Having partially grown up in Bulawayo, I have to say the city of kings and queens is an awesome city…….the place is clean with its own vibe that stays with you for a very long time. Growing up, travelling got toned down a bit as priorities shifted. Most of the time I would spend it indoors with my little brother at home watching tv and I guess it was due to the new environment plus I was an awkward kid making friends was still difficult, don’t get me wrong though Sunday school we used to go for trips, you know them one day trip where you get to bond with other kids and cause havoc….smiley face. One of the rare outdoor trips I went on that I vividly remember was to Matopos.
The correct name is Matobo but you know how it is please don’t take any offence, it is what it is. According to history, In 1840 Mzilikazi settled within the outskirts of the Matobo Hills and rumour has it that he gave them the name they are known by today. It is said that when he first saw the great bald dwalas and was told they were called Madombo, meaning simply ‘the rocks’ in Shona, he said: ‘But we will call them Matobo’, meaning ‘the bald heads’. This later became anglicised to Matopos, so basically the place has 2 names so no one is wrong.
In 1868 Mzilikazi died in the hills and was laid to rest there in a walled-up cave with his wagons and personal effects. He was succeeded by his son, Lobengula. The Ndebele used the Matobo area mainly for grazing cattle and for hunting, but it also held deep mystical significance for them. Fast forward to the early 1900s, the famous Cecil John Rhodes requested to have his body buried in the hills. So when Rhodes passed away in the Cape in 1902 his body came up by train and wagon to Bulawayo. His funeral was attended by Matabele chiefs, who then requested that the firing party should not discharge their rifles as this would disturb the spirits. Then, for the first and probably the only time, they gave the white man the Ndebele royal salute ‘Bayete’, fascinating right, I know. Another interesting fact is that in 1953 an area of almost 250,000 acres was officially declared as a National Park. The control of this was later given to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management and the section to the West of the Kezi Road was game-fenced and designated a game park, hence the birth of matopos national park.
What to do when you get to Matobo, well isn’t it obvious like the hills are waiting for you literally, on top of the hill you get to see where Mr Rhodes was buried plus Mr Jameson and Mr Coghlan, at the far end is a huge monument built for the soldiers who lost their lives during the war, take pics go crazy but don’t forget to take an take in the view at the top which is breath-taking you can lose yourself on that hill trust me I know. Other activities also include rhino safari, cave painting, game drives, and culture trips, hikes, canoeing and camping. As for accommodation I strongly recommend you book yourself into the Matobo hills lodge (just take a look at their website plus pics) but bear in mind it’s not the only place you can go to in Matobo such as Tailormade Safaris, Matobo National Park Mobile Camp, Matobo National Park Self-catering, Rowallan Camp, The Farm House, Retreat Lodge and Conference Centre, Lynn’s Guest House, Granite Park Lodges
So much to see so much to do…….dont forget to carry your wallet and water