BY CHRISTOPHER SCOTT
The epically wild and rugged Matusadona National Park, one of Zimbabwe’s undeservedly underrated parks, offers a substantial variety of terrain, ecosystem, flora and fauna which would please any outdoor expert or novice. The flat shoreline hugging Lake Kariba offers the best game viewing, while the imposing Matuzviadonha Mountains evoke a sense of adventure for even the hardened explorer.
Once a year a bunch of my maddest mates and I like to discover and appreciate the far-flung corners of our various National Parks, preferably by foot. We started our trip this time by speedboat up the short navigable stretch of the Mwenze River from its junction with the Sanyati. The formidable massif-looming above us made us wonder if were really the exploring type!
The walk uphill from the Mwenze River was arduous and we trod carefully. As the day drew to an end we made camp in an ideal campsite of sand and boulders nestled in a fold of the river. After the numbing weight of the packs on our backs had dissipated, we gathered our maps and GPS and to our horror discovered we had only covered 4km in five hours walking!
Doubts began to set in as to whether we could achieve our goal in the given time. We were assured by the National Parks scouts that once on the plateau our progress would improve rapidly. Laying our sleeping bags on the cool river sand, we slept well, shoulder to shoulder for warmth and protection, under a flawless blanket of a velvet, sparkling night sky.
Despite the tough conditions of our chosen route, we covered a respectable 8km on the second day. The raw beauty in the constantly changing environment around us was worth the exertion. The prospect of being able to see further than a few metres ahead buoyed our spirits and we looked forward to the following day’s journey.
On the third day, the plateau of the Matuzviadonha Mountains was a lush green blanket that lay crumpled under a haze-free sky. The going was now comparatively easy and we walked at a good pace for several hours until we reached a solid wall of granite over 25m high. Our only choice was to walk around it, which was more difficult than anticipated, but the rewards were great.
An hour later we rounded a bend and were presented with a spectacle of beauty unsurpassed by anything we had seen thus far. The vast expanse of the valley floor spread before us with Lake Kariba, our destination, shimmering in the distance.
As we gazed upon this spectacle, in tribute to the beauty of Zimbabwe’s wild areas, it was hard not to ponder on the physical exertion, and the mental determination, that was required to get us to this point. We had submitted ourselves to nature and felt humbled and triumphant. Memories were made that will sustain us in times of strife and stress, until we explore more. We were reminded that nature is everything.
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