Day 295: Rocky Rhodes

Tues. 4th June 2013

Boulders by Rhodes graveWell, we never thought we would be in Zimbabwe and certainly not driving around in a hire car. But then this whole trip has been full of surprises. The man from Europcar arrives in good time to complete the paperwork by 9am, our designated collection time. Today’s destination is Matobo National Park also called The Motopos for its granite rocks. The park is divided into two sections and we are heading for the recreational park for the scenery and Cecil Rhodes’ grave. There is also a game park good for spotting white rhino but not good for a small Polo car even if it is rented.

MOTH memorialOur phone map apps are not good in Zimbabwe (they have the roads marked but not the street names) but we have a vague idea where we are going and Lonely Planet says we can buy a guidebook at the park gate, so off we head. Sure enough we find our way there and ask for the $2 guidebook – a photocopy of the map of the northern part of the park. Well at least it shows us the tarmacked roads we can drive on and where the points of interest are.

Cave paintingsThe first stop is marked MOTH (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) Shrine which is a memorial to those members killed in both World Wars, nothing we know anything about. We move on to the White Rhino cave paintings which is marked just off the road but is about a ten minute walk up the rocks to a cave. Well worth it even in the hot weather and the paintings are well preserved too. We are also mesmerised by the amazing scenery of huge granite rocks, but Dave is disappointed he has not yet seen any of the balancing rocks as shown on is one hundred trillion dollar bill so wonders if they exist.

Big boulders at Rhodes graveNext up is World View where Cecil Rhodes insisted on being buried and with the even more impressive views we can see why he wanted to be buried there and why it is called World View. It is a while since we have encountered such panoramic views as most of Africa so far has been flat for miles and a lot of desert. The other surprising sight was the big boulders (kopjes) at the summit just sat on the granite dome.

Colourful lizardWhilst photographing them I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and realised it was a little lizard and on closer inspection I realised there were quite a few of them scurrying around. Half of the lizards were brown but the others were bright green and blue and orange so our cameras then changed direction as we tried to photograph them before they dived into the shade.

Shangani River MemorialJust the other side of the huge granite dome from Rhodes grave (just a simple plaque in the ground) is the huge Shangani River Memorial which is much more ornately decorated. It was erected in 1904 to commemorate the entire troop of 34 men who were killed in 1893 by 30,000 Matabele warriors. Not a very even fight!

What we came to seeWe had been told the best cave paintings were just down the road in Pomongwe Cave so we went to investigate and found a museum there as well. The guide gave us a tour, probably a light relief after the group of 100 school children who had just been there. We know as we passed the children walking along the dirt track towards us as we approached the museum. On the first display was a model of a three metre long snake, a black mamba and we commented on how big it was, only to be told that was a baby. I asked if there were many around and the answer came back yes but as it is winter they are likely to be hibernating – that was a relief.

Reproduced cave paintingsThe museum was very interesting with the reproduced cave paintings from a number of caves in the area which we are unable to reach in our hired Polo. After looking around the museum we headed to the cave, which is the largest in the area, to admire the paintings. Cave – big but a boring non descript shape and little colouring. Paintings – faint, few and less impressive than the white rhino cave. Oh well you cannot win them all.

Maleme DamThe last stop in the park at the end of the tarmac road is the Maleme Dam, a very small affair after the ones in New Zealand but it served its purpose. By the time we returned to Bulawayo it was well past lunch time and we regretted not stopping in the Spar supermarket we passed this morning to buy some food. We headed to the Ascot Shopping Centre where we had heard there was a good Italian Restaurant, Massimo’s and wanted to check it out in daylight to see whether to go back tonight. Our guidebook is a few years out of date and although the Mall directory mentioned the restaurant it was nowhere to be seen. This is the second place mentioned in our guidebook which has gone out of business (Maxwells Pub in the centre of town has also closed). The tourist industry is definitely struggling here but trying to recover.

Good to be in BulawayoA very helpful local told us Massimo’s has changed its name to Pizza Perfection which was right in front of where we stood, so after checking the menu we decided to return later. Just as well we did the reccie in daylight as the power was out when we returned in the evening and the area did not look so inviting. The parking was right outside the door so we decided to go in as we were there and were happy the area was safe. It was good to have authentic tasting lasagne and fresh pasta, and also not to be the only people eating (unlike in the hotel).

We do find some odd places, but that has been the fun of travelling. Being able to equate Cecil Rhodes with Rhodesia, finding out he ran the British South African Company and seeing his train yesterday is all increasing my historical knowledge. Learning how a kopje is formed is increasing my geological knowledge too!

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