Day 7 in Zimbabwe and we are in the middle of the Matopos wilderness at the Matobo Hills Lodge built on the grounds of the national park. Luckily, it’s an early start so there really is no time to ponder on the necessity of some form of connection to the outside world, be it in the form of internet, mobile phone or at the very least, pigeon post. Nope, on last check, no pigeons in the sky either!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matobo Hills Lodge

We start the day with a 7am breakfast call and gorge ourselves on a full English ready for another day of hill climbing – at this point I am seriously pondering the correlation between being Zimbabwean and climbing hills – these guys are keen to keep us fit! But today’s conquest is no ordinary hill but the site of Cecil Rhodes’s grave at the World’s View – named by Rhodes himself for its panoramic vistas of the Zimbabwean countryside.

Our driver and guide for the day Ian Harmer – aka Indiana Jones picks us up at Zimbabwean 9am which is indeed 10am but by now we’re too acclimatised to the Zimbabwean pace of life to really care much about the time. After all, what’s an hour or two between friends? And Indiana seems friendly enough as he talks us through the flora and fauna of the region while we travel in his truck deep into Rhodesian annals of Zimbabwe’s history.

Indiana Ian

Stefano and Tani

After a short climb – either it is short or I am so conditioned that hill climbing has become second nature – up the Malindidzimu hill, the legendary place of benevolent spirits, and here he used to rest and dream of his beloved Rhodesia, we arrive at Rhodes’s grave and sit by the monument downhill erected – at Rhodes’s request – for white Rhodesian pioneer police officers killed in battle on the Shangani River in Matabeleland in 1893.

Rhodes's Biography in a Nutshell

World's View

An ardent believer in British colonial imperialism and the founder of the state of Rhodesia, doubtless Rhodes is an icon for many fans of white rule in Africa. However, for many Zimbabweans he cuts a controversial figure who exploited the potential and the people of their country for imperialist and personal gain. While Indiana harped on about the greatness of Cecil Rhodes, I swear I could hear the gritting of teeth on the part of our Zimbabwean friends Felicia, Henry and Tani. However, despite his vices, a businessman in his early 20s, a power player in business and politics in his 30s, there is no denying that the man was a genius.

Not another climb!

"Whatcha looking at?"

Pascal not holding a camera? Unbelievable!

"Wifi is good here!" It's a tweet a step for resident Gadgetman

Class Cecil Rhodes 101 in session

And one brave woman!

Another day, another photo op for Zimbabwe's Finest Felicia

Cecil John Rhodes's grave

After Indiana Ian’s passionate half-hour long account of the life of Cecil Rhodes, we then make our way down the meandering dust roads for a quick al fresco lunch where we get observed by monkeys and discover bushman’s soap – a mere string of a plant which lathers instantly upon contact with water. Containing Vitamin E, it’s not only good for the skin but also is the best cure for sunburn.

Ian strikes another pose

Vendor at a nearby crafts market

the vendor who gave me a wooden keyring as a gift

"What, you've never seen a monkey with her baby before?!"

After lunch, it is time to head up the hills once again – yes, you can see a pattern here, right? – to see the Bushmen rock paintings; the oldest graffiti of the world. Dating back to thousands of years ago and featuring some of the most accurate depictions of giraffes and other wildlife, these paintings are works of art. However, we are more than likely to make do with what remains of them today as the last rock painter and rock paintings have since ceased.

Judging by Indiana’s second passionate half-hour long speech, Bushmen are clearly another topic close to his heart. Fascinated by the Bush way of life, Ian also told us about their customs and traditions. I was particularly wowed by – well, I told you Zimbabwe is a World of Wonders – Bushmen never hunted more than what was necessary to feed the family. And yet the great shame is that these people so at one with nature have been cruelly driven away from their lands and today in Zimbabwe remain only 43 Bushmen.

Bushmen paintings

Felicia modelling the paintings

Bushmen 101 class commences

Just before sunset, Pascal and I are back at World’s View for a shoot with Miss Tourism Zimbabwe 2011 Nadia Gori who will be representing the country at Miss Tourism pageant to be held in Malaysia on 31 December 2011. Just as the fireball sun is getting ready to take a dip in the cool, clear skies of the Matopos, Nadia dazzles us with her professionalism, her poise and above all her megawatt smile.

"Sorry this is all, folks!" Look out for the shoot in FAB Winter Issue

"So ladies, this is how it's done!"

Watch out, Pacal; these Turkish women will get the shirt off your back!

As the night falls and the breeze picks up, filled with the satisfaction of a job well done, Pascal, Nadia, I accompanied by our Queen Khumalo come back down the hills to join the rest of the press posse. Worn out by the day’s activities and a little frustrated on Day 7 of our togetherness, dinnertime turns out to be a quiet affair as we all silently dig into our beef stew and sadza – until Marco, the Italian travel writer and man of many opinions on all things big and small kicks off the conversation with talk of battles, war slaves, massacres and Dracula. As incredible as it sounds, so much talk of killing immediately kills off the tension and enlivens the initially dull atmosphere around our gigantic banquet table.

Yet even the talk of killing and massacres and tokoloshes (little dwarf men and women you can apparently purchase from your local witch doctor and look after so they can bring you prosperity, love or whatever else you’re after but turn against you if you mistreat them, or so folklore and Felicia make us believe) is not enough to pull us away from our beds as we look forward to a cosy night of sleep before the 6am kick off to the next day’s proceedings.

By midnight, already having fought the battle of existing without our live link to the world that is the internet, and kindly asked to vacate the bar area by a weary staff who is keen to lock up and go to bed himself, we make our way to our rooms guided by the starry Matopos sky. Within hours we will hit the road again, slowly approaching the climax of our road trip, the jewel in the tourism crown of Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls. Our next stop, Hwange.

 

 

 

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