Great Zimbabwe Ruins

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:24 pm
May 262011

After making it through the Beitbridge border without too much trouble, we then faced the road to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins near Masvingo. We had already decided that we were not stopping for anything until we made the ruins, so 4 hours or so later, having had banana sandwiches made on the run, we arrived safely at the ruins. There were a couple of police road blocks, but they just asked for our Temporary Import Permit and where we were headed and waved us through. We turned off the main road and took a minor road for the last 30 or so kilometres. It was a single lane tar track with dirt either side, that looked like it had had one strip laid for each wheel and then filled in at the middle. The edges were crumbling away and it took some driving skill to stay on the track as it was only just wide enough for the Land Cruiser.

The Great Enclosure, Great Zimbabwe RuinsWe were warmly greeted and paid our $5 each to camp and $15 each for the ruins. The camp is just a grassed area with some ablutions that were probably built around 1930 and haven’t seen a lot Hill Complex, Great Zimbabwe Ruinsdone to them since then. They did though have piping hot water and decent water pressure which is always a luxury. There is a security guard from 6pm to 6am.

8am this morning we paid $3 each for a guide, which is well worth the money. His name was James and he was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He took us around the ruins for about 2.5 hours and explained everything to us. They are pretty impressive, especially considering they were built around 1200AD and the walls have no mortar in them. Some walls have been restored, but the vast majority have not been touched.

     Hill Complex, Great Zimbabwe RuinsGreat Enclosure, Great Zimbabwe RuinsGreat Enclosure, Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Mid morning we left the ruins via the scenic road over the dam, and headed for Mutare which is at the Mozambique border. The people were really friendly along the way and seemed generally pleased to see us as we passed them, a much nicer experience than when they put their hands out as you pass. The scenic drive is worth the effort as it passes over the dam through some scenic countryside and villages. The road is narrow and quite windy, but most of the way it is good tar. The last third is a dirt track, which is a bit rough, and you need to know which road to take as there are no signs. We passed numerous police road blocks, the vast majority of which we were waved through without stopping and those few that we were stopped at just wanted to know where we were headed.

Tony's Coffee House, VumbaOur original plan was to camp at the Mutare Municipal Camp, but on inspection neither of us felt we would be safe there. It is not fenced, very close to town and we would be the only ones there. Instead we headed for Vumba where we would find a cheap hotel. Vumba is a mountain village right next to Mutare. It is very scenic and a lot cooler than the city and I am sure it is a great weekend retreat. We stopped at Tony’s Coffee House as we had heard excellent things about it. It is a beautiful building in equally beautiful surroundings and was a bit of luxury Tony's Coffee House, Vumbafor us. They serve excellent coffee and about 100 different teas as well as scrumptious cake. Wayne had a Chocolate Whiskey Cake and I had a Macadamia Cheesecake. Everything was served as if we were the Queen of England on beautiful china, silver teapots and damask napkins, it was all very posh and quite a treat from our usual dining experiences! It is not cheap though, $35 for a coffee, tea (both of which are bottomless) and cake each (neither of us could quite finish our cake as the servings are very generous). The staff are really friendly and Tony came and had a chat to us for a while. All in all it was a lovely treat for us.

Whilst at Tony’s one of the staff, Ken, asked us if we needed somewhere to camp. He told us his wife worked at Ndunda Lodge, which had burnt down a couple of years ago, but about a week ago they had opened again for Ndundu Lodge, Vumbacamping. So of course we headed for Ndunda as camping is a much cheaper option than a motel. Mavis met us at the gate and showed us where we could camp. They are still in the process or sorting things out, but we had a nice grassed area sheltered from the road with large trees, a table and a bbq that we used to have a fire as it was quite cold at night. We were their first customers since they reopened, and so the first to use the amenities. They have repainted and put new fittings in, but there was no electricity so they left candles for us. They heated the water with a donkey, but unfortunately whilst the water was hot, only a minute trickle came out of the showerhead, so it was a bit tricky trying to shower! That said though, it is a fine place to stay if you need somewhere near the border and I am sure they will sort out the shower issue. Camping was $8 per person

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