2011
08.04

Magical Chimanimani

We enjoy a mountainous climb to the village of Chimanimani where the highest point in the Chimanimani range is the 2437m high Mt Binga, on the Mozambique border.

We arrive into town as the sun is setting and instantly feel the chill of the mountain air. We are both dreading the cold night we will suffer at a camp site. After some mis-direction, we end up lost for 3 hours in the dark on gravel road through creepy forests. We eventually turn around to go back to the village, arriving there at 8pm and find frog and fern tree cottages. A miracle in our tired, cold state.

The owners Jane and Dee, very kindly allow us to stay in a cottage that night, for camping rates. We have a 2 bedroom rustic looking cottage with kitchen, bathroom and a hot fireplace for our cold bones. We are so thankful that tonight we don’t have to battle the wind, an ice cold shower or a freezing night in out summer tent. The universe really does conspire to make things happen.

After a days rest we do an 8hr hike through the Chimanimani range peaking at 1700m. Every so often when we catch our breath, it is taken away again by the mountain wilderness, that we have to pause again to recollect. There are layers and layers of mountains which  disappear in to the distance set against a bright clear sunny cloudless sky.

We climb over rocks, walk through over-grown forest paths and skip along flat green plateaus, looking for small stacked pyramids of rocks, confirming we are on the right path (a far cry from our horrid Naukluft moutain trek where yellow markers were kms apart and across wide rivers, hidden behind thick bush).

This is one of my favourite treks yet and I spring across rocks, adrenalin fueling my body to keepmoving. After 3hrs we stop at the mountain hut for lunch with views of Mt Binga, then continue another 45mins including a slight wrong turn and an encounter with a small puff adder.

We arrive at Digbys falls, where the mountain water is clear, cool and good enough to drink (no cholera! the national parks worker proudly tells us). Being ocean deprived and encouraged by the sound of the falls dropping, we can’t resist a swim. Within seconds of stepping onto the river rock floor shining brightly with fools gold our feet numb. It takes several countdowns from Nick to get me to actually dip my entire body in this 10 degree water.

Refreshed and carrying full bottles of water we start the return trek where the refreshment of our dip in the falls starts to fade and our legs fatigue. The downhill over the rocks makes my quads and hamstrings ache and we stop for apple, carrot and chocolate breaks to pick our energy levels up.

We make it back to our car by 5pm thrilled we have beaten the setting sun and Maneshe, the friendly grinning national parksworker, happily welcomes us back. He hasn’t had anyone come visit Chimanimani national park for over 5 days now and reminisces with us about how full the park used to be.

Its here in the Eastern Highlands that I fully appreciate the true natural beauty of this country. Not only has the landscape been so incredible but the people we have met along the way have been like no other. They are educated, helpful, thoughtful and always with bright big infectious smiles on their faces.

They are excited when we take photos of them (never asking for money in return) and giggle playfully when they view the photo. They ask how you are twice before you can continue in normal conversation and they are proud of their country and themselves.

The people here make me feel comfortable in this foreign country and its these resilient people that I hope will re-build this nation, that suffered through hyperinflation of the zim dollar resulting in sudden poverty, increased crime and the loss of tourism. Its my biggest hope that more people will get to see parts of this remarkable country that has genuinely touched my heart and made me feel at home in Africa.

The stories I have heard about the country’s demise is beyond my belief. It takes me days and weeks to register what these people tell me. Farms being taken, people beaten or killed, corruption on election day, the lines at the bank to withdraw 5million zim dollars (the daily wthdrawal limit) which at the time was only enough to buy one loaf of bread, the trunks which people have packed in case they too are suddenly thrown off their residence, the tourism industry slowly being moved in on and the fact that all of this continues to exist in this day and age.

Mind blowing. Unimaginable for a city girl like me, born and raised in Sydney, Australia, where Pauline Hanson was our biggest political problem.

I feel like I could talk to people all day and ask about their lives here in Zimbabwe – all who love this country so much and are proud to be zimbaweans (even though their skin colour represents the british) – people who are 3rd generation Zimbabwean and fed up with the way things are. They are resigned to it, and will stay on regardless of the fear of the next election.

Such a magnificent country – living through a turmoil which sees no near-end. A past it cannot escape and a hopeful future that things will turn around. That tourism will pick up, a new government in power, a life with no fear but full of promises. Its all I can hope for this country which I adore so much.

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