Languages: English (official), Shona, Sindebele
In the 1960's, decolonization was the order of the day everywhere in Africa. In 1964 Northern Rhodesia became independent Zambia and Nyasaland was born again as independent Malawi but here, the White Southern Rhodesian extremists under Ian Smith defied history and world opinion by maintaining their grasp on the country until 1980 in spite of the fact they represented only 3% of the population.
Since then, the people of Zimbabwe have confirmed their choice of Robert Mugabe as their President in free elections held in '85, '90 and 95.
A couple of years ago the overland route between Malawi and Zimbabwe was known as the "Gun Run" had to be crossed in armed convoys because of the danger of being attacked by Renamo guerrillas. Now there was no problem other than getting the required transit visa in Lilongwe.
After crossing the Zambezi on the bridge behind us we stopped here at Tete for a skewered beef and beer lunch.
Suzanne Hvaling and I walking over to the Zimbabwe border post.
On the way, Dave entertained us with stories about the difficult years of Ian Smith's White Rhodesia when he went on patrols with the para military Rhodesian Scouts. His attitudes had mellowed since that desperate past and he now acknowledged that black rule was not as bad as he had then imagined.
In South Africa they call such big rocks "kopjes" from the Afrikaans word for head.
This majestic baobab tree seems to be sheltering the whole village.
The five of us stayed here at the Kopje Backpackers Lodge 6 US$ each.
The next day I changed traveller's cheques, visited Harare and its small but interesting National Museum and went boozing in the evening.
We stayed in a cheap place but we boozed in style at the Harare Sheraton until they threw us out at 2 AM.
We had a few more here at the Red Fox after getting thrown out of the Sheraton. In the usual order, Dave Bradshaw, Barbara Lotz, Richard Franz (a South African friend of Dave from his Rhodesian Scouts past), Suzanne Hvaling and yours truly. I don't remember when we got to bed but I do remember the hangover!
From Harare, Suzanne and Barbara took the train for Victoria Falls and I got on a bus for Masvingo for I did not want to miss the great Zimbabwe Ruins. The bus stopped here in Mvuma for lunch and arrived early in Masvingo.
Travelling this way is very cheap, the five hour bus ride cost only 3.90 US$ and a room in Masvingo's "Backpacker's Rest", only 3.5 US$!
This is what I wanted to see; the Great Zimbabwe Enclosure built sometime around the 12th century by the Mwene Mutapa civilization developed by the Karanga Bantu tribes who moved into this area from the north in the 8th century and were the ancestors of today's Shona majority.
Facing us, the western entrance of the Enclosure. Below, the northwest and northern entrances. The three entrances have been incorrectly reconstructed earlier this century. It is now believed that they had low lintelled doorways like those found in the hill complex to the north.
The hill complex, also called the Acropolis, can be seen in the background of this other view of the northwest entrance. The most recent archaeological studies indicate by carbon dating that it has been inhabited continually from the 3rd century AD to the early 19th century.
Below, views of the Conical Tower on the left and of the Parallel Passage on the right.
In the mid 15th century the Mwene Mutapa Empire based here, covered most of Zimbabwe and much of Mozambique. It thrived on agriculture and traded gold and ivory with the Arabs on the coast for glass, porcelain and cloth from Asia.
In the 16th, the Mwene Mutapa went into decline as they submitted to the influence of missionaries sent by the Portuguese who had taken control of the coast. Meanwhile, the Rozwi Empire was expanding from the west replacing the Mwene Mutapa and driving the Portuguese back to the coast by the end of the 17th.
The Rozwi occupied and added to the Great Zimbabwe site until they were defeated by the Ngoni tribes who moved in from the south around 1830 during the great "mfecane" migrations caused by the Zulu's aggressive military expansion. Most of the Ngoni moved on with groups settling in Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Those that remained set up the Ndebele state under Mzilikazi based near Bulawayo. Zimbabwe's 20% Ndebele minority are descendants of these migrants. The Zimbabwe site was abandoned around 1860 some 30 years before Cecil Rhodes and his band of land pirates invaded what became Southern Rhodesia and built Fort Victoria in nearby Masvingo.