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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Zimbabwe - 7 April, 2001

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Bulawayo (Municipal Campsite) S2009.499' E02835.570' 1,352 m
Matobo National Park 150 km
-  Rhodes' grave (View of the World)
-  Rock Paintings
-  Rhino tracking on foot S2033.445' E02821.980' 1,235 m
Bulayawo train station
Finish Bulawayo to Victoria Falls train

Total:

33,401 km

12,581 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and very hot. Cold at night.

 

 

Daily Journal Entry:

Today we have a very busy day ahead of us - we will be heading into Matabo National Park to see Cecil Rhodes' grave, some bushmen rock paintings and some rhino up close (in fact, walking up to them).  After that, some of us are taking the overnight train to Victoria Falls.  We are up early and have some breakfast, after which we pack up the campsite.

 

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After a few delays, we are off at 9:30 AM.  We stop in town to order some pizzas for dinner on the train and then zip off to the national park.  We get to the park gates just before 10:30 AM. It is of interest to note that in these parks, the ranchers have the right to shot, and shot to kill, any suspected poachers.  That is why you should not get out of your vehicle. After a short drive on the dirt roads in the park, we arrive at the spot of Rhodes' grave at 11:15 AM.

 

Cecil Rhodes had an estate in the area and during one visit he had visited a nearby hill, which he had named View of the World.  He had also requested that he be buried here looking towards the north.  Upon his death at 49 years of age in 1902, his body was taken here and buried in the solid rock.  The funeral party included a band of Ndebele, who offered the respectful salute Hayate which is normally only reserved for the chief and has never otherwise been used for a white person.

 

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Rhodes had also built a memorial in the memory of Allan Wilson and the 33 members of the Shangani River Patrol that were killed by a force of 30,000 Ndebele in 1898.

 

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Our guide takes the time to tell us some of the history of the area and about Rhodes and the battle where the Shangani Patrol was wiped out.  It was all very interesting.  We then wander back down to the car, enjoying the view from the hilltop.

 

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While driving between different sights in the national park, our guide points out a number of different things to us and we also see a number of animals.  We stop by a pile of rhino dung and the guide explains to us the territorial nature of the rhino and how they operate between groups.  It is all very fascinating, but unfortunately the way the Rhino operates makes him very exposed to poachers.  We also see wart hogs, some wildebeest, a tawny eagle, antelope, ...

 

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... kudu, klipspringer and, as we shall see later, lots and lots of Rhino.  On our way to our lunch stop, we stop at a curio stand for a short visit.  Lunch is at a quiet and cool spot.  The spread of food is great and we stuff ourselves.  We then head off to see the rock paintings.

 

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We go and see the paintings at Nswatugi Cave.  After a walk up a 200 meter steep track we get to the cave.  It is an amazing sight.  The cave is full of paintings done by bushmen, with some being as old as 35,000 - 39,000 years.  They have found at this sight human bones that are over 40,00 years old.  The paintings, made with bile and urine and other materials, are amazing for their detail and accuracy.

 

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There are pictures of galloping giraffe, running zebra, kudu bulls and cows, a hunting party, several human figures and even a very faded cheetah.  The paintings are amazingly accurate.

 

We are also shown a shadow painting.  You can only see it when you shade the painting from the light.  When you do this, it pops out at you.  It was stunning.

 

What was a little scary was how unprotected the sight is.  There is no one there and you can just go right up to the paintings and touch them.  Some have already been damaged by vandals.

 

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From the cave paintings we will head over to the area where it is best to track the rhino.  The idea is that we will try to find as many rhino as possible and hopefully come upon a group that we can approach on foot.  For the ride to this area, Lars gets up in the trackers seat.  This seat is mounted at the front of the Land Rover right over the bonnet.  When you ride on this chair - which has no seat belt or other restraint, you almost do not feel like you are part of the car - you are floating over it.  The guide promises me a roller coaster ride and he does not let me down.

 

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Along the way we see some rhino and it is something else to be sitting on the bonnet fully exposed to the rhino.  We would drive up to the rhino and get within 20 meters.  Sometimes the rhino would walk towards us and get quite close.  It was amazing.

 

At one point in the ride we have to go up and down some windy tracks.  At the top of the hill, the guide says hold on and he then just roars down the winding road and Lars is just holding on for dear life as the car sways from side to side.  It was an exhilarating ride - better then any amusement park as it felt so mush more real.  After a bit he told everyone that they should put away their cameras - we will be making a stream crossing.  Lars, still sitting in the trackers seat, hands his cameras back to Jacqui and then holds on.  The guide takes the stream and speed and the water sprays up from the front and sides of the vehicle.  Lars is soaked and everyone else gets wet.  But the sun keeps us warm and quickly dries us off.

 

We get to the area where the guide starts looking for the rhino and within a short time, we are very lucky.  He finds a group of them and they are not too far from the road.  We stop the vehicle and get out.  The conditions are perfect.  There is some cover (i.e., bushes and a few trees) and the wind is blowing towards us so they cannot smell us.  We split up into two groups and head out on foot to get a closer look at the rhinos.  The suspense is high. These animals are huge and they are fast.  They can out run a human and you cannot just jump out of the way.  The only way to avoid them is to climb up a tree or hide behind an object so they lose you.  But there are not too many big trees to climb, so we are not sure what to do if we are charged.

 

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We are able to walk up close to the rhinos - it is amazing.  They are white rhino and not as aggressive as black rhino (by the way, the term white rhino does not refer to their color, but rather is a corruption of wide (lipped) rhino).

 

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There are also a number of other animals here, such as wildebeest, zebra and giraffe.  It is great to be walking so close and among these wild animals.  Some of the animals sense our presence and they slowly drift around to the left, but this gives a better view and lighting.

 

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We spend about 15 minutes viewing the rhino.  We do not have too much time as the second group needs their chance and we have to catch the train to Victoria Falls.  We head back to the vehicle.  On the way back, we get up quite close to the giraffe and he gallops away from us.

 

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After waiting for the second group to finish their walk with the rhino, we all jumped into the Land Rover to head back to Bulawayo.  We are late and we need to rush to make it back in time for the train.  But we have one problem on our way out of the park - we keep spotting rhino.  And we do have to stop, of course, and take a look.  These three rhino were kind enough to line up for us.

 

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We also came upon this young baby rhino.  All in all, we saw 18 rhino today - almost a record.  Considering that there are almost 60 white rhino in this area (which is quite large), we were very fortunate to see almost one third of them.  We raced out of the park and when we got to the main road, we picked up speed.  Remember that the Land Rover is open topped and we were going at over 100 km and it gets quite chilly at night.  We were cold and the wind burned on our faces.  But we were treated to a wonderful moon rise.  It came up over the hills near us and was a large bright orange ball - it was a full moon.

 

After stopping at the pizza place in town, we got to the train station just before 7 PM only to find out that the train had been delayed due to a minor accident.  We had to wait until at least eleven PM.  Well, we sat down and enjoyed our pizza.  We then retreated to the bar and brought some cheap brandy - all they had - and played some cards to pass the time.

 

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We were able to board the train at 10:30 PM and it headed off about an hour later.  It was a long day and we were glad that we could finally get some rest.  After a while the attendants came around to make our beds and we went to bed shortly thereafter.  We fell right asleep to the rhythm of the rocking train.

 

 

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