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The One Hundred Kilometre, Matobo Hills World Heritage Ramble

Greetings From The Heart of Scouting!

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, the painting programme is taking priority at the Park, but to report on such a mundane matter ad nauseam will not make for interesting reading. So I will give a short account of a Matobo Hills scouting event and for those of you who are familiar with the Matobo hills, revive some old memories. If you do have a refreshing cup of Tanganda tea at hand, and I am reliably informed that there are shops in England, and elsewhere around the world where it is obtainable, then fire up the kettle, sit back and continue reading.

Hiking bare foot-2013

Photograph: Hiking bare foot for most of the way over
rough ground and granite kopjes, a common trend for my
Scouts when out in the veld, made me wonder about all
the advice of the need to wear at least two pairs of
woollen socks and stout hiking boots.

The April school holidays provide for an ideal time to pack a ruck sack and head for the hills - literally. And so it was that Kevin FitzPatrick, a hardened and experienced hiker at the tender age of 14, for he has undertaken many challenging hikes, together with fellow Scout Nicholas Trivella, a young 13 year old with little experience of hiking and myself decided on undertaking what has become a yearly, One Hundred Kilometre ramble through the Matobo hills.

John, Kevin's father and Andy, Nicholas' father kindly agreed to take us to the start of our hike which was Fumugwe mountain on the western side of the Matobo hills, dropping us off at the Fumugwe Primary school, some one hundred and twenty kilometres from Bulawayo, "the City of Kings". As the sun was setting in a fiery red ball, they bade us farewell and headed for home. Not having much daylight left the three of us trekked for about one and a half kilometres towards the east, more exactly on a magnetic bearing of 72 degrees and made camp next to a dry water course that led down to the Mwewu River which we had crossed earlier and, which although being a sizeable river, was dry.

In next to no time the two scouts had a fire burning to provide us with light and that warm comfortable feeling when one is out in the bush-veldt where wild animals roam. Alas, all we heard was the incessant barking of a dog in one of the distant kraals of the Kumalo Communal Land. However, the wildlife was with us for we were treated to the antics of a Lesser Bushbaby or Nagapie as we call them (Galago moholi) jumping from branch to branch in the forest of Combretum, Terminalia and Dichrostachys trees, that we had made camp in. Having had our dinner, we were soon in the land of Nod.

Early the next morning, far too early for some who liked to sleep in, but whom shall remain anonymous as it was a trick to be repeated each morning for the remainder of the hike. We had a filling breakfast of oatmeal porridge (ugh) and coffee before packing our ruck sacks and headed off on our general bearing of 72 degrees. The 72 degrees was a straight line to our destination, which I will let you in on when we get there. In other words, read on in great expectation. Oatmeal porridge does have one outstanding quality, it digests slowly giving energy over a long period of time and is so simple to prepare on hikes.

Hiking through the forested areas of the Kumalo Communal Land was pleasant and we made good time as the grass had been cropped by the cattle and there were numerous tracks to follow to circumnavigate around the kopjes and rocky out crops of the Matobo hills. I may add that some of the kopjes in this area are amongst the biggest and most rugged of the Matobo hills; absolutely magnificent scenery, which inspired us to look forward in seeing the upcoming panorama awaiting us around the next corner. Njelele kopje would be one of the most important, as it is a venerated mountain of considerable height where the oracle of the Mlimo was consulted and a favourite scene of rain dances and religious practices. In and out of the trees, over the rocky outcrops of granite, the building blocks of the Matobo hills, crossing dry river beds, and meeting the inhabitants of the Communal Land busy going about tending their cattle and goats or walking off to some far distant water hole to get their water requirements for the day. A lunch stop was held under the shade of a stately pod mahogany. (Afzelia quanzensis) Lunch stops were to be two to two and a half hour rest periods as the sun was blazing down on us, draining us of vital fluids. I for one was sweating profusely. We were pleased to note that so far we had been able to keep fairly close to our intended line of hike, only straying off to get around the baselines of massive kopjes soaring up into the heavens.

When we neared the southern boundary of the game park, a section of the Matobo National Park, we diverted from our line and headed southward to keep clear of the Game Park. This had a plus factor for us, as we had an opportunity of purchasing soft drinks from the rural store serving the area. Once passed the southern boundary of the game park we had to make up time and headed north to get back onto our intended course. This we did after crossing the Whove river at the road/river bridge and then shortly after, by following a cattle path up and up onto a plateau, eventually finding ourselves within a few kilometres of the stores on the Bulawayo/Kezi main road, opposite the imposing massive of Bulale kopje. We made camp for the second night on the edge of a maize field against a small kopje, having first obtained permission from the owner of the homestead who owned the field. Joel, the owner of the field was amazed at our challenge and helped us collect firewood for our cooking fire. Tonight, Kevin our chef provided us with a magnificent roast chicken and vegetables, superbly cooked in tin foil on the embers of our campfire. This was rounded off with tinned peaches and a mug of Milo. It was not long afterward that we were snugly tucked up in our sleeping bags sound asleep. Total distance, 29 kilometres.

Dawn broke. We were up, had our breakfast and on our way as the first rays of the sun peeped over the distant range of kopjes to our east. It was this range that we were heading for and as we had hiked in this area on many of our Troop 's monthly hikes we did not need to consult the map and therefore made good time. It was not long before we were descending down into the Wona valley with the huge kopje of Emashangambava towering over us on our left. At our first stop for the morning we found the burnt out shell of a leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) and also Bushmen paintings on the rock face behind us. The challenge of following our straight line over the rugged boulder strewn ranges was a little too daunting and so we followed an over grown track running around the northern edge for the next six kilometres, until we rejoined our line at the Kumalo Communal land/ National Park boundary. The National Park boundary has many 'twiggles' and so we would cross and recross the boundary a few times. As it was now lunch time we retired under a grove of shady trees for our two hour siesta. Our water supplies were now depleted, so shortly after starting on the afternoon leg of the hike we stopped off at Mr Adam Moyo's homestead to fill our bottles. Adam works at Gordon Park and so was not at home at the time of our visit, but his wife who knows us well, was so delighted at seeing us that not only did she fill our water bottles but plied us with guavas and 'enfe' (sweet-reed) which is a sort of sugar cane for us to chew on our journey.

Continueing through the the Kumalo Communal Land we crossed back into another section of the Matobo National Park heading for the Mtsheleli river valley, which did not take us long. On reaching the Mtsheleli, about ten kilometres down river from Gordon Park, we were stunned to find the river dry at this point, for we were going to top up our water bottles in readiness for our night stop. Our route took us up onto the eastern ridge of the valley and into the Toghwana Wilderness Area. As night was closing in and we were needing water, we headed for Toghwana dam where we camped the night. Once again, our chef Kevin conjured up a delicious meal of generous portions of fresh steak, potatoes and sweet-corn cooked in tin foil on the embers of our campfire. Tinned pears and a mug of Milo complimented the meal. Then a quick visit to the ablution block for a cold shower. Lying in our sleeping bags and looking skyward at the mass of stars on this moonless African night we were treated to a few 'shooting stars'. As with the two previous nights the air was still and this time the hushed silence gave us a chance to hear the gentle noises of the bush-veld with the night jars calling, the scurrying of small animals through the grass and even heard the splash of some animal enjoying a dip in the dam close to us. Magic! Total distance, 54 kilometres.

Up and away early on Wednesday morning, for this was going to be a rather tough day of hiking, but the scenery was going to be stunning. We followed the tourist path toward iNanke cave. This must be one of the most picturesque of tourist routes in the Matobo hills as it follows several rivers and streams, under a thick tree canopy and then over the bald faces of granite to eventually end at the most magnificent of caves with the best of Bushmen paintings in the hills. We, however, did no go as far as the cave, but turned off the path once through a defile between two massive kopjes and headed for the north-eastern side of Manyenye kopje. The bush in the ravines here was thick in the extreme with us having to crawl on our hands and knees in places beneath a mass of redwing thorn entangled in the trees above us. Progress on this section of our hike delayed us considerably, but at last we got through, then down an escarpment to the Tokwe river, which had a fair amount of water but heavily over grown with reeds.

Our route from here was fairly easy enabling us to make good time. Finding a pass through a range of kopjes to our east took a bit of time, but finally we dropped down into the Tuli river, which we managed to cross via a log foot bridge constructed by the resident population. The river marks the boundary of the Matobo National Park. On crossing the river we were now in the Matobo Communal Land. We called a much needed lunch break at a homestead on the east side of the river. Having had a good rest and the heat of the day now over, we ascended up the extemly steep granite face of the side of a kopje to the Ginqa river, then it was an easy hike to Dobe school. From here our route led us to a store where we purchased cold drinks. The sun was low on the horizon which meant we needed to find a place to camp. A local young man volunteered to lead us through the maze of cultivated fields for the next four kilometres to a place near the Old Gwanda road. The track marked on the map no longer existed as fields had been extended over the years as the population had increased and so we were very thankful for his assistance. We made camp at a stream crossing. Another fantastic meal conjured up by Kevin and then a wash in the stream before retiring for the night.

Total distance, 80 kilometres.

During the night a light cloud cover had blown over with the scent of moisture in the air. Fortunately it did not rain and we were treated to cooler conditions than what we had experienced so far. Having had our breakfast, Kevin, once again in the lead set a brisk pace, which we were able to sustain for several kilometres as the countryside had opened up with kopjes to our left and right. The one disadvantage was that we had to hike around many cultivated lands and also as we progressed further eastward there was more surface water than in the western Matopos. Streams were actually running and the natural pools were full. Mid morning saw us standing on the western side of the Chavezi gorge looking down to the river some 220/240 metres below. Far off to the east but not in view was our destination. Dropping down to the river took some time as the gorge, although not a shear cliff, was none the less very steep. The imposing massive of Siloti looked down upon us as we waded through the river, the water was about half a metre in depth. We followed a tributary out towards the east, ending up at Shale School by which time a lunch stop was called.

Feeling refreshed after our midday siesta, we headed up and over Tshongoma, a huge mass of granite. It was in this area in 1896 that Baden-Powell had been engaged in fighting the Matabele warriors before a cease fire was negotiated between the Matabele Induna's and Cecil John Rhodes a few months later within a kilometre of the site of the earlier battle. Our destination was now within sight, only a few kilometres away. To celebrate the end of our hike, we purchased cold drinks and biscuits from the Communal Land store located near the entrance to Diana's Pool and the end of our rugged, but most enjoyable ramble. We were relieved when Andy, Ian and Cara, Nicholas' sister arrived later that evening to take us back to Bulawayo. Total distance, One hundred kilometres.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate Kevin and Nicholas for undertaking this challenge. The One Hundred Kilometre Hike, based on a straight line, commenced just within the western boundary and finished just within the eastern boundary, of the Matobo World Heritage Site. To cross grain the Matobo Hills, carrying a backpack for four days containing all one's requirements, provides the hiker with a challenge of physical and mental stamina, as well as a good knowledge of practical map reading skills. Both Scouts met the challenge and in the bargain were boisterous and cheerful for the entire four days.


This past month...

Hello All,
Below is a reply I received from "Green Wave" at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada.
The Green Wave is a global biodiversity campaign to educate children and youth about biodiversity. Their motto is "One School, One Tree, One Gift to Nature"
Each year, The Green Wave will contribute to worldwide celebrations of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), 22nd May. Students around the world will count down to 10:00 local time, when they will water their tree in their respective schoolyards, thereby creating a figurative "green wave" starting in the far east and traveling west around the world.
Take a look at their website and Once the group activity is registered, a pin should appear on the 2013 Green Wave map . I have an indigenous tree nursery in Bulawayo and am willing to donate trees.
Warm Regards
Ray Perry

...Thank you for my reality check with the news letter from Norm. I hope he realises how much we all look forward to his news letter in this insane world of un explainable pressure.
Vaughan Brown.

"Thought for The Week"
They usually have two tellers in my local bank, except when its very busy, when they have one.

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Bulawayo, 24th April 2013

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