Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Years in the Chimanimani mountains - Zim

The hospitality of the Munyuki family was simply wonderful, and made it
this much harder to leave. However, some odd women have visions to
sit on top of a mountain, by themselves, to welcome the New Year. ok...
women might be an exaggeration, but this woman got into a Combi
early heading to Chimanimani, the day before New Years Eve, for just this reason.

The first Combi ride out of Mutare was accompanied by about 20
folks and two large wooden doors.. how the all fit into a van/VWbus..
no idea, but these guys make it happen.

Outside Mutare I changed into another Combi - of course always
waiting until it fills up. Ladies are often offered a front seat, next to
the driver... but with my backpack in front and another lady next to
you, it gets tight. The attendant, collecting money and handing out
tickets, most of the time does not get a seat, and usually leans over
(half standing) the front seat - limiting space from the top : ) ...
he made up by sharing food with us (which is often sold on the side
of the road when people get off/on the combi. Furthermore James(the attendant) walked me straight to a Heaven's backpackers Lodge, since i didn't have a map nor
a clue where I was going.

The Heaven's lodge used to be the place to be - five years ago, but since
the economic meltdown/hyperinflation, things have been tough, and recovery
rough. Many lodges didn't make it due to a lack of tourists, and this one was only recently re-opened under new management. The place is gorgeous, overlooking the mountains of Chimanimini, in the middle of lush greenery.
However, I was not feeling it...
Lawrenz could tell by my face, got me a drink and walked me down the road
to Lowe's Lodge : )) ... that night i met back up with him for a beer, where he
told me about barely being able to buy one mango (which are plentiful in Zim) with two month of pay, four years ago....

Chimanimani didn't look as appealing as i was hoping it to be, with most of the
surrounding hills cut bare for the local wood-manufacturing plant, so disappointment
about one - simply lonely and not adventurous - New Years started to creep in... A south
African named Cornelius saved the day and my new years : ) He had just returned
from the "Chimanimani National Park" up in the mountains, where he had slept in
caves and bathed in mountain springs : )) ... We walked to the NP office to get me a map,
and the info that I could not book a "place" for the hut in the mountains until i get to the entrance of the national park...

Going shopping was a bit tricky, with the limited selection, however, cookies, bananas,
pap (sort of like mash potatoes, made out of maize meal) and a whole fried fish
made it into my backpack. Change was giving in matches : )) ( since the change from
Zimbabwean Dollars to US Dollars in 2007 they have not have coins in Zim.... usually you
are asked to buy one more item, or take candy as change)

Cornelius also told me how I should get to the entrance of the National Park, 19 km from town - hitch hike to the split in the road at km 10 and try to walk or hope another car will go up the hill...
the taxi ride would have been $30 one way, but some people think
they are hard core... unfortunately.

So on the day of New Years Eve I got up early, starting my walk towards the mountains
(on a paved road) ... after about 20 minutes - finally!!! - a car. Another James took me for about 2km, before turning off to his work at a mill. Another 30 minutes - a pick up truck, already three guys on the back... allowed me to join, up to the split. $2 and a thank you before I was walking on red muddy soil, passed maize plots. Thankfully i was not alone - Salomon
was also walking to the NP, because his (black Zimbabwean) employer at the hotel he is currently working in, was not paying him. During the first hour we chatted about all kinds of stuff, but once the path was getting steeper silence broke upon us. Salomon offered to carry my bag, but my ego was to big and so I wasn't looking to fit by the time we reach the entrance. Even worse - the steepest and most dangerous part was still ahead of me... but i was promised a place in the hut - if i would reach it.

... ok, this is getting much too long, so here the short version. almost died on the way up (last pick on the top is "the path"), made it
by the afternoon, slept through new year (after being amazed by the stars), took the best morning
bath ever - in a near by waterfall... and was super, super lucky to climb back down with a bunch
of guys form a bachelor party, who also gave me a ride back to town....

Chimanimani was all that i had hoped for and more.... it also kicked my butt! ... but it was worth
ever minute of being exhausted and later sore : )

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