Starting out at 5am was a daunting idea at first but something I knew was necessary if we were going to reach Nyangani Mountain (3-4 hour drive). It is not allowed to go up the mountain after noon because there is a greater risk of disappearing. Yes! people have been known to disappear, and our guide, Stewart was quick to mention that the last person to disappear was a ‘Indian guy’ in 2014.
My driver Tendai was on time to pick me, and we made our way to Mt Pleasant, a neighbourhood in Harare to collect Maddie, Wendy, Ella, Sebastian and James. These guys came from the United States to volunteer building a classroom for an Early Childhood Development school in Ngezi. The group worked with Kapnek Trust, one of Tiritose partners working in education, HIV prevention & nutrition programmes. The most inspiring thing is how Ella recruited some friends at her high school in Santa Barbara to tag along on this trip, and did I mention she is just 15 years old?
Typical of the Zimbabwean roads in the recent times, we had to go through a few police roadblocks, which don’t really scare me because I always have everything they need vehicles to have when travelling. This trip was a little different though, and we found out about a law wherein a vehicle is not supposed to mix humans with luggage. I am still puzzled a day later and Google search has not yielded any results. We know there is no luggage without humans, but oh well, we paid the $10 fine and after 40 minutes of arguing with them, we were on our way. We all had a good laugh about it, and agreed that it makes for a better blog post!
We got to Nyanga National Park offices and paid $63 to hike the tallest mountain in Zimbabwe. I have gone up the mountain several times, but it always feels like the first time. The experience for me starts from the offices, where baboons and monkeys cross the road in front of the car as you drive on the circular scenic drive. It is so scenic that you may confuse it with the hike, just without using as much energy and exerting as much pressure on the knees, if only right! We started out at 12h40, which for Nyangani Mountain (nicknamed: the swallowing mountain) is pretty late as I mentioned earlier – DISAPPEAR! The first one hour is always the toughest part of the hike, and with James nursing a broken toe (he accidentally kicked a rock playing soccer with the children in Ngezi)
I thought we were going to stay up there for hours on end, but to my surprise, James soldiered on like an ox. Ella is James’ daughter, and she thought he was the most stubborn person for not sitting this one out, and ironically, James thought Ella was the most stubborn person in the world because she did not want to take any water, snacks or jacket up the mountain hahaha! Glad to say, she budged on the jacket and replaced water with juice. Turns out she did not need the water because along with Stewart (our guide), she drank from the flowing spring water. I of course told her about the healing qualities of this natural water!
It took us a total of three and a half hours to go up and down, and for 30 whole minutes, we were the tallest people in Zimbabwe, a pretty good feeling seeing all the landscape and the rising mist. It didn’t matter that the hands were numb, we were quite excited to reach the summit and watch the dassies watch us, and the beautiful plants that inhabit this sacred land.
On the way back to the Nyanga National Park offices, we had to pass through the pit structures for our group to see a reconstructed traditional household. I am always fascinated by the inventiveness of traditional societies; the pit structures show just how much! So the head of the household would dig a tunnel that would go under his hut, into a round pit where all his animals would congregate at night. This prevented predators like Hyenas from eating his livestock, genius right? Surrounding his hut and the pit were granaries, a hut for the boys, another for the girl children, and of course depending on how rich he was, several houses for the different wives. James couldn’t help but mention how attractive that system was for that era haha! It is a good thing his wife was not with him for this trip.
We arrived at Troutbeck Resort, where we were spending the night around 6pm, and a much-needed shower was in order if we were going to feel human again. We had worked out an appetite and needed a dinner of champions. Nothing short of a buffet would have done the trick, and this resort had just what we needed – from the greens for the health fanatics, to loading up carbs and protein and then of course several dessert options, which we all appreciated. The free WiFi and electric blankets made for the best accommodation in Nyanga.
As I sit in my huge room watching the Lions vs New Zealand replay that I missed, I am enjoying the electric blanket so much I do not want to go for breakfast (and I love me some good food, so that says something). Alas! I have to eat and get back on the road to pass through Mtarazi Falls, the tallest waterfall in Zimbabwe and 6th tallest in the world.