Today is a driving day. Peta and Oliver had warned us that the road from Dete to Bulawayo is riddled with pot holes and that we should count at least 5 hrs for 200 km’s. That’s 40km/h on average! And bay were they right. It took us 5,5 hrs in total for 200 kms.
We experienced only one country with worse roads than that stretch from Dete to Bulawayo and that’s Madagascar. Driving on a perfectly normal road for about 10 kms then all of a sudden we had to slow down to a crawl. We must have navigated thousands of potholes on the way, some small but deep, others going across the entire street width.
Some so deep that we could not navigate our little 2 WD car through but needed to use the opposite lane for entire stretches. Luckily traffic was light. Sometimes we needed to go off the shoulder. Chris did a fantastic job driving and we only hit 2 or 3 smaller pot holes. Nothing big to damage the car or have a flat tire.
It was nevertheless intensely exhausting to constantly look out for those holes as frequently shadows obscured them to our view. Even large oncoming buses and trucks swerved around them and so we had to watch out for the oncoming traffic as well.
Some of the stretches of the road was hundreds of meters of just pot hole after pot hole, then a stretch of ok road followed by the next stretch of holes. At 40 KM/H average you can imagine the speed at which we went. Exhausted but happy to have it made with intact tires to Bulawayo, we decided to fill up there, as gas is not always readily available in Zimbabwe.
Oliver was telling us that three things must align in order for us to fill up gas: 1. Gas must actually be there at the station, 2. The station must be open, which is often very irregular and 3. Power needs to be functioning to pump the gas. More often than not, those 3 things do not align … so take gas while you can is the motto of the day.
Our lodge at Matobo National Park, Big Cave Lodge, was supposed to be just 45 min outside Bulawayo and the road was supposed to be better, which is actually was.
Happy to be arriving soon, we were looking forward to a rest and sunset in the hills of Matobo. Google maps again showed us a pin but no exact path to get there. No internet or phone reception either. Great. Déjà -vu for us. We saw one gate that was closed that stated Big Cave Camp.
It was unlocked saying please lock gate after drive through and right next to it another sign stated Big Rock Camp 1,2 km ahead. We were puzzled. We had booked Big Cave Lodge, but the confirmation email came from Big Cave Camp. What should we do? We decided to give this first road a try, and after about 1 km, of small rutted and rocky road, that got rockier by the minute we thought that this must have been the back way and reversed to head back to the main road to try our luck at the other entrance.
Low and behold, the road was a bit better for our little 2 WD car but when we arrived at the camp it was literally the camp site with round huts only. Self-catering and not really what we had booked. Luckily two guys where there who told us we should have continued driving on the first road until we came to the lodge parking lot.
They showed us a ‘short cut’ that led us down a steep rocky slope that made our little car screech in protest. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we arrived at a small parking lot and honked the horn to make the lodge staff aware that we had arrived.
Sure enough, a 4WD Toyota Hillux came down a rocky slope and collected our bags and us to drive us up to the lodge on a rocky outcrop of Matobo Hills.
And then we arrived in heaven…