Galloping to Great Zimbabwe

17 Mar

5 of us left in Jonathan’s mum’s jeep. The caravan consisted of Jonathan, his business partner and horse expert Andy, Jelas the translator and Lucky, both of whom are grooms at the stables, 2 horses, 1 dog (Chundu) and I, all males. My bike on the horsebox, enough food for 2 days in the back, plenty of music and plenty of beers. Brilliant.

On the first day, we drove along the main road towards Machendeke Sanctuary, with an aim to ride about 80km in 2 days through bush. We started on the Castle beers at 9am. Due to problems getting the horses and bike into the sanctuary, 2 punctures on the horsebox and dry riverbeds for 30km, we only managed to drink beer all day, barbeque beef fillet, beef sausage and chicken with sudza and gravy and ride around Great Zimbabwe in the late afternoon. Not a bad outcome. The guys were treating the ride both as a photoshoot and as prospecting for their new horseback safaris business, and learning a lot about the logistics along the way.

The next day we rode out and around a nearby lake, taking video footage down small paths and with the horses sprinting around and me trying to keep up. The guys were low on cash and headed back in the afternoon, after another splendid barbeque, and I stayed to explore the ruins.

Great Zimbabwe is the Angkor Wat of Sub-Saharan Africa, and a lot of fun to run around. A deserted 13th century labyrinth of dry stone walls, which hug huge boulders high on a hilltop and in the surrounding area. Crumbling paths lead to deadly cliff edges and you can squeeze through gaps between boulders, sometimes so small I had to take off my backpack and go hands and knees, into caves that acted as back passages to higher areas. I jumped and clacked around on the rocks in my cycling shoes, then ran back down to somehow borrow a camera from somebody.

In the evening I cooked sudza on the barbeque with the security guard, Arnold. He’s 29 or 30, he says. He’s not sure. He’s on a temporary contract here at Great Zim. He’s now responsible for 6 orphans, all under the age of 3, after his brother passed away. He asked me for help or ideas. What should he do? He thought writing poetry would make him money from tourists. We talked for a couple of hours and I was happy to give him some of the gifts Jonathan had given me the day before – 5kg of mealy meal (enough to feed a family of 5 for 10 days, apparently), salt and tea. I’ve been on a lucky streak in Zimbabwe, and now I’m moving on, while Arnold here is trapped.

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