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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Zimbabwe - 4 April, 2001



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Harare (Selous Hotel) S1749.402' E03103.343' 1,379 m
Great Zimbabwe National Monument S2016.408' E03056.069' 1,132 m 350 km
Finish Harare (Selous Hotel) S1749.402' E03103.343' 1,379 m 350 km


32,735 km

11,915 km


Weather: Partly cloudy, occasional sun and very hot.  Warm at night.



Daily Journal Entry:

We are up early to go see the Great Zimbabwe National Monument.  It is 350 km away, so we have quite a bit of driving to do.  We are picked up at 6 AM and head off.  We are joined by Ika.  We are going with UTC and we have the car all to ourselves.  We are towing a small trailer as he needs to bring some fuel with him as it is very hard to get it.  It is amazing how they can operate in such difficult circumstances.


On the way down we stop at Denise's Kitchen for a quick breakfast.  The place is empty - we are the only ones there.  A year or so ago, we would have had to make bookings in order to get a seat.  Hardly any tourists are coming since the recent troubles.  We have quite an interesting ride down with the driver - he is quite well educated and is very out spoken.  He was telling us a lot about what is going on.


After a long drive, we finally get to the ruins shortly after 10 AM.  Great Zimbabwe is the greatest medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa.  It was the center of a great empire that stretched across eastern Zimbabwe and into parts of Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa.  The name of the country Zimbabwe comes from the name of the ruins.  It is believed that the first society to occupy the site came in the 11th century and over time the entire complex was built.  The ruins are built from granite that was hewn out of millions of large blocks.  The site comprises three main complexes - the Hill Complex, the Valley Enclosures and the Great Enclosure.  We visited them in that order.


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We reach the Hill Complex by climbing up the Ancient Ascent - the way the original inhabitants did.


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It is a steep climb up, but we are rewarded with views of the rest of the ruins on our way up.  At this time we have some very light showers, but they blow off.  This was not a fortress, but rather a series of royal and ritual enclosures.  The complex is also much bigger and more involved than it looks like from the ground.  It winds around the top of the hill and involves quite a few rooms and walls.


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We wander around the hill complex and take in all the sights.   We go up to the summit for some great views over the valley - this is where the King used to hold court.


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 It is amazing to walk through the narrow winding passageways and to examine up close the walls and structures built with granite blocks but with no mortar.  When we have finished wandering around the Hill Complex, we take the Modern Ascent back down to the valley.


As we are not certain whether or not it will rain, we decide to skip the museum and shop for now and go straight to the Valley Enclosures and the Great Enclosure.  


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The Great Enclosure is an amazing structure.  It is elliptical in shape and the largest ancient structure in sub-Saharan Africa.  The walls are as high as 11 meters and are as thick as 5 meters.  It is commonly accepted that the Great Enclosure was used as a royal compound and a place for the King's mother and senior wives.


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We entered through the North-west Entrance and then wandered through the ...


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... Central Parallel Passage to the ...


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... famous conical tower.  The tower today reaches over 10 meters and is made form solid granite blocks.  The purpose of the tower is not known.  It was thought by some that the towers may contain treasure, but the ones that have been torn down by treasure hunters contained nothing.  The tower was originally capped with three rows of chevron designs.


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We then wander into the center of the great enclosure, where we can get another excellent view of the tower.  We also take a look at the daga platform where one of the huts used to be.


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We then wandered out of the Great Enclosure through the Inner Parallel Passage to the Stone Pillars and out the West Entrance (this entrance has been re-constructed in what they believe to be the original way it was constructed.


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From there we wandered around the outside of the complex in a counter-clockwise direction.  It is amazing to walk under these walls - you get a feel for the work that mist have gone into them.


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On the south-east side - the last part of the wall completed and after they had gained much experience - we had a look at the best quality wall that is over 6 meters thick at the base and 4 meters think at the top and which is capped with 3 rings of decorative chevron patterns.


We then spent the rest of our time at the ruins going to the museum (which was small, but very informative), a reconstructed village and some of the other diggings.  After we had finished our tour, we went to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins Hotel for lunch.  After finishing lunch, the driver topped up his gas tank and we headed back to Harare.  While much of the drive was done in the dark, the driver did an excellent job and drove safely and carefully - a new experience in Africa!!!


After picking up some food, we got back to the hotel just before 9 AM.  We ate our food, washed up and then went to bed.







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