Matopos National Park

Trip Start Jun 05, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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Where I stayed
Berke's Paradise

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Breakfast wasn't until 7:30, but I woke up earlier than that because we have been getting up so early.  I still have my headache.  Marlene gave me some drugs so hopefully that will work.  I had my cereal then we had scrambled eggs, sausage ( I didn't eat any because I am becoming skeptical of our cooling system), and bread.  Then I showered because everyone else had showered last night except me.  Then we had some time to wait until our guide came to pick us up.  When the guide came it was actually a lady named Tracy, not the guys from the night before. 
    We loaded into a 9 seat, open air jeep and headed for Matopos National Park.  It was really chilly driving for 45 minutes.  I had my sleeping bag and was wrapped up in that which helped a little bit.  We saw a couple of giraffe along the way.  When we were almost to the park, she stopped the jeep and showed us where the body of Cecil Rhodes was kept overnight while the horses rested.  We stopped at the entry gate so she could check in and we looked around a little.  As we headed into the park we saw lots of locals cutting thach.  They cut the grass, stack it, put it into bundles, tie it up with sisal.  We watched as the lady worked and everything was explained to us.  She is cutting it for her own house.  The women do this kind of work, which is far too difficult for most American women.  For every ten bundles that she creates, she gets to keep 7 and the park takes 3.  If done properly, a thach roof can last 10-15 years.  
      Next, we headed up to Cecil Rhodes grave.  Supposedly, they cut the solid granite 6 feet deep and only had one week to get it done.  Because Rhodes died in Capetown, South Africa it took about 2 weeks for the body to arrive.  We had to pay an extra $10 each to go to the gravesite, so many of the younger toursits especially don't do this.  They said only about 10% of the tours they do, go this direction.  The view was absolutely amazing, but I really do not think that the photos will show it.  There were several huge boulders at the top of this steep incline, and Rhodes was buried right in the middle of this.  Two of his friends were buried in this location but at least 50 meters away from him.  There was a very nice monument for a specific battle too.  Supposedly, all the men in the company were killed, and no one knows the true story.  Rumor has it that two guys ran off with a bunch of gold but they buried it so no one knows where the gold is hidden. There was a very colorful lizard appropriately named the rainbow lizard at about 10 inches in length
     I thought that we spent way too  much time chatting here and at the grass because we could have seen some more caves.  Miles and I looked for a geocache, but didn't have any luck.  There were lots of rocks it could have been under, but really I think that it was missing.  We passed some signs that were turn-offs for caves but we continued on.  we went over a small little lake with a manmade dam, then we continued to Nswatugi Cave where there were cave drawings.  There were impala, giraffe, zebra, kudu, and another type of deer painted inside the cave.  There pictures were all very clear.  It was 200 meters, almost straight up to get to it, but definitely worth it!
     We went back to the little lake to have lunch.  We had potato salad, cole slaw, salad, and bologna.  It tasted very American which at this point was a very welcome thing.  The lake had purple lily pads with white flowers and a diving duck like bird that they call a teal.  After that we drove to the entrance of the game park.  There was a shop, and I bought some old currency.  I should have tried to bargain but I didn't.  We met up with Tracy's husband Brian.  We started tracking rhinos.  They showed us the poop and how you could tell if it was a white or black rhino by looking at the dung.  White rhinos have a wide mouth and are grazers so their poop is grassy.  Black rhinos have a hooked mouth and are browsers.  They eat thicker twigs and cut the stuff they eat at a 45 degree angle.  Then Brian showed us giraffe poop which is shaped like a tear drop with a hollowed out bottom.  This allows one piece to fit very compactly with each piece next to it.  Then they pointed out footprints and how to tell the difference between a hippo and a rhino.  We came upon a lake with 5 hippos and a baby and there was a crocodile laying up on the bank.  We also saw a brown snake eagle. Their eyes are bright yellow. 
    We got out of the vehicle and were about to do our first trek in search of a rhino.  We came upon a young giraffe and an older one.  Then our guides would stop at any poop (scat) they would see and touch it to see if it was still warm.  We got to an area with warm poop and I could feel my heartbeat increase.  We hiked for nearly an hour and all we saw was a family of warthogs.  This was disappointing.  It was made even more disappointing when the other guide said that the rhinos were right there and when we were headed back towards the vehicle the rhino was basically following us, just about 400 meters behind.  So it was right there, and we didn't even know it.  Even more frustrating, was around dusk we made an extra little loop looking for rhinos and as we pulled back on the main road, a rhino crossed but far enough behind us that we couldn't see it, but the other truck could.  
     By that time we were freezing cold in the jeep, and it was dark outside.  I was not looking forward to the 45 minute drive in the wind and cold.  Luckily, Tracy took Brian's car and Brian and Victor rode in the jeep. Even though it was crowded, it was great by comparison.  
    We found out that the other group did not go to the grave so they went to a village instead.  A little kid asked for money and Ian said he had to get something if he was going to give the boy money.  The ki went out and gathered some berries and nuts.  One was called African chewing gum and was known as a snot apple.  I thought it was totally gross.  The other berry kinda tasted a little bit like a dry grape but it was much more disgusting.  People actually survive by eating those things. Totally blows my mind.  When we got to camp Kioko had pumpkin soup ready.  It was very yummy so I tried to ask how it was made, but Kioko just said that it was "Kioko magic".  The main course was rice, sausage, and okra/peppers.  We did the dishes, Miles showered, I wrote, and the others went to bed right away.  It was an interesting day that would have been much better if we would have seen a rhino!

Budget- $30      Souvenirs $6      Rhodes Grave  $20
Spent $32         Tips $6


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sue on

I will never be able to look at animal poop again without wondering which way they are traveling :-)...your adventures are so interesting and you have a way with your writing to make a person think they are riding along.....enjoy and be safe..

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