This is the second largest city in Zimbabwe and is located in the South West. As we arrived, we didn’t have an itinerary thus were both intrigued and excited about what we would find. Our arrival into Bulawayo was great as the train station is neat and clean and devoid of the “madness” in most train stations. It is a great town where we met some amazing people, enjoyed beautiful scenery and I seemed to lose my mind in various instances.
Highlights of Bulawayo:
1) Matopos National Park
Matopos National Park is indeed an interesting place especially due to the Matobo Hills Rock formation. On every turn, boulders upon boulders of rocks can be seen and they are quite a sight. At times, they seemed as if they had been neatly arranged atop each other instead of having occurred naturally. One can easily see the effects of erosion on the rocks with some elements of the erosion making “art” on the rocks. The area is also home to numerous animals like giraffes, impalas , hippos, crocodiles, rhinos and deers, which we all saw. To travel here, one has the option to self drive or hire a tour as it is quite a distance from the main town.
In my case however, though awed by the above, it stands out for me under one of my Most Exciting and Most Stupid experiences due to two near death experiences. Let me put a disclaimer: Never, ever, ever try this in any National Park or anywhere with wild animals.
After having a picnic at the designated area near a dam, we decided we should go in search of crocodiles that are known to come out to bask. Yes, we honestly decided searching for crocodiles seemed like a fabulous thing to do. We thus went around the dam to an area that is apparently famous for spotting crocodiles and sure enough, there was a crocodile basking.
It was huge and lay motionless on a dry patch on the banks of the dam. I had never been this close to a wild crocodile, thus when fear tried to peak its head, it was quickly smothered by my adventurous, curious, out of my mind state at that moment. The five of us all seemed to have lost our minds, we wanted to see more and thus we moved away from the vehicle, walked down a small hill and stood smack on the dry-part of the dam. Before us was the water, lots of water and we could see bobbing heads of crocodiles swimming, yet this did not to deter us. We then moved closer to the lone, huge crocodile that was basking and watched it watch us. Soon we were so close to it, we could see its blood stained pointy teeth, remnants of a meal perhaps.
Even that didn’t scare us, we were moving on pure adrenalin and stupidity, that we hardly noticed we were now between reeds, the dam waters and the crocodile. I could hear the wind whistling through the reeds, I could feel some motion within it, I could feel cold ice running up my spine, yet, I remained entranced with this mighty crocodile. I honestly believe there could have been crocodiles in the reeds now that I think off it, that icy chill up my spine was not a normal occurrence. Then suddenly, it opened its jaws and pounced, springing us all back to the reality of the dangerous situation we were in. We all froze as if waiting to see who would be its meal, my legs could not move, I was no longer breathing, I was transfixed on this crocodile now in motion. I assure you, it is a miracle we are all still alive as midair, it turned and fell back into the water-a true miracle from God. I hereby advise, do not attempt this at any cost, if it had jumped in our direction, I assure you, there would have been no way to escape it.
As we left the National Park with our hearts still in our mouths, we were greatly disappointed that we had not seen a rhino. Oh well, such is life in National Parks, you may or may not see your intended animal. However, as we moved further away from the park, one of my friends shouted “Stop!-Rhino.” We stopped and all looked out the window, sure enough, a few meters from us was a majestic, big rhino whose skin was sheer black. We were again filled with excitement, parked the car and crossed the road to get a better view. I know, lone wild animals are super wild, one is advised to never approach unless they want to seduce death. At this juncture, all normal reasoning was lost, madness took over, stupidity part two took over and we forged forward closer to the Rhino.
It seemed to notice us by raising its ears but continued to feed on the grass. We inched a little closer and again it raised its ears. We stood still when it raised its head and looked directly in our direction as if warning us-Go back! This did not deter us, it only made us try to sneak closer to it for a better view. I was so entranced, I didn’t even want to see it from the back of a camera, I wanted my eyes to soak up its image. It was black in colour, it had small ears atop its wide frame, its jaws chewed lazily on the grass, its horn cut off to protect it from poachers and it looked so innocent, it was hard to believe the stories told about it. However, when we got too close for comfort, it grunted, stamped its feet and shook its head menacingly from side to side. It stood at attention, facing our direction and sent a threat with the wind. This was all we needed, we retreated back slowly accepting our error and drove off.
Every corner we turned, we were met by bright smiles and every instance we had a challenge, the locals seemed to offer a solution in more ways than one. The friends we met in the train, the friends we made at Indaba Cafe, the friends we met in the streets, thank you for sharing a bit of your lives and Zimbabwe with us.
The area has a variety of dining places to enjoy so your options should be unlimited. We enjoyed Indaba Cafe in town for great service, great food and free wi-fi 🙂 and the Kraal which is in the outskirts. The team was really friendly and warm, we all eventually became friends, including the owners. Great people, make sure to make a visit and say hi for me.
Bulawayo has a variety of accommodations to pick from, so worry not. We enjoyed both staying at a hotel and a homestay. The homestay indeed was the best bet as we got to better understand Zimbabwe and its people more.
We indeed had a great time in Bulawayo and we were sad as we left. I highly recommend a visit, you will enjoy it. While here, we heard about “Great Zimbabwe” which is in Maswingo and sure enough, we had to proceed to this historical town. Thanks David for permission to use some of your amazing pictures.
For more on Zimbabwe escapades, check out:
Historical Great Zimbabwe: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/historical-great-zimbabwe/
Enchanting Victoria Falls: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/enchanting-victoria-falls/
Zimbabwe 101: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/zimbabwe-101/