This post is a verbatim transcription of a diary I wrote during a family excursion to a number of landmarks around Zimbabwe. This, the first of two, records our trip to the southwest of the country taking in the Matopos, the Gwaai River and Hwange. I was 13 at the time, in my first year of high school in Harare. The other individuals present on the trip were my parents, Lou and Ray; my grandparents, Mutty (pronounced Moo-tee) and Raph; my brothers Daniel (11) and Ivan (8); and a family friend, Pat.
My mother photocopied the diary (I’m not sure where the original is) and inserted the copied pages along with photographs from the trip into two albums. I have scanned and inserted most of these pictures. I have transcribed the text faithfully except to correct a few punctuation errors. Original spellings are used.
STOP 1: MATOPOS NATIONAL PARK (10th – 14th)
Set off at 8:10, what a squeeze! We packed too much food! First stop to release tortoise into the wild just before Kadoma. At Kadoma stopped to have tea at the Ranch House. Went on through Kwe Kwe and Gweru – saw military aircraft and tanks at museum in Gweru. After a brief (late) lunch of coke and chips arrived in Bulawayo. Greeted Mutty and Raph (and Pat!) before setting off for Matopos. On the way saw incredible 15 grey louries! (birds listed in other book).
Settled in chalets (1,3,4) but I had to sleep in Pat’s because of lack of room. At least I had the whole bedroom to myself. Also had an attendant called Buke who seemed a friendly chap and looked amazingly like Gary Kolbe’s dad. Finished day with a bowl of Pat’s curry.
Blog note: Gary Kolbe was a German boy in my class at St Georges College. I remember him mostly because he was the only one in my class to have a more pronounced monobrow than me. I vaguely remember his father as being a large man with an impressive moustache.
Lay in till 7:30 then had breakfast over at Lodge 4 (scrambled egg and cereal). Played 1 hrs tennis with Dan and Ivan, or should I say I hour of Ivan disrupting our tennis and missing all the shots. Came back down and observed some cacti by the office on which Dan barbed his hand. Natural quick thinking on my part allowed me to cut the thorns from the plant. After extracting them Pat gave Dan a packet of biltong for himself (the little pig!). Maybe I should do the same thing?
For lunch we went to Cecil Rhodes’ grave. The lunch was not spectacular but the view from the top was incredible. We came back at 3 and had (for a change) a fairly quiet afternoon followed by a good, hot bath. After the bath we had braai over at chalet 1. Played Dan scrabble and lost. (I was giving him chances, ha ha!) I then went to bed with a headache, got up, had a Disprin, went back to bed.
Blog note: a braai is a colloquial term for a barbeque, a contraction of the Afrikaans word braaivleis (literally translated as ‘roast meat’)
Up early for a cup of tea then went to play tennis with mum, Ive and Dan. Beat Dan in one game fair and square so he blew a fuse (as usual!). After his tantrum we all returned for breakfast before leaving to Chipangali. Going out we crossed thirty-seven ditches and even came out intact, but the trouble was worthwhile when we saw the animals.To give a very small list of all the species might seem tedious so I’ll tell of some of the more noticeable. In fact because it was that time of day most of the animals were pretty docile, especially the hyenas and servals. Others were wild dogs, klipspringers, duiker (grey), rhino (black and white), leopards, caracals, civits, cheetahs, lion, monkeys (all types), baboon – phew! I could go on all day, not to mention the birds! After that we returned to the luscious town park and then back to the chalets. At supper I had a fairly small meal then played Dan scrabble and beat him (no chances this time). Brushed teeth, went to bed.
Got up at 7:30 and a quick plate of cereal. The family then walked down to Mileme Dam [Maleme Dam]. I felt like a rock rabbit on the descent to the dam. The water was low but provided a good look at the bird life around the campers (and two people snogging) and we also a witnessed a dustbin raid by the baboons.
We returned at 11 and set off for Mesilume Dam [Mselume Dam] to meet a friend of Pat’s who would show us some Black Eagle nests. We saw several breeding pairs and a number of vacant nests. After trekking around a bit we returned to camp for a large lunch and a fairly peaceful afternoon. To pass time I drew an interesting tree with massive roots in charcoal which turned out rather successfully for a change (charcoal drawing is no easy task).
The four of us (the usual) then went and had a game of tennis, which again I seemed to dominate (ha ha!) No, truthfully. Then to round off the day we took a scenic drive to the game park. For three-quarters of an hour we did pretty well seeing Eland, impala, klipspringer, sable, rhino and a giraffe. Arriving back at main gate with a minute to spare before closing time we just squeezed through. I then went and had a hot bath on arrival and for the first time in a week washed my hair (numbskull!). We then went and devoured most of the braaied food Ray had prepared and finished it off with toasted marshmallows. Went off to bed and wrote my diary.
Never have I seen as beautiful a rock formation than that of the Matopos and if mum hadn’t remembered that she still had her watch after we had turned back maybe we could have seen it all over again. Not long before we reached Gwai we stopped to have a lunch of salad and rolls.
The Gwai River Hotel (not much of a river) proved to be quite impressive. On arrival we unpacked, swam, bounced on the trampoline and then fished. Had bites but caught nothing.
Returned at sundown, had a bath, went for a pleasant but small supper and then played table tennis for over an hour. Dan won three and I won the last but next time I’ll walk over him just you wait and see. Tired, we turned in for the night.
Brought tea in bed! Got up, dressed and went for breakfast (got sick over my fritters). After that I went for a leisurable [sic] walk around the dam and swamp keeping a lookout for the local croc. Came back and knocked about with the table tennis until we decided to go on our game drive around Hwange.
To get to the main gate we travelled 30 kms and from there we went to Ndlohvu platform [Nyamandhlovu platform] for what was meant to be tea but turned out to be lunch. First came the giraffe, slowly but surely (over 20 of them!), then the impala, ostrich and the warthogs (mud hogs more conveniently when seen on the bank) and lastly the sable, who being the bravest of all went knee deep and below in the water. Fortunately for them they were attacked by a pathetic croc who only snapped his jaws at them.
We also fed the extremely tame (cheeky) starlings and hornbills on scraps of food. Also seen were an incredible amount of birds including three species of eagles. After a return tea at the Hwange Hotel we came back and had our usual bath and dinner then friendly table tennis (in the book it’s friendly). Wrote my diary and hopped into bed.
Got up to go fishing at 6:20 and didn’t even catch anything! All the worms were too small. Warmed up over breakfast then walked around the dam with mum and her folks and saw over 20 warthogs. Returned for a game of table tennis and drew with Dan in games. We all ate chips for lunch, lazed about, swam and jumped on the tramp (trampoline).
After a while the adults went on a walk while we stayed behind and got ready to fish. We used biltong for bait, had bites but caught nothing. So the fishermen went and had a bath followed by a supper of soup, Goulash and spongy pudding (not to mention the cheese pie – a bad excuse for pig’s swine [swill?]). Supper was followed by table tennis in which Dan beat me twice and I once against him. We also played a fun game of doubles where Dan and I beat the parents – naturally. Then it was tie for sleeping and reading and all the other things done at that time of day (silently thumping younger brothers).
Up and packing late as usual. Went for breakfast and a last jump on the tramp before the journey. Bid farewell to Gwai and all its staff including our faithful and patient Anton. Our trip to Cinamatela [Sinamatella] was a long and dusty but worthwhile journey. From our splendid hilltop view we looked down upon impala, zebra, buffalo and giraffe. The birds were numerous upon the miles of rolling plains and it seemed a shame to leave. Maybe one day we would come to stay in a lodge.