curent president promoting tourism or business growth and a call to vote, no advertisements of any opposition candidate.
What we heard is that the 2023 elections are predecided anyway and that it‘s a mock election, where there is no doubt about the outcome. And that means again no change for Zimbabwe going forward. The ultra rich will continue to exploit the country as they were doing for years. It‘s really sad how a country which such potential, a relatively highly educated population (The Universties and private schools in Zimbabwe are among the best in Africa) and richness in minerals and coal is floundering and deteriorating because only a few of the ruling parties and their family members are lining their pockets without giving much back to the country. Every toll both they charge $2 US for cars, yet the majority of even the major roads are in really bad shape, ridled with pot holes, the size of an entire car.
They upped the national park fees drastically this year on short notice for foreigners, but the amenities and upkeep are for the most part minimal and poaching is rife, even involving tipping by NP staff as they often haven‘t been paid for months. Truly sad, but the people here are quite placid and just accept the system as it has become after the white farmers had been evicted. They called that the big land grab that happened between 1980 and 1990 when farms belonging to whilte farmers were seized by force and subdivided and given to black Zimbabweans. Because of that 2/3 of the white population left the country and with them the farming knowledge. Zimbabwe what was known then as the bread basket of Southern Africa, has now to rely on imported grain as those new owners often did not know how to work the land or were given to small patches and subsequently more and more of the arable land became bushland again.
After a 4,5 hr drive we arrived at the Great Zimbabwe Monument. After checking into our very quaint, old charm colonial hotel, the Great Zimbabwe Hotel, where British royals had already stayed, we walked rom there to the ruins on foot.
The ruins are a cluster of three complexes dating as far back as the 9th century. At that time the king of the local tribes , what is now Shona land, was believed to reside at this place, which is now in ruins. There is the Hill complex, a fortress built on top of a granite hill, overlooking the surroundings on all sides for miles.
Making our way to the base of the rock, we encountered the only other visitors here, a local school class. In no time, we were surrounded by a group of children, wanting to take a picture with them and us. Like in other places where white people with long and blond hair are usually not seen, it is the kids who are not shy and we were happy to oblige, feeling as if we are the tourist attraction.
After picture time, we climbed up those 300 meters to the hill top. Narrow passageways must have made it impossible for intruders to get into the fortress unseen. It is believed that this complex served as a fortress in war times and as a religious place in peace times. We sat down to enjoy the evening light and the maginificent view from up top. Not a single soul or anoter tourist could be seen. It felt we had the place entirely to ourselves. What a privilege!
Back at the hotel, we enjoyed a nice sun downer from our porch.