Saturday 6 April 2013

Expedition Great Zimbabwe

Hill complex

Before my second night at Lily's place in Bulawayo I visited Hillside Dams with Matthew and went to town for him to catch his bus to Johannesburg. I walked around with Kenneth, one of Lily's 6 kids, inquiring in every coach office to see if they any of them went to Masvingo. But the answer was always negative. Kenneth showed me a small bus, or minibus station, where I could catch a ride to Masvingo on the way to Matthew's pickup point in town. I went to have a look there and learned that they go to Masvingo and that it would cost me USD 10 without any extra charges for my big luggage.
Coming back to Lily's later that day, after walking the whole way, I told Margaret about my new plans for Masvingo (instead of Harare). She was surprised I took her advice to go to Masvingo first, and from there to Mutare or Harare. She told Lily, her mother, and when she came back she told me I should leave quite early for Masvingo, so I could go to Great Zimbabwe the same day. I would have to bring my own food as camping and dorm is self-catering only.

The next morning Lily brought me to the bus rank and helped me choose one that would leave straightaway. I told her about the “minibus” station and she insisted the “People's buses” are safer and I would be sure to get where I wanted to go. One of the buses was going to Mutare over Masvingo, and this was the one Lily told me to take as it couldn't wait too long before leaving, them wanting to make it to Mutare the same day. I climbed in and gave my biggest bag to the operator who put it in front of the entrance where I could see it. I said goodbye to Lily and promised to call her the next day (which I didn't, but tried the day after but my f*”รง phone doesn't call land lines). Not five minutes later, the bus drove off.

Great Enclosure
On the road, as always here in Zimbabwe, there were quite a few roadblocks. Almost every time the operator climbed out with some papers for the control. About 5 hours later we finally got to Masvingo. During the trip I met a constable, Elliott, who was working there. He helped me find a supermarket, followed me shopping, and finally made sure I got into a minibus to Great Zimbabwe that would leave quickly. There was one that looked full, but it still was waiting for some more passengers. We started off, but actually only turned around a couple of times in the same road. We finally got 2 more customers and departed for my destination of the day. I was sitting in front next to another European, Anna, from the Netherlands, who was working as a missionary somewhere close to Great Zimbabwe. She had asked to go to work as a volunteer in a third world country for a year, and got assigned to Zimbabwe. She had already visited the ruins, and so knew where I would need to go from the road where the combi would drop me off.

Great Enclosure (inside)
A little while later we got to that point, and I gathered my ten bags that were handed over to me – there weren't that many bags, but it felt that way with the supplies for 2 days. Someone offered me a ride for a dollar, but I said I could handle a little walking. Big mistake, as the way was quite long, and all my bags a strain to carry. I never was meant to carry all my luggage and some supplies more than a few hundred meters. A little while later, I felt a strain in my neck from the pulling of the different bags.
I carried on and soon found the first gate, which was the entry to the hotel at the gates. There I was told to walk through the hotel compound on to the next gate. Heavy, but on I walked. At the next gate the guard didn't know about any “campground” although there was a sign with “campsite” and “dormitories” written on it. A guy transporting to women somewhere in the park offered me a lift and, this time, I gladly accepted. Once at the dormitories, which were another few hundred meters further, I was dropped off and was warned not to leave my bags – especially food – unattended while inquiring. There are monkeys and baboons around who are just waiting for such an opportunity. There was nobody around so I checked the doors to see if anything was unlocked. I found one that was open, put my bags inside, and left in search of someone who could show me around and take his dues for my stay. I quickly found the office where the attending person told me he shouted at me while I was passing by in the car. I hadn't heard anything. The dorms were quite cheap at USD 7 per night, and I was totally alone to occupy them. I made myself comfortable before heading out for the ruins.
At the hill complex, I met this Scottish guy whose name I forgot, who was sitting on a rock and watching the amazing view. A while later, a group of four arrived and called out “Shoestring” to me to get my attention. They were guys I had briefly met in Vic Falls. They work in different volunteers projects in Botswana and were on holidays for a couple of weeks. They had planned to use their directors car, had even changed a tyre and fixed some things and bought a lot of supplies when the car broke down and had to be left at a garage in Maun. They had planned to get it after their stay in Vic Falls, but it still wasn't ready. So they traveled by minibus taxi. After a while they descended to get their camp ready and I was left with the Scottish guy to watch the sunset. A guard came along and told us it was time to leave. But when we told him we would be staying at the campground and dorms, he let us watch the sunset making us promise not to climb onto the walls. We watched a beautiful sunset and then started our descent. Going down we heard some stones falling and were reminded of the several warnings of falling stones. We considered how stupid it would sound when our families and friends, thinking we were slaughtered in a political riot by mad policemen, would learn that we were murdered by a couple of crazy vervet monkeys throwing stones down the walls for their fun.

The ruins, originally not ruins, were allegedly built by the Shona people between the thirteenth and the seventeenth century. All building was done without any kind of mortar or cement. It's all loose stones piled upon each other. Various qualities of buildings have been determined ranging from wavy lines to straight lines of rocks. The latter would have been built by using rocks the people would have heated by fire and then split by pouring water onto them. Granite tends to provide square rocks when treated like this. After that, people would do the finishing by hand.

The second evening, the other guys having left camp earlier during the day, I went to chat with a couple driving one of these 4WD cars with tent on its roof. They were from SA and on holidays for about three weeks. They offered me some wine and we had a snack of cheese and crisps.

Vervet monkeys at dormitories
After two nights in Great Zimbabwe, I left early the last morning. I had arranged for a transfer to the road but after half an hour nobody showed up. I picked up all my stuff and did the whole stretch on foot. I had finished almost all my provisions, so I didn't have that many bags to carry, and it felt a lot easier.

When I walked towards the junction on the road, I saw a combi pulling in, and started to run heavily towards it. Very slowly and not for long. But the operator hailed me, and they came and picked me up. Once in Masvingo I looked for the bus station, but finally changed my mind after asking my way several times. I was directed to the road leaving town towards Mutare where I could catch a bus, a minibus or a lift. I got a lift for USD 10 which seemed alright. Although I had to pay double because my bags used a whole seat, and there wasn't any space in the boot. At least the driver dropped me off in my future accomodation.

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