This is the twenty fourth in an ongoing series of posts that capture journal entries from my incredible trip to Zimbabwe in 1997. You can read more about my motivation for the journey and why I’m revisiting it now in the original post. I was 21 at the time I wrote this.
8/4/97, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe During that day we had debated as to whether we should take a tour of Matopos with the guide, Karen’s brother, or book with Black Rhino tours, which comes highly recommended. We went with Black Rhino and in the morning a guy named Colin came to pick us up in huge jeep/truck like a Toyota Landcruiser. My hand is getting tired so I’ll stop for now, I’ve been writing letters all day to give to Lillith to take home with her and send there. She is leaving tomorrow and I’ve been neglecting this journal because I’ve had so much email and letters to replay to lately. I’m about two weeks behind, I need to write about Matopos, the book fair, CHIYSAP theater and strategic planning and my trip to Victoria Falls, so much has happened lately, I may run out of space…
8/20/97, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe Well, I’m here again, I get so involved in writing letters and reading that I forget to write in this journal. Things fade from memory so fast. Back to Matopos. It is now a historical and game park but has been a tribal spiritual center for thousands of years. The game park has one of the largest black and white rhino populations in the world. The landscape was beautiful, covered with stacks of balancing rocks, some that even look like human figures. Our tour of Matopos was actually well worth the $45 US we paid. Matopos is a huge park and we never could have seen any of it without a car. Our guide was a fairly charming white Zimbabwean. There were three other Americans in the large jeep with us. Elderly retirees who were in Zimbabwe on an extended hunting/sightseeing tour. They must have had a lot of money because they had everything planned out whit private hunting trips in various different places all over the country. They were very chatty and wanted to tell us all about it. I listened politely but wasn’t too impressed. I was bummed that they were with us because they couldn’t walk very fast and some of the tour was walking out into the bush to see rhinos, cave painting or hiking up a hill to see Rhodes grave. But they were nice people and they said they would send me pictures because they had a much better camera.
Our first stop was the game park but before we even entered the park itself I saw giraffe on the road. They were far away though and I regretted not bringing my little binoculars. Also with us, although not in the jeep, was a mini-bus load of young Europeans with another guide. Maybe they paid less or something because they were crowded into the bus and their guide wasn’t licensed to let them get out of the bus and walk around. Our guide Colin was though, so at a certain point we traded guides so they could see rhinos too. We all ate lunch together at a picnic site on top of a hill. The view was pretty incredible.
Later… sitting in Nando’s Due to a misunderstanding, probably a communication error, my partner Lovemore has deserted me. We came into town together to buy some books for some of the CHIYSAP projects. I told him that he should meet me at Nando’s which was right down the street from the book store we were in. He never showed up. So here I am, killing time. It’s rush hour and it’s hot so there will be no point in getting on a bus which will be overcrowded and going home. I think my friend John works somewhere close so maybe I’ll go see later if he can give me a ride home. I’ve been writing letters to Jennie, but I’m feeling a lot of guilt over neglecting my travelogue so I’ve vowed to update it. It’s in my nature to feel guilt about things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter all that much. But, I’m sure my readers at home will appreciate my diligence.
So, I was writing about Matopos and our day tour of it. I had read all about it in my travel guide so I was really excited to see it, but should have realized that we couldn’t see everything in one day. The tour covered the game park, a few isolated cave paintings and the View of the World where Cecil John Rhodes is buried. I expected to see more I guess, maybe I’ll have a chance to go back again. The best part of the tour was the game park. The first thing we did once we were inside the park was get out of the jeep and hike into the bush to look for some white rhinos that had been spotted in the area. We walked slowly and I was impatient with the oldest lady who had a cane. We were rewarded with a close up view of two white rhinos, about 5 or 6 years old, not full grown yet. It was pretty exciting to see such a huge animal up close with no protection whatsoever. Colin said that the white rhinos were not aggressive as we crashed through the bush, whispered an took pictures. Most of the rhinos in the park are white, there are only 13 black rhinos. I think they are an endangered species. We didn’t see any black rhinos that day and the other guide said that he had been running tours for an entire year and had yet to see one.
Throughout the rest of the day as we lumbered along in the huge jeep we saw numerous warthogs rooting in the dirt along the roadside, lots of baboons and little monkeys. I got to see zebras for the first time but it was from a distance. We also saw something called a hyrex, which is a relative of the elephant, and water bucks, a sort of grazing animal. Lunch wasn’t very exciting except for the view. I wasn’t much interested in talking with our mini bus companions. Brits mostly, others from Australia and Sweden. Young, hip, traveling whites, complete with shaggy hair, Tevas and nose rings. I chose to sit in the sun and just listen to their conversations. I watched lizards sun themselves on the rocks and small squirrel-like creatures hoping we would through food to them. Some things are the same wherever you go.