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Zimbabwe – by Oasis driver Pete (part 1)

When you mention Zimbabwe to somebody who has not visited the country, their first thought will be of the unrest documented by the news channels and papers. This unrest was due to the corruption, violence and hate that occurred against white farmers and the Ndebele people during the period of land reformation and economic meltdown. As a result, many people still don’t visit Zimbabwe.

Contemporary Zimbabwe is a bit like a apple pie that has been ‘burnt off’ for too long; its ugly on the outside but delicious if you’ll just dig beneath the surface. This means any travel and experience in this country risks a metaphorical mouthful of the burnt crust, but for the most part it is brief compared to the beauty of the country and its people.

On our trip we covered 2300km in Zimbabwe, travelling to towns and attractions in every corner of the country. Our journey started on a pleasant morning near the city of Mutare in the east, with a border crossing from Mozambique where we experienced the proper and often friendly nature of Zimbabwean officialdom for the first time. The border official explained to us that he had the wrong type of visa sticker, and dramatised the long process required to acquire the correct ones while maintaining his jolly nature – so long as we showed respect.

Showing respect to officials here is very important, more so than other countries, and doing so meant that as soon as the stickers arrived we were all allowed on our way, to our first stop in the mountains of Eastern Zimbabwe.

Our first stop was Chimanimani, a small town with a friendly atmosphere. The picturesque views on the hikes you can do here are complimented by opportunities to swim in pools at the base of waterfalls and the chance to pretend to be like a monkey on the ‘Outward Bounds’ course. Tourism took a 10 year break from Chimanimani and many of the facilities, including the lodge we stay at have a rundown feel. There is however no denying the places’ character, and it is rewarding to see our hosts, Heaven Lodge, develop while maintaining this relaxed atmosphere.

 A day later and we traveled on to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, the World Heritage Site which gave the country its name. A collection of stone structures built on and surrounding a hill, the ‘Great’ in its name distinguishes it from the many smaller stone structures in Zimbabwe. For just $3 you have a guide who explains what each part of the complex was used for, who lived there and what might have happened there. There is also a museum explaining the time line of events.

Within the Hill Complex, Great Enclosure and Valley Complex this monument at its peak housed 18000 people, was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe and was inhabited from the 11th Century when construction began, until the 14th Century when the kingdom declined due to a lack of resources.


This monument was built by the ancestors of the Shona people, one of two tribes living in Zimbabwe and one of the two major ones. The other main tribe, the Matabele or Ndebele, mainly lives in the West, the Mashona in the East. During the Bantu migration south, before colonial rule, the ancestors of the Mashona people settled here. When the Bantu migration hit the North-bound Boer Migration from South Africa it was like a wave hitting a sea wall.

The tribes that were moving South had skirmishes with the Boers before turning around and heading back north. They were militarised as a result of their fighting and often fought each other as competition for land intensified. The Zulu are a famous result of this and the Ndebele are descended from them, settling in Zimbabwe after the Mashona. They had a clear power structure and combined with military capability were a more significant force than the Mashona. They didn’t rule over the Mashona, but frequently stole harvests and livestock from them. A rivalry exists to this day which has led to a estimated 1million Ndebele leaving Zimbabwe in the past decade.

Watch this space for ‘part 2’ of Petes blog & to see where they went next…

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  1. MS says

    Sounds like Zimbabwe could be improved by drizzling hot custard everywhere?

  2. admin says

    custard improves everything!!!

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