Thursday, September 3, 2015

July 16 - Flying to Zimbabwe

We had a smooth check out and drove to the domestic terminal to catch our South African Air flight to Bulawayo which is Zimbabwe’s second largest town.  After an hour flight we were met on arrival though we did get a taste of traditional bureaucracy obtaining our visas with lots of paperwork and very very slow processing.  In any case, we were comfortable transported in 2 vans through the tree lined street of Bulawayo and out the other side to our first lodge in Matopos National Park.  

The scenery changed from flat cattle country to a wonderland of giant granite boulders and towering granite outcrops.  It reminded us of the Southwest in places like Bryce or Zion National Parks back home.  It was as if some race of giants had played a game of stacking rocks…the formations were mind blowing.  It was hard to imagine how a perfectly round boulder could be sitting atop several hundred feet of off kilter stacks of rectangular and quadrangular shaped granite boulders the size of a house (or bigger).  We arrived at Camp Amalinda just before sunset and took a great walk through a forest to the top of a nearby bluff covered in green and orange liken that started to glow in the last light of the day.  The sun set as a magnificent fireball and all the granite came to life as the orange and red rays bounced through the canyons.  Our guides treated us to the classic sundowner - ice cold Gin & Tonics and we toasted our arrival.

Our lodge, Amalinda, is one of the top rated properties in Africa and we could see why.  The architecture is stunning.  The main lodge is actually built into a cliff face below a massive granite tower several hundred feet high.  There are several levels all open and spilling onto one another from the top level where a lounge and bar is set into an open cave to the next level which has an open fire pit and stone seating surrounding it down to the dining area set amongst boulders a hundred feet above the reception area.  The units are all huge suites either built into the cliff our formed around huge boulders so that you feel you are walking into a Hobbit’s palace as one of the kids put it.  The floors are smooth and cool concrete and the entry way features a small living room with and open floor plan leading to an enormous four poster bed looking onto a patio with a view.  The bathrooms are spaciously built into the stone so that the bathtub is encased in granite and the shower flows down a granite slab.  The beds have electric blankets which keep one toasty at night. 

Fires are started each morning and evening to provide the hot water.  Luxury in the bush!  Reminds us of the cave hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey only the African version.  We were fortunate to have the owner join us for lunch and we met the father who built the property 25 years ago at the bar along with his wife.  They told us stories of the rise and fall of Zimbabwe from the early days of tourism to the land seizures when all the white farmers (including them) lost everything they owned due to nationalization, from inflation running over a trillion percent per year (can you imagine?) to the store shelfs all sitting empty.  Zimbabwe is now on the rise again and tourism is one of the driving forces of positive change so we are happy to contribute to jobs, protection of parks, anti-poaching, community and school support, etc… The father’s best quote among many was that he would be happy to pour a whisky at the grave for President Mugabe (the octogenarian leader who destroyed the economy) when he dies as long as it passes through his liver first.  Think about it!

Swimming pool on the kopje

No comments:

Post a Comment