CJ Rhodes grave

We spent a lovely couple of hours walking around the Matobo Hills and seeing the grave of Cecil John Rhodes.

The Rt Hon Cecil Rhodes came to South Africa in the late 19th century and was a mining magnate, businessman and politician. He travelled around large areas of Southern Africa which he wanted to ‘paint British colonial red’.  It was his choice to be buried in the Matobo Hills near Bulawayo, an area he loved.

CJ Rhodes graveCecil John Rhodes grave in the Matobo Hills

After an early, light take away lunch, we began the 5 hour drive to Hwange National Park in the N. West of Zimbabwe. We had booked our accommodation through an agency and so were unaware that the booking was in the equivalent of a tree house. But that surprise was soon overtaken by the next bit of information. On arrival at the Hwange Hotel which was the meeting point for the various camps in the game park, great relief was expressed by the reception staff. We were unaware that the travel agent had told them that we were arriving at Bulawayo Airport at 10:00 and would travel from there to Hwange so they had started to give up on our arriving at all. This, apparently, was a not uncommon occurrence at the time due to the political issues in Zimbabawe.

After accepting our apologies they told us that we had to leave our car at the hotel and a game ranger would drive us out to our camp as no private cars were permitted in this area of the park. Then came the biggest and best of surprises. Because of the very small number of bookings it had been decided that all guests would be grouped and all stay at the best of the 4 campsites, Sable Sands Lodge which was about 5 ‘steps’ better than the camp where we had been booked and THEN the biggest surprise of all – the room we were allocated was the one used by Queen Elizabeth & Prince Phillip when they had visited in 1991. See what is meant by “Expect the Unexpected”. It is not always bad.

Elephant at sand stoneAn elephant ‘feeding’ on a salt stone

We enjoyed a wonderful 3 days at the Lodge going on a day and a night drive were very lucky to see a large amount of game including lions, owls, giraffe, sable and lots of elephants. A wonderful experience was to be driven right up close to a herd of elephants at a salt-lick spot. They walked around the vehicle and we could have touched them but this was not permitted. It was scary and exciting at the same time. We had an excellent guide who really knew his subject.  This campsite was not self-catering as we had expected but all meals included but we did not have to pay anything extra. The food was excellent! On one of the days we were there we were taken out into the local village to see the school and a craft centre. These were 3 days we will never forget. It was very hard to leave for our next stopover near the Victoria Falls on the Zambian side.

Hippo in the riverHippo in the Zambezi River 

Here we stayed in a tent ‘room’ which was very comfortable but far from the ablution block which was frustrating. Otherwise it was a beautiful place to stay and the staff were very friendly and helpful. We received an unexpected surprise on our arrival – a card to wish us well for our 30th wedding anniversary. Our daughter had been very sneaky and let them know not only of the anniversary but, 3 days later there was a cake for me for my 50th birthday.  We discovered that it was much cheaper to visit the falls from the Zambian side, US$3 as opposed to US$20. They are just as beautiful from either side.

Vicky at the fallsThe Victoria Falls

On the evening of my birthday we went on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River and with us was a family whose daughter, Sandra, was celebrating her 5th birthday. It was sad to see her disappointment when there was no cake for her so we decided to share the cake and candle.


Our birthday cakeThe birthday cake for Sandra and myself

Sunset over the ZambeziSunset over the Zambezi

 We left after breakfast the next morning for our next stop in Francistown in Botswana.