The ruins of Great Zimbabwe

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
Trip End Nov 30, 2011

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Where I stayed
Norma Jeane's Lakeview Resort

Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday we woke to yet another cold overcast morning. Fortunately though, we managed to sleep well again, having upgraded to a room with a proper bed for our two nights in Bulawayo. Having suffered through cold nights and freezing mornings in Namibia, we were expecting Zimbabwe to be a lot warmer.

Leaving our camp headed for Masvingo, and the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, what was supposed to be an easy travel day of roughly 4-5 hours plus a stop for lunch, ended up being a much longer day. Unfortunately it was punctuated by two unintended detours that cost us the better part of three additional hours on the road. And just when we needed to be punctual to try and get some of our lost time back, our tardy progress wasn't helped by Janet’s late return from our lunch stop in Masvingo.

After resigning ourselves to an early morning start to visit Great Zimbabwe the next morning, I was surprised when we finally rolled up to see the ruins at 3.30pm. Having been told that we would need two and a half to three hours to see the site, and with it threatening to rain, I was skeptical about starting the tour so late in the day.

I really didn’t know anything about Great Zimbabwe before visiting, so I had no idea what to expect. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986, Great Zimbabwe was a city that once served as the capital for a kingdom stretching across most of southern and eastern Africa, between 1100 and 1600 AD. Great Zimbabwe is particularly significant for its stone wall structures, built without any sort of mortar. The site consists of three main sections - the Great Enclosure inhabited by the King’s first wife; the Hill Enclosure inhabited by the King, and the Lower Valley enclosures inhabited by the King’s junior wives. As we wandered the site our guide explained the purpose of each enclosure, the majority of which simply looked like crumbling stone walls, or piles of stones, with the traditional rondavels having been removed a long time ago. Sadly he never really explained the historical significance of Great Zimbabwe.

The view from the Hill Enclosure was amazing but brief, given the thick misty rain clouds that quickly enveloped the site. The site is set in a nice location, but like our safari in Matobo Hills the previous day, we couldn’t really appreciate it fully because of the weather. I was looking forward to seeing the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, but ultimately I left a little disappointed, not really appreciating the true significance of the site. However, I think that Great Zimbabwe would be a much more interesting and attractive place to visit in decent weather. We arrived too late to get enough time to explore the ruins fully. Sadly, this was not one of the better days we’ve had on this trip so far.

In an effort to make our visit a slightly more enjoyable experience, before we had even got to Masvingo, Gino had booked us into a supposedly nicer campground than the one he usually uses – one with upgrades available, hot showers, and power points, whereas the usual campground had none of those. While we had been at the ruins Gino and our trainee leader, Matt, had gone on to set up our camp for the night. Arriving at our campsite in the rain and dark, we were grateful to have our tents already set up for us. Unfortunately the showers weren’t hot as promised, but we did manage to get a good night’s sleep on the long grass.

Our next stop is overnight in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, before we begin our long journey through Mozambique and on to Malawi over the next couple of days.

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