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September - December 2009 Magazine |
Mabukuwene Nature Reserve
Fridays 19:00 - 21:00 hrs
Norman's Email address
With thanks to:- Editor - Leon Wuyts
UNDER THE PSEUDOLACHNOSTYLIS MAPROUNEIFOLIA
The One Hundredth Anniversary Year of our Troop was celebrated in grand style by the holding of
a number of special Troop events throughout the year, with the all-important National Centenary
Camp being held during the August school holidays. Four hundred Scouts from around Zimbabwe
camped with us for five days in Gordon Park where they participated in a range of activities,
including over-night hikes in the Matopos. These activities have already been reported on in
previous editions of Pioneer Trail. Reports on the last of this year's activities appear in this edition.
Our celebrations as a Troop will continue for another year as we still have activities, that owing to
time and financial constraints, we were unable to accomplish in a twelve month period. Further,
the overflow of our Centenary Celebrations into our one hundred and first-year will hopefully set
the pace for the future.
Our membership numbers remained
static during these last four months of
the year. However, at year end,
Daniel Francis, one of our senior and
long serving members left us. To you
Daniel, thank you for your regular
attendance at weekly meetings, your
valued help in the training of the
junior Scouts and the interesting
general knowledge quiz question, you
posed at each meeting. On the plus
side, we were pleased to welcome
Leon Wuyts back into the Troop when
he returned from his 'gap' year spent
in England. Coming back as an adult,
Leon soon immersed himself in the
life of the Troop. With his return, I am
pleased and very relieved to be able
to hand the production of Pioneer
Trail back into his capable hands.
Next year he plans on attending
Leader Training courses and also
taking out a Warrant as an Assistant
Scouting received a boost when the
Matopos Conservation Society held
its Annual General Meeting at Gordon
Park, during November in respect of
our Centenary Year of Scouting. As
the Scouts of our Troop are members
of the Society, we were only too
pleased to host the event. Our duties
included preparing the Naomi Conolly
Lodge where the meeting was held
and then designing and setting out an orienteering course for the members of the Society to
experience a Scouting activity. The course included instruction/revision on how to read a magnetic
compass, a bit of thinking and some physical activity. The Society ended their weekend in Gordon
Park with the planting of a Kirkia acuminata (White Syringa) in the Bowl Campsite, to
commemorate their association with Scouting.
Patrol Leader Christopher Mackenzie receiving
the coveted GP Crew Scarf.
At the September Church Service at Gordon Park, Patrol Leader Christopher Mackenzie was
invested into the Gordon Park Crew. This honour is reserved for those Scouts who have attained
as a minimum their Adventurer Badge in their Scout Troop, render regular service in the
maintenance and development of Gordon Park and carry out a project that will benefit those
Scouts who use the Park. Congratulations Christopher on your investiture.
Since 1992 I have been involved in
the production of an annual calendar
which is used to raise funds for our
Scouting activities and to publicise
Scouting to the general public. When
preparing this year's calendar at the
end of 2008, on the advice of our
publisher who had been one of my
Scouts in the dark distant past, he
suggested that we go for a full colour
production and include photographs
depicting our Scouts involved in
scouting activities. The result was
absolutely fantastic, and as
professional as any commercial
company's production. A high
standard was set, which we have
continued with new photographs for
our 2010 calendar. Scouting is alive
and as exhilarating as ever, even
though we are one hundred years
Just prior to Christmas we received
a parcel from our international pen
pal Troop, the 12th Cork Scout Troop
(Ireland). The parcel contained
lanyards, (we have been making our own as these have not been available in Zimbabwe since
1965) a number of the most common proficiency badges Scouts gain, Patrol flashes and an Irish
Scout Handbook. These gifts are really appreciated, and we sincerely thank the Scout Leader,
Philip Jones and his Scouts for their thoughtfulness and generosity.
Ending off the year, the Troop met at Mabukuwene as usual, only to be whisked off to the Creamy
Inn at the Hillside shopping centre for an evening of feasting on pizza's, ice creams and cold
drinks. Wow! What a delightful way to end a memorable year of scouting activities.
And now, it is back to my hammock beneath my favourite
Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia with
my floppy hat pulled over my eyes as I dream of the planning necessary in implementing the final
round of exciting High Adventure Activities for our Scouts to get involved in to complete our
Centenary Birthday celebrations.
26th September 2009
When we arrived at Milton Junior School, Chris and I unpacked the cars, and headed for the
Judge's table to be given our sites, so we could start setting up. At first, they gave us sites next to
each other, but they changed their minds, and I helped Chris move to another site and we began
We dug holes for our cooking fires, before we were called for the Opening Parade, and they
wished us luck. After the Parade, we began cooking our meals. I cooked pork chops, sadza and
creamed spinage, followed by baked apple, whilst Chris cooked a three-course Traditional meal.
When we had finished cooking our meals, we went to the judges to get our meals judged. After
this, we packed up our stuff, and cleaned up our sites. They called us to the Closing Parade, and
we got our marks, and then we went home, and I think it was the best...
The Hike of Caves, Paintings and Grain Bins
2nd - 3rd October 2009
At about five o'clock we had all arrived at Christ the King Church. Chris and I packed the car and
at ten past five we left for Gordon Park. On our arrival, we unpacked the car ready for the hike,
since we were going to sleep on the top of Shumba. We had our dinner and a quick shower. Then
the three of us, Norman, Chris and myself set off on our hike at half past seven. When we got to
the top of Shumba at a quarter past eight, we set out our beds then went to sleep, but
unfortunately it was cold, so none of us had a good night's sleep.
At half past five we woke up
and we had oats for
breakfast. At about half past
six, we started on our hike.
On our way down the back
of Shumba, we stopped at
Witch Doctor's cave at
about 7 o'clock.
Then we had a look around
the cave and took some
photographs. Then we
carried on. This was the first
time that I had been to the
When we were down we
started looking for the fence
that marked the boundary of
the National Park. When we
found it, we followed it for Early start on Shumba Shaba.
about one kilometre. After a long walk we saw a flock of Guineafowl on the way to a nice cave
because it had some nice paintings in it and this was at about 8.30. After about ten to twenty
minutes we continued the hike.
So Norman wanted to show us
another cave. After a few miss
calculations, Norman said that we
should head for a 'bridge' of rock
across the river gorge that we were
hiking up. But when we were on the
'bridge', we saw something else.
Chris walked passed a cave and
looking in, said that there was a clay
pot in the cave. We put our packs
down and entered the cave. But the
pot was not the only thing there, but
twelve grain bins and three more
pots made of clay. We called it the,
Grain Bin Bridge cave. This was at
At about 10.30 we continued our
hike, but we could not find the cave
that Norman wanted us to see, so
we stopped for a rest, while Norman
looked around for the cave. As
Chris' and my feet were sore, we
took off our shoes whilst we waited.
When we saw Norman coming back
we put our shoes back on. Norman
said that the cave was still a long
way away and that as the time was
now 11.45 we had better head back
to Gordon Park. It took us quite a
while to climb down the mountain to
the road that goes from Gordon
Park to Mtshelele dam. We reached
the road at 12.30 and had a twenty
minute rest before heading back for Gordon Park following the road for about one and a half
hours. Nearing Gordon Park, we went on a path that took us to the vlei which we crossed and
entered Gordon Park. Once at headquarters we made the fires and had a nice shower and then
lunch, which was cheese, tomato, polony and onion rolls. It was now 2.30 in the afternoon.
Following a short rest after lunch, I was told to cut the strawberries ready for dinner while Norman
and Chris went to start the pumps. When they got back we started preparing dinner. Chris was not
hungry and felt sick, so he went to bed. Norman and I had dinner which was boereworse, tomato
and onion rolls. We then went to close up the pumps and went back to headquarters to get the
gate keys for we had locked the gates into Gordon Park whilst we were away from the Park on the
hike. At the gates, Norman heard a noise in the bush so taking a torch we went to look, but didn't
see anything. We went out onto the main road and then followed the vlei road to Mtshelele. As we
were going along we saw two Rhino on the side of the road. So we let them go across the road in
front of us. We saw some eyes in the bush in front of us shining in the light of the car. We looked
into the bush, but could not see anything, so we carried on driving. After a while we came to some
Rhino droppings in the middle of the road. We turned around and headed back to the Park. On
the way we saw our two Rhino again and then as we turned on to the main road we saw a huge
Rhino standing in the middle of the road. It had a horn of about sixty centimetres long and it
trotted off into the bush on the other side of the road. We then went back to the Park where we
had our showers and went to bed.
The next morning it was cold and it was raining. It soon stopped so we had our breakfast of oats.
We spent the rest of the morning doing the foundations for a new stove at the headquarter
kitchen. For lunch we had spinach and white sauce, carrots and meat-balls. We then looked up in
a bird book, a bird that we had seen on the hike but could not identify. We think it was a Martial
Eagle. Then Chris and I played around and he locked me in a room. He eventually let me out.
To end off the day, I sat down and wrote this article for our magazine, whilst Chris and Norman
did some road work. They collected the pump and then we had our showers and went home at
Parent's Camp10th - 11th October 2009
This was nearly a non starter due to school commitments for most of the Scouts. In fact it was
cancelled and then resuscitated on the Friday night before the weekend.
I think this was probably the first camp where the parents out numbered the Scouts by two to one.
Admittedly, not all parents stayed out for the night, but we did have a cosy little campfire and sing
along all the same, before the townies headed back to town.
Not having a large group out also meant that we could do other things. After the end of camp fire
and escorting Wendy back to the stables, we went to switch off pumps and make sure that they
were securely chained up for the night. After all, Gordon Park is situated in a National Park and
they might grow legs and walk out during the night. At this late hour of the night, Norman decided
that it was a good time to take a little drive down the side of the valley just to see if the Rhino that
he had seen the previous weekend were back in the vlei. But alas, it was not to be the case; they had been and gone as we
found the spoor on the
road. Maybe they had heard
our singing and decided
that they had quieter areas
to browse in.
Now here is something for
all you scientific types out
there. We have advanced
so far down the road with
micro electronics, genetic
engineering etc. Why has
no one yet invented a micro
chip that can be implanted
into kids with all the
required; who did what,
when, how, etc. so that they
do not need to spend
countless hours memorising
formulae, times tables, and
history lessons. This way they need only go to school for a couple of days a week and can
complete all sports etc. during the week, with out loosing out on the chance to spends days out at
places like Gordon Park.
Here they could learn to appreciate a more tranquil side of life without
the chaos and mayhem of video/computer games and the garbage that is churned out every day
on those square appliances you see in all houses, namely televisions. Parents could have quiet
weekends at home while the boys are out learning scouting at it best. Then I think parents would
be more inclined to come out once a term to Parent's Camp and enjoy a special treat. But
seriously, getting back to reality I think those parents who came out thoroughly enjoyed the
chance to sit back and relax for a while, and for those who did not make it, you missed out on a
Sunday morning saw bacon, egg, sausage, toast and waffles for breakfast. The waffles were a
vast improvement over the attempt at waffles after campfire the previous night. It helps when you
can see what you are doing. After breakfast we took a leisurely walk around the Park and after
which we packed up tents, tarpaulins etc. We then loaded up and moved back to the 'Stables' at
Headquarters to find a shady spot to park the car and set up our camp table ready for lunch. This
is not easy in October, as most of the trees have shed their leaves ready for the start of the rainy
The service was taken by 'Butch' Blake and Christopher did the reading. This he attempted to
memorize before hand, as he is none to confident to stand up and read in front of an audience but
he none the less did extremely well. At the Service we were joined by Milton School Cub Scout
Pack who had also been camping out at the Park for the weekend. Even without John and his
guitar, it was a melodious group of singers in Chapel on Sunday.
Following the Service, we retreated back to the cool and shade at the 'Stables' for lunch. Later in
the afternoon the Scouts decided that it was too hot to sit around and proceeded to have a water
fight. But even with a little splash here and there onto the adults, they could not be drawn into
joining in. And so ended the last of our Parent's Camps for this year. I hope to see more of you
out for the next camp.
Assegai Competition23rd - 25th October 2009
It seemed like Assegai Competition was still far away, when meanwhile it was just around the
Just after school on the Friday, I rushed to get my last things packed. I just made it in time to
catch Norm and the others before they left. As we got to Gordon Park the work started, collecting
all the tools and equipment we'd need, and setting up our camp. We had a great dinner, and went
off to bed.
We awoke early the next morning
to make camp gadgets with out
gum-poles and ropes in order to
impress the judges with our
pioneering skills. We were so busy
enjoying ourselves that time just
flew by, before we quickly ran to
get dressed, and headed off for
the Opening Parade. We got back
to camp and worked till the bases
for First Aid, Knotting and so on
were open. We did well and
finished all the bases, so we
quickly went back and did some of
out spare time activities. At about
5 o'clock we set off for the cooking
competition. We got back and
rehearsed our camp-fire skit. It
went well, but looked a bit silly, as
they had changed the theme
without telling us, and our skit did
not really fit in. We headed back to
our campsite, ate some dinner,
and called it a day.
We were up early on Sunday for camp inspection, and the judges seemed impressed. We then
went down to the Chapel, for a short service, with a Bible reading and prayer. We got back to
camp and started taking down all our hard work. We then got ready for the Closing Parade, where
we found out that we had not won, but came a close second. But the best thing was that we really
GPS Hike6th - 7th November 2009
It was just before 5:00pm on Friday when Dale, Chris and myself were putting our hiking kit in
Norman's landy. We set off from Christ the King with Chris and Dale in the front, and me
squashed up in the back.
We decided to sleep at Gordon Park and leave the next morning for an easy walk in the bush
because of the rain, and none of us felt like getting wet...
In the morning, we left after our breakfast and decided to go to a cave that Chris wanted to see.
So we set off along our 'wood-collecting road' just behind the Park, and walked quite a long way
along this before turning off into the bushes. Here we found another road, but I wasn't listening to
where it comes from or goes to... We then cut through more bush and evntually came across the
area the cave was in.
After a few minitues, we found the cave and headed towards it, on the way up spotting a single
rock with cave paintings on it, before we went up to the cave. While Chris went to look for his
bottle of information, the rest of us sat in the cool cave.
He came back wirh a
GPS tube, that had all
sorts of goodies in it, so
we wrote the date on a
piece of paper, and he
went to hide it again.
We then headed off
towards the Park again,
and it began to drizzle!
Poor Norman! But we
made it back before it got
too bad, and we came
out onto Circular Drive,
and it stopped raining.
Well at least we were
going to be ready if it
rained on Chims.
The Day at the Museum27th November 2009
I had organised to visit the Thomas Meikle houses, as part of a requirement for a badge, but
unfortunately, we were not allowed to go in and see them, so Mr Sanderson offered to take us
round the Museum. He kindly paid for us, and then began showing us around, as he had worked
there once, and knows a lot about the place.
As he showed Norm, Leon, Declan, Kevin, Dale, Daniel, Shaun and me around, he explained all
the different exhibits, but we didn't get a chance to go all the way through, because they wanted to
lock up. So Norm decided we would go and get ice-cream, so we bought a tub of ice cream and
some cones and went back to Mr Sanderson's place, where we all like to explore.
Whilst eating our ice-creams some of us went to climb the Big Rock, and I found some cave
paintings near there, which Mr Sanderson didn't know were there. So he took us to see some
others on the other side of his yard. I love to explore round there! Before long it was time to go to
the next venue for our Sausage Sizzle.
Sausage Sizzle27th November 2009
Hey, I think we've stopped - shhh... I can hear a gate opening. I wonder where we are? - umm
dunno, do you? Uuhh, no I've got a scarf over my eyes...
'ALL RIGHT CHAPPIES, take off the blindfolds. WE'RE HERE!' yells Norm. So in the darkness of
a power cut, we stumbled over to our host, who turned out to be Barry Knight.
We trooped to the braii
area only to find that the
fire had been seriously
neglected, but of course
with hungry Scouts
around (and a cold
Norm) there was soon a
roaring fire. Roasting,
toasting and warm we
were until -
A few Scouts had found
Barry's pool and wanted
to know how cold it was,
and sure enough
everyone knew the
temperature of the pool,
because of some very
loud yells of 'IT'SS
COLD!!!!!' Thus Norm
abruptly decided he
wasn't going near the
pool, but that didn't
apply to the rest of us
who very loudly joined
the errmm... pioneers of
the game known as:
who can turn into an ice
With a sizzle and a crackle and a munch and a crunch the food went from braii to plate to stomach
in no time at all. Stories and laughter were the order of the day until - CRACK WOOSHH! Water
came gushing out of a PVC pipe which Leon's misguided foot had happened to step on. Aaah
Soon after this, or maybe because of this, we said our farewells and thankyous to Barry for once
again allowing us to invade his house for our Sausage Sizzle, and headed off home.
100th Anniversary Chimanimani Hike & Expedition6th - 12th December 2009
There's no place like home... And how could there be, when home in this particular case includes
the beautiful Matobo Hills, and with a bit of effort, the majestic Chimanimani Mountains, and all the
country in-between the two. Though I only arrived back home from my extended gap-year in
England in November, I was lucky enough to be given special dispensation to join the
Chimanimani Hike & Expedition in this, our most extraordinary 100th Anniversary Year.
An early start was to be made on the Sunday morning - too early for a cultured urbanite - but we
all managed to drag ourselves to the Woodlands Fuel Station at 6:00am, the all being Norm,
Chris, Declan, Kevin, Dale, Brendan and myself, along with our respective guardians to bid us a
safe trip. We managed to shove all our kit into Norm's big landy and trailer, with enough room for
our own bods to squeeze in too, making us wonder if maybe we should be taking porters with us...
After a short prayer, and farewell photo, we piled into the landy, arms and legs creating soft,
comfortable nests, the engine roared into life, and off we set, with the sound of sweetie papers
already crackling, and the huge sigh of relief and contentment from our guardians wafting us
towards the Esigodini-Joburg road.
We cruised out of the city,
mentally double checking our
packs, hoping we had
remembered everything, with
the excitement still buzzing in
our ears. We made good time,
heading towards Esigodini and
Balabala beyond that, with only
one or two unexpected pit-stops.
We planned to reach our first
stop at Triangle by lunch, and
the miles rolled past, punctuated
by the sounds of merriment
throughout the car. We dropped
down into the lowvelt in the late
morning, instantly feeling the
heat that would be with us until
the highlands of the Chims.
Thundering into Triangle soon
after lunch-time, we went first to
the Murray MacDougall
Museum, only to find it closed! So, going for Plan B, back down the hill to the Triangle Estate
Club, where we found our host, Mr Andy Gibson, who looked after us incredibly. After a quick
coke at the Club, we headed for the High Syringa Game Park, the Estate's private game-park,
stocked almost to overflowing with plains game. He led us the scenic route through the game park
to our camping site, nested amidst huge trees overlooking a natural pool on the Mutirikwe River.
We unloaded our kit, unhitched the trailer, wolfed down a quick lunch, and about 4:00 headed
back to the Museum.
Mr Gibson gave us a very detailed history of the Triangle Estates, and of Murray MacDougall, who
founded the sugar company, in the heat-parched lowvelt, building, with the simplest of tools and
machinery, miles of canal works to irrigate the sugar crops. Both the scale, and hardships
encountered were very impressive to hear about, which we followed by a tour of the Museum. Of
course, once the tour was over, a water-fight on the springy green lawns of the Museum just
couldn't be resisted, and we were soon shepherded back to the campsite, marvelling at the
abundant game on the way.
A quick game of 'stingers' was followed as the sun began to set with dinner and coffee, and we
relaxed and unwound on the bank of the river, listening to the crickets and frogs in the reeds
below us. As the shadows lengthened, the sky drenched in the wild colours of an African sunset,
small, glowing lights started to dance and flicker over the pool before us, reflecting into a hundred
glimmering glowing drops of blue light. Finally, the swift darkness overtook the scene, as more
and more fireflies started a slow, double-visioned ballet over the water in front of us. The lights of
Broadway or Piccadilly Circus can never hope to compare to the swift, silent tinkling of the fireflies
over the water at dusk.
With drowsiness steeling over us, we rolled out our sleeping bags, propped up our mosquito tents,
and settled down, with the moon rising high above us, and the night-insects singing a high-pitched
We awoke early the next morning, mostly due to the loud tone of Chris' alarm clock, followed by a
quick cup of coffee - much needed at this hour - before Mr Gibson arrived again to give us a tour
of High Syringa, passing herds upon herds of zebra, waterbuck, reedbuck, eland along with
several groups of warthog and long stately giraffe, and the occasional kudu and duiker. Mr Gibson
took us to some of the other campsites, explaining more about the working of the Triangle Estate,
and the vision that brought it about. Finally, we returned to our campsite, and presented Mr
Gibson with a set of our 1st Pioneer Anniversary mugs and plates, as a thank you for his
Our stomachs rumbling, we tucked
into a breakfast of oats, and began to
pack away our kit. After changing a
tyre on the landy that was showing a
bit too much wear for comfort, we
rumbled off back to the main gate of
the game park, which was locked. So
followed a very long and drawn-out
re-tour to find someone to let us out.
Finally, we hit the road again, by now
Leaving Triangle, our next port of call
was the campsite at Mt Selinda, in
the Chirundu Forest. We made quick
time, stopping briefly for lunch,
before finally beginning the long
winding climb to the prominence of
Mt Selinda at about 4:00. After a
short stop at Swynnerton's Memorial,
and a slightly longer stop to see the Big Tree, we rumbled into the clearing of the campsite,
overhung with huge leafy rain-forest trees, and with the sounds of forest monkeys to welcome us.
We unloaded our kit, setting up a tarp to catch the drips and insect-splats from the trees above,
and after a quick cup of tea, rough-housed until either our tummy's rumbled, or our energy levels
flagged. After a warm dinner, and a warmer shower, we settled down to bed again, just a patch of
sky showing through the deep gloomy trees above.
Another early start the next morning, saw us munching away stoically at the oats we again had for
breakfast. By Saturday, oats became a very dirty word. Folding up the tarp, and packing our kit
away, we set off again, but with the excitement slowly growing. Today, we would finally reach the
mountains, the real reason of our expedition, and we lost no time in getting there, though following
a 'back-route' to try and get out of the lowvelt heat as soon as possible. But by mid-morning, we
had begun the winding, swooping climb up into the mountains, as miles of scent-y pine trees filed
past, row upon row.
After a quick stop at the Moodie Memorial and graves, sadly much overgrown, we caught our first
glimpse of the mountains we were to be climbing in, standing tall and distant in a purple haze.
Slowly, and almost imperceptibly, the tallness grew, and the distance shrunk, until we were right
beneath the range, bumping over the rough dirt road climbing up to Dead Cow Camp, the National
Parks office where we would leave the car.
Whilst Norm went to pay our fees, we sorted out our kit, repacked our packs, weighing them
expertly, and grunting to show how heavy they were, and how strong we were. After a lunch in the
shade of the Mountain Acacias at the camp, we rechecked everything for the last time, locked up
the car, took the first step, and we were off. After taking so long to get here, it only slowly sunk in
that we had arrived at our actual destination, but as the mountain seemed to rise up above us, it
couldn't be ignored for long.
We ascended onto the range following the Banana route, though many of the wild banana plants
have been burnt out through fires. After a quick rest at the top, we set off following the ridge down
towards Southern Lakes, which always seemed to be just another ridge ahead. The mountain air
was cool and brisk after so long in the heat and depression of the lower altitudes, and we set a
brisk pace. About 4:00 we reached the Southern Lakes, with the instant result of a dip in the icecold
mountain water. A brisk dip!
Refreshed, we followed the Bundi from the Lakes upstream towards the steep path that would
lead us to Terry's Cave, where we were to spend the first night, noting with horror the enormous
damage done to the banks of the river by the illegal gold-panniers in their search for riches.
Finally, as the sun slowly began to sink below the horizon, we arrived at the cave, dropping our
packs and ourselves into the shade of the overhang, and wasting no time getting a cup of tea on
A quick nip down to a nearby stream to refill our water bottles, and the smell of cooking dinner
was soon wafting through the evening air. As darkness fell, our tummy-beasts stilled for the
moment, our packs no longer a menace, and the wide vista of the mountains spread before us,
we all squirreled down into our sleeping bags, wondering what tomorrow would bring.
Not that we had very long to wonder, as yet another early start on Thursday morning, with a few
half-hearted attempts at a mouthful of oats, and we were back in our packs, leaving Terry's behind
us and following the River upstream towards today's objective: Binga. Thankfully, the massif of
Binga was obscured amidst the folds and valleys of the mountains ahead, and without the
daunting mountain to loom over us, we were soon swimming and diving in the pools and
waterfalls along the River.
At a good speed, we soon reached our first real stopping point, where we left our packs in the
shade of a convenient overhang, and filled our pockets with good energy food: sweets and dried
fruit. After a breather, and feeling much more enthusiastic without the constant gravity reminder of
our packs, the intrepid climbers and mountaineers of the 1st began the Ascent. The gradient
suddenly doubled, then even more alarmingly trebled, as we slogged our way uphill into Hidden
Valley, with the full splendour of Binga suddenly before us.
An attempt to regain our breath at a stream at the half-way point to the base of the mountain, a
few sweets to keep our legs from liquefying, and the mountain growing larger with each passing
metre, we finally staggered to a halt at the foot of the monstrosity, gazing up to the far-distant
reaches, wondering how the Tower of Babel would compare. But, seeing as we had already come
so far, we couldn't give up now, and following the loose path of beacons, slowly and tortuously we
made our way up to the top. Binga is particularly stricken with that mountain angst of presenting a
ridge to the climber, leading them to believe that's the top, and then suddenly flinging another fold
in front of their wearying feet. At last, as we stumbled onto a flat plateau, with the trig beacon
ahead of us, I was almost expecting another ridge to loom up behind this one.
A scramble through the rock to the
beacon, and a pile of softly twitching
and loudly panting Scouts surveyed
the world. With views stretching
through the distance to the flat lands
of Mozambique on one side, and the
harsh face of Turret Towers and the
rest of the range on the other, it was
easy to feel like conquerors,
surveying our bounty, through a
hazy, flitting wreath of low-lying
cumulonimbus. Wolfing down the
sweets and dried fruits, and with a
photo to record the moment for
prosperity, we now faced the
challenge of heading back down
Though a quicker process, it was
almost more exhausting going down,
keeping a check on your forward progress with already complaining knees. At last, we staggered
back onto the plain of Hidden Valley, looking up at our mountain now with a fond eye, and
affectionate respect. Dark mutterings of 'never again,' a care-free heart, and a refreshing paddle
in the freezing stream and we arrived back at our packs soon after lunch-time. Soon after was
years too late, and the beasts were stirring furiously for feeding. Lunch was followed by a siesta
through the heat of the afternoon sun, before the next leg of our journey to our final sleeping
possie, Red-wall Cave.
We crossed the Bundi Plain basking in the late afternoon sun, with a final climb beside North
Falls, passing a Berg Adder on the path to Red Wall Cave, and a much needed rest in the shelter
of the overhang. A trip down to the river for water and a cool-off was followed, as another sun
sunk behind another horizon, with another warm dinner. Listening to the red-winged starlings
nesting above us, and the open mountain panorama to delight us, we watched the sun fade from
the landscape, before our tired eyes flitted closed till morning.
Our final morning in the mountains thrust us out of sleeping-bags, with coffee and a force-fed
breakfast of oats to herald the new day. Everything packed, and packs fitted into the deeply worn
grooves on our shoulders, we waved farewell to Red-wall, headed to Sphinx pass, dropping down
steeply to Outward Bound below. A quick rest on the edge of the pass, whilst Norm went back to
retrieve his forgotten camera, and we began the slow, hair-raising descent.
With thankfully no hiccoughs, we finally stumbled down to a set of crystal clear pools at the bottom
of the steep section, and no water can be so lightly passed without a splash. Norm soon left us to
fetch the car from Dead Cow Camp, whilst we continued on to Outward Bound, where after a chat
with the Warden, we were given permission to swim in Tessa's Pools, for our last real taste of
We whiled away the time until Norm arrived, swimming and diving in the Pools, and gulped down
the cokes he bought when he arrived. After an end-of-hike photo, it was time to pile the packs
back into the trailer, wave farewell to the mountains, and continue our wanderings.
Our original intention was to head north to Mutare to visit Uncle Ken, but on the way out of the
mountains, as we were pulling into a small recreational park Norm wanted us to see, we suddenly
lost clutch on the land rover. Oh dear! After a hasty stop, a quick diagnosis and a phone call to our
ever-patient honorary mechanic in Bulawayo, Norm managed to make a plan using the landy's 4-
wheel drive, and with a bit of grating and trial-and-error, we managed to get under way again.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to get up to Mutare, but we will come see you soon, Uncle Ken.
So, the plan was now to head to Lake Mutirikwe, where our end-of-hike dinner was to be on
Friday evening. Once the mountain roads had been negotiated, we dropped back down into the
lowvelt, as the sun slowly drooped westwards. Mid-afternoon we crossed Birchenough Bridge,
waiting for a huge truck to come whirring past, slipstream and all, the bridge shaking and rolling
with the weight. As night drew closer, we looked for a suitable place off the road to settle down,
and found a nice clearing about 500m off the road, in soft sand. Tea was followed swiftly by
dinner, once darkness fell, followed even more swiftly by the unrolling of sleeping-bags and
mattresses. Plagued by mosquitoes and other flying pests, we finally dropped off to sleep.
Friday dawned. Our second last day, and the ritual of coffee and oats welcomed another morn.
Re-packed and on the road, steaming almost due east to Masvingo and Lake Mutirikwe beyond,
we arrived about mid morning at the small Italian Chapel just outside Masvingo, with a brief look
around, admiring the hand-painted frescos on the ceiling. After a stop in Masvingo to refuel, we
were on the way to Lake Mutirikwe, and our end-of-hike dinner. Our first stop, through the swirling
mist of the area, was at the Inn on Great Zimbabwe, where we were to camp the night.
We booked in, and unloaded our
kit, unhitched the trailer, and after a
lunch and a rest, we were off to
see the Dam Wall, the small
Chapel above the Lake, and the
sculptures of the Water Bailiff's
Garden. We wandered around in
the deliciously cool air, wreathed in
a pale blue haze. As the day
lengthened, we made our way back
to the campsite, for a bit of roughand-
tumble, before gorgeous
steaming hot showers, and our
grooming preparations for dinner.
With darkness settling on the land,
we made our way to the main
Lounge, for pre-dinner cokes,
before being called through to the
Dining Hall. Starters were followed
by Soup, followed by a fantastic Main Course, finished off with a sweet desert. Coffee in the
Lounge, and a quick game of touch on the green lawns, finished off a fantastic end-of-hike dinner.
With drooping eyelids, and full bellies, we all curled into our familiar sleeping bags, and silence
settled on the campsite.
Our last morning dawned bright, and after a hotel breakfast, and saying farewell to the staff who
looked after us so well, we loaded up the car for the last time, and hit the road, noses pointed
firmly home. The morning passed, as the miles rolled beneath the wheels, and with Norm now
familiar with the clutch-less landy, we entered familiar territory mid-afternoon, climbing up from
Esigodini to Bulawayo.
And finally, at the end of our 100th Anniversary Chimanimani Hike and Expedition, as we were
each dropped off at our respective homes, it just remains for us to thank Norm for all his hard
work making this expedition a success, and to all the friends we made along the way. Thank you!
End of Year Celebration Pizzafest18th December 2009
We were waiting at Mabukuwene for Norm to arrive for our last meeting of the year. Once Norm
had turned up, Declan and Kevin went with Leon to invite and pick up Mr Sanderson, whilst Norm
and I went back to Norm's house to collect something he had forgotten. We met the others at the
Pizza Inn at Hillside shops.
We had ordered three MEGA pizzas,
and sat down on the tables, when
Norm produced a very funny story for
Leon to read, about a Rhino and the
National Parks. Halfway through the
story, the lights went off, but luckily Mr
Sanderson had his bricks of LED
Finally our pizzas were ready: one
Margarita, one Four-Seasons and one
Hawaiian... Munch, munch... After
we'd finished demolishing all three
pizzas, we were still a bit peckish, so
we ordered an ice-cream for each of
us, all large and covered in chocolate.
Finally full, we ended our meeting.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.
An Old Friend in the South Matobo Hills
On the 22 December 2009, I had packed my knapsack with my few belongings and headed off
from Gordon Park to the south Matobo Hills to spend the festive season with my relatives. It was
always a pleasure getting back to my home area to relax, catch up on the news of my extended
family and to help my aging Gogo (grandmother) in the preparation of the fields, when, at the
onset of the rains we plant the seeds of the new crop.
A slight disappointment was in store, for
when I was looking around for the old hand plough to hitch it up behind our two faithful plough
oxen, Snikiwe (I am given) and Themba (Trustworthy) I was told that it had been left out in the rain
for one year too many and the rust had finally done a great deal of damage. It was no longer
serviceable and so it had been assigned to prop up the chicken coop. A new one had been
bought, but it had never yet been used. I therefore had the honour of using it for the first time.
Everybody, from young and old including my nephews and nieces of several generations,
gathered around, applauded as I raised and cracked my four metre long ox-hide whip over the
heads of Snikiwe and Themba, signalling to them to take the strain and cut the first furrow, in the
On Monday, 28 December 2009, as I was about to go out into the fields, I heard the sound of a
vehicle, the engine straining heavily as it laboured quite close to my homestead. Now the nearest
road to my home was several kilometres away, so this meant that whoever was driving the vehicle
was not on the road, but following one of the many bush footpaths in the area. Leaving my
knapsack containing my lunch and a flask of water under a shady tree, I headed off in the
direction of the sound of the approaching vehicle. My goodness, I was in for quite a surprise, for
there was Inguluvane, the Gordon Park Camp Commissioner's short wheel base Landy.
I stood back, concealed by the bright red fruit of the heavily laden branches of an umthunduluka
tree (Ximenia caffra). Sitting in the driver's seat was the Camp Commissioner, beside him, well I
wasn't sure but he certainly looked familiar and in the back, Leon and Chris, the two young
stalwarts of the Gordon Park Crew. Inguluvane laboured in low gear through the sand whilst the
Camp Commissioner fought with the steering-wheel as the sand tried to wrest it out of his grip. I
decided to follow them, but first I went back to my hut and told one of my nephews that I would not
be taking the oxen out today and that he would have the honour of ploughing the last remaining
acre of land.
I collected my knapsack and deck-chair and headed off following the tyre tracks of Inguluvane. I
caught up with them on the banks of the Tuli River just where the track they were following
crosses under the protective shoulder of Mount Senungwe. Ah yes, I had been informed earlier in
the week when I had arrived home, that Chris and the Camp Commissioner had been here earlier
in the year whilst undertaking their One Hundred Kilometre Hike. No doubt they had come to show
Leon and, yes, now I recognized the fourth person who had been sitting in the front passenger's
seat. Bless my little cotton socks, it was umm, it was, oh my goodness I had not seen him for so
long. Oh dear what was his name. I was sure to remember it later, may be one of the others will
call him by name, I had better follow them.
On leaving the Tuli River, they retraced their journey back to the main Gwandavale road, where
they turned right and headed south, towards the Wenlock Communal Land. Having passed the
Gwandavale school they stopped about half a kilometre further on at the site of a long abandoned
Store, in fact only the stone foundations remained. Discussing the scene, they reconstructed in
their minds eye what the store and surrounds must have looked like in its hay-day. Then it was
back into Inguluvane and off along the narrow track. Their next stop was off the road, having
crossed to the other side of a dry vlei and parking Inguluvane under a shady tree, they set off on
It was much easier following them now that they were walking, not that they were speeding whilst
driving, for the condition of the road did not lend itself for speed. At last they arrived at the top of a
dwala of considerable height. I moved off to one side to be out of their view, but still close enough
to hear their conversation. The Camp Commissioner told of his dream of building his house on the
top of this dwala, a flying saucer shaped structure raised off the dome of the dwala on three pods.
It was to blend in with the shape of the dwala, with windows all round, a revolving floor inside and
to be equipped with solar lighting. The others were not at all impressed and kept arguing about
the design, practicality and so on. Anyway, they at last decided to head back down the kopje and
to have lunch at Inguluvane, before continuing their journey. I sat at a respectable distance and
opened my knapsack and took out my lunch of cold sadza and a roasted chicken leg. My flask
contained cold, sweet tea.
Following along a much smaller and less used track, their route took them through the remainder
of Senungu farm and onto Malaje farm. Crossing through the Mtsheleli River, as the approaches
to the low level farm bridge had been washed away (this was many, many kilometres south of
Gordon Park) they eventually reached the Silozwi - Natisa road. Bundule kopje was not too far off
and as Bundule kopje had the remnants of ruins near the top a decision was made to have a look
at these. It was many years since I had last seen these ruins, so I too tagged along at a safe
distance, so as not to be seen.
I was a long way from home and as it was now mid afternoon, I decided that I should head back
for my village when we returned to Inguluvane parked a few kilometres from where we now were.
On reaching Inguluvane, my efforts and reason for following them were rewarded, for Leon on
reaching into the cooler box for cold drinks asked, 'iFifi, what would you like to drink?' Yes, now it
all came flooding back, his name, his intense interest and knowledge of the Matobo hills, its
people and history. It had indeed been a very long time since I had last seen iFifi. I was jubilant at
seeing him again, to know that he was still exploring these majestic Matobo hills and what was
more, still keen on showing the younger generation those secret places, very few people have the
honour of being shown. Having had their refreshments, the four of them clambered into
Inguluvane and as the vehicle disappeared along the narrow track into the distance towards
Silozwi and then onto Gordon Park, I waved a 'safe travel and good-bye' until we meet again on
another adventure. I shouldered my knapsack and holding the folded deck-chair in my left hand,
the one with the fading canvas that blends in with the fallen leaves of a winter past, but enough
green to tone with the budding green of a coming summer, but I must add no floral design, I too
wandered off home.
Well, until the next time we meet...
The Silent G.P. Observer
|Click to enlarge:|
...claim your life
and fight like hell for your right to be;
and the best gift
I could ever give to you,
was to say 'yes' to your dreams
that aren't my own...
-- Margaret Sloan-Hunter
1st Bulawayo (Pioneer) Scout Troop Programme of Activities
for January - April 2010
'Celebrating One Hundred Years of Scouting'
1909 - 2009
Troop Programme of Activities for:-
1 - 2 100th Anniversary Group Registration Hike
8 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
10 Gordon Park Service: 12:00 noon
12 Schools open
15 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
22 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
29 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
5 - 6 Monthly Hike
6 Provincial Sports Day
12 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
13 - 14 Parent's Camp: Gordon Park
14 Gordon Park Service: 12:00 noon
19 - 21 B - P Camp: Gordon Park
21 B - P Day Service: Gordon Park: 12:00 noon
26 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
5 - 6 Monthly Hike
12 Centenary Group Dinner
13 Africa Scout Day
14 Gordon Park Service: 12:00 noon
19 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
26 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene (Sausage Sizzle)
31 Schools Close
2 - 5 Easter
9 - 10 Monthly Hike
11 Gordon Park Service: 12:00 noon
16 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
17 - 19 Mini Expedition
18 Independence Day
23 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
25 St. Georges Day
30 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
Additional Activities may be added to the Programme