The trip was on to Matobo Hills National Park. I was there 2 years ago, when visiting and is very excited about the re-encounter, Michelle and Gary often
go on weekends, Kenneth's first time.
It truly is a magical place and as we drive towards it, just 30km out of town, down a very narrow, though tarred road, the kopjies are visible around us and the silence is deafening. Apart from the motor humming in the car, there is only the wind and birdsong. It inspires me and fills me with awe and once again, I wish I had a Voice Recorder with me, so I could spontaneously just speak my thoughts, my feelings before they blow away as a leaf on the wind and totally forgotten again.
As we drive in, I see another new addition A Curio Stand. That was not there 2 years ago. Not a soul in sight, but all the wares neatly displayed, with a price sticker and there is a little cash box at the side, place money in here. Only in Zimbabwe. There is very little crime here as the consequences are so big. The police act swift if something occurs and trust me you don't want to land up in one of Bulawayo's jail cells.
Zimbabwean's are notorious clever and skilled wood workers, you find their hand carved figures all over Africa and they are all of a very high standard.
South African artists tend to work in clay or with paint and paper. We have some fantastic potters, here and Ndebele do the most beautiful beadworks. The Zulu reed baskets and pots are highly priced as items to buy and take home for tourists.
I have my beady little eye on this elephant carving , only US$ 5 and also the Rhino carving.
There is no guard at the hut, so we amuse ourselves by taking photographs while waiting for him
Are we not a lovely 3-some ?? We missed Melissa terrible, but she had her turn when on study leave in July and actually was privileged to be a witness together with Gary's daughter Danielle, when Michelle and Gary got married on 5 July............
Magical Matopo, Place of the Hills, God's playground, I am back
Spotted a pair of Duikers , one of Africa's smallest bucks, the other being the Steenbok, one bounced off into the distance but this little beauty obliviously thought she was safe and hidden behind a small bunch of reeds in the dry river bed.
Is she not too gorgeous and so very tiny. The ears and eyes pricked and watchful upon us.
An Egyptian Goose decides to walk across the path, oaky dokey then, we give way..............
Going to now give you a 180 degree or so of panoramic view:
aaaaaaaaaaaand, I am stumped, totally , out of words WTF are cattle doing in the game reserve??????
Must be some rich cabinet minister now grazing his bloody cows here??? Unbelievable, only in Africa, I tell you. Michelle tells me to calm down, time for breakfast, enjoy the view, but I know only too well, what is the implications of cattle with game in reserves, so in a very sombre sad mood, we settle down at the dam, light the gas scuttle an d prepare our breakfast while enjoying the wonderful view and bird life, though have still not seen any game really, and am worried, where is my Rhino, are they still here, still alive??
The Dam is lovely as always, we settle down, get the bacon, sausages, mushrooms ready. Got fresh Orange Juice, Michelle squashed yesterday and potato grids. Yum I am so hungry , I could nearly eat a .....cow !
This cheeky Raven obviously knows a sucker when he sees one, my daughter is as bad as me and feeds him...........'aaaaw shame mom, loook how cute he is"............
Ooooooooooooh Yummy...................breakfast is ready !!
Bacon, sausages, potato grits, mushroom and fried banana. I chide Michelle, we forgot the tomatoes.....................never mind, it goes down a treat.
Afterwards a toilet visit is really necessary and once again I am reminded how lucky we are to live where we live. There is at present no water in Bulawayo, so none of the public toilets are working. Matobo is no different it saddens me to think of tourist revenue lost due to the appalling sanitary conditions. Not even a clean long drop in sight. There is no smell, but the toilet is overflowing, no toilet seats ( I have seen only one in Zim and that at my daughters house) no paper, no water , but it looks like it was recently swept though.
We go out the back where a trench has been dug and there is signs of other visitors having relived themselves. Lucky I always carry paper and disinfectant with me and , so we "light seat" and do what we have to do, wipe, spray, wash up and cover it and carry on , on our trip.
I spot a Kudu Doe in deep bush, so difficult to get a picture, but they are there, but sooo skittish. Clear to see that the poachers have had an effect on the game in the park, they are few and far between and frightened of any strange noise.
There is hides placed all over the reserve on the koppies, so you can walk up and sit, eat your lunch, watch for game.
The view is stunning, the silence is deafening. The heat, 35 degree relentless.
There is little lizards on the rocks, last we saw so many of them, they were rainbow colours and I was looking forward to seeing them again, but today there was none. We poured out some of Kenneth's Coca Cola as they are normally attracted by the liquid and sweet smell, which they adore. I was disappointed and wonder what has happened to them, then this big Lizard came out from under the rocks and greadily lapped it up and even begged for more. Wonder if he ate the little ones? Another mystery.
After something to drink, another scan of the ground, to see if there is anything moving, we carry on with the car. The roads are pretty good, all dirt roads, not tarred, but in the rainy season, Michelle tells me, they do need 4-wheel drive to get through. I can imagine that as the dust is deep and the streams very low lying.
We meet up with a game drive vehicle from a nearby game lodge, Gary knows the guys as he fixes their fridges and air-cons for the lodge, so he quickly strikes up a conversation with the ranger who speaks perfectly accented English ( much better than mine, I might add) .
Another vehicle had indicated that the giraffe was hiding up further to the north and I wanted to know if he knew where the Rhino herd was.
The ranger laughs at me and tells me the Rhino is by the Giraffe, further back. I look puzzled as I had not seen them. He laughs again and says " the Maam must look for the big grey rock with the ears what moves"
ow that expression I know , "kwa masikio yale moves"..........so I answer him to his amazement........... I saw those rocks with ears far in , now how to get closer?" .......Hau, naona ...................He claps his hands with joy, grasp my hands in friendship the African way and tells us where the rangers are , they will take me, for sure.........
On the way up to the other hide we do indeed spot the giraffe, this is where my camera is insufficient, well, how does the saying go? " a bad craftsman always blames his tools"...........I obviously have no clue how to use the camera, it keeps on focusing on the branches and trees and bits of grass instead of the giraffe, in there and behind the giraffe, very far in, is rhino, how many not sure , but those big grey rocks in the far back definetly had ears that move. My eyes can see them, for Piets sake, why not the camera. ??
Can you see the giraffe ?????
We carry on to the next hide and indeed we find the rangers guarding the Rhino is sitting there in the midday heat, keeping an eye on their charges. They welcome us cautiously and we start chatting.
The rangers spent 6 months living with the Rhino in the bush and 6 months off, There is 4 of them on duty at the time. They are friendly but 2 declined politely but firmly a photograph. they are dedicated Wild Life Conservationists that much is clear, very clear after speaking to them for just 5 minutes, we are on the same page.
In 1976 my Late husband and I worked in Umfolozi / Hluhluwi Game Reserve where the SOS Rhino Operation was executed in the 1960's and Ian Player the force behind the operation , did a talk one night on the White Rhino and dangers of extinction. the following day he took us with as "passengers' on a high powered VIP game trek through the bush, for some foreign dignitaries.
At a tender age of just 21, the whole experience so influenced my thinking and feelings and life, maybe the one BIG reason why I stayed here and did not hot foot it back to Denmark, when the shit hit the fan, as we say here. There were other reasons, but mainly political which shall remain out of this story for now, though.
From up top of The Hide, the rangers who has already followed The Rhino on their foraging , now resting in the shade are keeping a close eye on their charges.
I am in no doubt, they would indeed shoot to kill to protect their beloved beasts.
"Cover Us??" Help !!
We set out on foot down the hill , through the donga (dry river bed), over the grassland into the thick bush, that we could see from top of the hide, where the ranger assured us the Rhino was resting. Fresh spoor (footprints, tracks) and dung was spotted along the way.
Michelle has got young legs and was in front with our main ranger , I , the old Gogo , in the middle with Kenneth and another heavily armed ranger in the back. Watching out for little old me I sure hope.
We are getting close and our guide, after checking the wind direction, changes his trek and we walk around the glad of thick trees and bush, where we spotted the giraffe earlier. Assured "the big grey rock with ears that moves" is beyond there.
Our Guide tells us to drop back and down
My little camera is hopelessly useless in picking up the grey shapes in between trees, branches and bushes, but my heart-rate quickens as I see they are there alive though de-horned for safety. These great beautiful wild prehistoric beasts, safe and protected for now.
Our ranger has now told Kenneth to stay behind, he has my hand and making signs to tell Michelle and I to stay down and quiet, we creep up close.
I am absolutely shaking with the adrenaline and the joy of it all.
I make signs to our guide, that while I might not have been able to get a perfect photograph of them, the moment I recorded with my eyes are in my heart and soul and I am happy. He clasps my arms and hugs me and I get so emotional, nearly crying though aware of the big male standing up and and hmmrrrpphhh looking towards us, blinking ( oh why can this silly camera not see, what I with my naked eyed can see. Suppose the wrong settings, oh whatever.
Time to make out of here, Pronto.The male has smelled Kenneth , the only one amongst us who smokes. Was afraid of that . A notorious fact when trekking in the bush.
Back at the hide, we share our cold drinks, bread rolls with the guards and they share the stories of their lives, the one guard tells us he has been a ranger here for 8 years. He originally was trained at the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Their lives are not easy that much is clear, another one tells of , of his newborn son, who he had to leave behind when last "home" to go back to the bush. How do they do it. Is it the money?? No, the pay is bad, but the job is good and we have our friends here. The tourist are nice, they look after us when they see us, we don't take money but when somebody comes who loves animals, we will take them like you, just for water and food. Money is useless in the bush, but water is scarce.
Needless to say, we give them everything we have left in the cooler box and decide we are going to leave for home anyway, as now getting later than anticipated instead of going over to Rhodes Grave which I have seen, Kenneth is not that interested anyway and the entrance to get up there is quite steep as I have a Danish Passport, is a foreigner and everything is trible the price. Michelle and Gary can get in for just US$ 2 , while mine would be 20 and Kenneth 10 with his South African passport.
Rather make tracks and go home, feed the horses and dogs and cats and have a Sundowner on the stoep, before enjoying Gary's famous pepper cream fillet steak.
We say goodbye. I wonder when we will be back again, so very far. Enjoy the last look of the koptjie that is aptly named "Mother and Child"
As we go past the small dam, we see the Hippo, which eluded us earlier ,has surfaced onto one of the small banks that are only visible when drought as now. Normally you just see their ears and nostrils sticking out
I am just about hopping around in my seat, as I spot they have 2 young ones !! Fantastic.
Hope you enjoyed the trip with me and not too boring?
Thank you - Siyabonga.