Matobo Hills Lodge is an authentic Zimbabwe safari lodge located within the Matopos National Park.
Getting to the Lodge from Bulawayo is fairly easy. You only have to make the choice to either drive or be driven.
As you leave the City of Kings, the temptation to enjoy the open road is strong. The road is fairly smooth compared to most in Zimbabwe nowadays.
However, the smartest thing to do on the single carriage-way leading to the Matopos National Park is to religiously follow the all the road rules and regulations, particularly the speed limit of 80km/hr.
Zimbabwe is cattle country, that means there is a lot of livestock that stray onto the main roads. It is imperative to be alert and cautious whilst driving.
WHERE THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
30 km along Matopos Road, after passing lake Matobo, the route curves to the right and on the drivers’ side you will see a fence, fields and many old buildings. This is the old estate of Cecil J Rhodes, now an agricultural research facility.
As you continue you will see gum trees on your right, immediately turn left opposite these trees towards Rhodes Matopos National Park (it is well signed), down a single track tarred road that leads to the National Park gate.
The national park entrance fees are pegged at US$3 per person for locals, US$10 per person for foreign nationals and US$10 per vehicle.(March 2019 rates)
This is where the all fun begins.
After entering the national park, it will just be about 16km before arrival at Matobo Hills Lodge.
As the road gets narrower the ravishing rock scenery increasingly becomes a pleasant distraction. It’s better to stick to the 60km/hr pace.
At this point, it’s not the livestock that you have to be mindful of, it’s the Zebra, the Wildebeest, the Baboons, the Warthogs, Klipspringer and Banded Mongoose that might run in-front of you!
By the time you have to take a right detour onto the gravel road leading to the lodge, you will have traveled 10km from the gate. You will see from afar, the granite hill on which Cecil Rhodes was buried and a mysterious cross on one of the Mountains.
The 6km of dirt driving towards the lodge feels nothing like a rally drive. The road is smooth and well maintained, just a little bumpy on one or two spots.
When you reach destination Matobo Lodge, our friendly staff will be ready to add to your already amazing experience, giving you a warm welcome and serving you the best food and cocktails in The Most Incredible Location.
The rest that happens after that will probably be the best adventure you will ever have, but hey, that’s your story to tell.
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Walking the Inanke Cave Trail is a trip for the intrepid traveler who really wants to get off the beaten track.
This spectacular Matobo Hills Hike offers one of the best one-day treks in the world and has all the ingredients of a rugged adventure.
The Inanke trail starts and finishes at Toghwana Dam in the south of the Matobo Hills, whilst taking in the grandest, most majestic cave in all of Southern Africa.
This is a real trek, where you’ll truly be out in some of the most ravishing wilderness Zimbabwe has to offer.
Inanke Cave is the highlight of the trail that is littered with historic sites. Along the route of the hike are several rock paintings and an Iron Age furnace.
When hiking the Inanke trail – it’s important to be realistic about your physical abilities.
The walk is a 12km round trip through an untouched granite wilderness. It is for those with an adventurous spirit, who are in fairly good shape and want to hike for a longer period of time.
THE TRAIL OF LIFE
Hiking to Inanke Cave is a beautiful representation of life.
All of us want to reach a summit of some kind. We all have goals and visions for the future.
Everybody has a timeline in mind, and all we want is to reach the top. We can feel how amazing it will be when we reach that point of self-actualisation.
But Make no Mistake. The climb is hard.
On the trail, vast swathes of savanna and granite give way to magnificent rivers and wildlife.
The walk takes in such a varied array of scenes, from fresh, running streams and waterfalls, to thick dense jungle tracks that you almost need a machete to pass.
This trail will fill you with a pioneer spirit.
Firstly, you have to really want to get to Inanke. Even the road to get there will test your resolve but the payoff is worth it a thousand times over.
A THEATRE OF SCENES
The trail to the cave of Inanke begins with yellow arrows from the Toghwana Dam car park. However, if you have not been there before, it is easy to get lost as the arrows disappear at some points along the trek.
You can expect tall grass and thick bushes along your pathless wanderings towards the cave.
Inanke cave is very rarely visited because of it’s location. The majestic cave is carved high into a granite hillside and filled with Masterpieces of ancient bushman art.
Once inside, a granite rock canvas containing some of the worlds most remarkable rock art sits still and patiently in the cool of the cave.
The Cave is undeniably awe-inspiring, a breathtaking mural of ancient life in the Matobo Hills.
The paintings are said to range from about 2000 years to 13 000 years old.
This iconic cave allows you to marvel at the work of people from almost another epoch, it fills you with a sense of perspective and wonder all at once.
Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting Fungai Machirori. Fungai is a well-known Zimbabwean creative with a passion for writing and photography. Below, she describes her experience at Matobo Hills Lodge.
On 30 July, I was ready to join other Zimbabweans in casting my vote in the harmonised and much-anticipated elections. After some time, I was standing at the front of the voters’ line, ready to have my details checked. The last thing I expected was to be told that I was ineligible to vote. The reason? My name appeared twice in his mammoth book of voters. Unbelievable!
Perplexed and frustrated, I was instructed to go and stand in another line which, I soon discovered, was reserved for disqualified voters. As my frustration escalated, I took to Twitter and began venting about my disheartening experience. I also felt an overwhelming need to let others in the Twitterverse know what I was going through. Unsurprisingly, much of the reactions to my ordeal was apologetic and empathetic. I deeply appreciated that.
Little did I anticipate what was to happen next.
On the next day, I received a message from Matobo Hills Lodge saying that they had read about my voting experience and wanted to invite me for a free stay at their Lodge. I was as excited as I was overly surprised. And, as if this out-of-the-blue gesture wasn’t delightful enough, I could bring a friend with me. At no additional cost!
Matobo Hills Lodge
And so it was that I got to stay at Matobo Hills Lodge, which is within Matobo National Park, for three nights in August. We arrived quite early on a Friday afternoon and were treated to some complimentary coffee while the sun made its way to its highest point in the sky. The silence around us, expect for occasional sounds made by nearby lizards scrambling for the best spot in the sun, was captivating. It was pleasant and so too, was the soothing taste of freshly brewed coffee.
Unable to resist the warmth of the sun, I made my way to the poolside loungers near the swimming pool which is located between the bar area and the open restaurant. This quickly became my favorite spot for reflecting and jotting down my plans for the day, sometimes with a cup of coffee and other times, with a shandy.
Saturday was occupied mostly by activities which included going on game drives. Our chatty guide, Sipho, made us aware of a variety of things in and about our environment. He told us about the dried-out dung of a rhino or a plant amid the harsh savannah landscape that had some historical and medicinal qualities. Who knew?
As we continued with our enlightening drive in the National Park, we were finally able to spot white rhino in the reserve and get quite close to it. The adrenaline rush was intoxicating! In addition to game viewing, we visited the caves such as Silozwane which house some of the world’s most magnificent rock paintings. These paintings, which depict the way of life of the Bushmen, are said to be between 1500 and 10000 years old. Learning about the historical and cultural significance of the rock art was edifying.
Silozwane Cave, Matobo National Park
After a drive back to Matobo Hills Lodge, for a hearty 3-course lunch which was as scrumptious as it was appealing to the eye, we headed out to see the grave of Cecil John Rhodes. The visit to the grave of man admired by some and loathed by others, evoked an inexplicable rush of different emotions for everyone.
Cecil J. Rhodes’ grave on Malindidzimu Hill – Matobo National Park
The nice thing about the visit to Malindidzimu Hill, the Hill of the benevolent spirits on which Cecil is buried, was that it was a perfect spot for an enthralling sundowner. We watched the sun set, while our guide continued to entertain us with his theories on how tribal and racial conflicts occurred in the area over a century ago.
The service at Matobo Hills Lodge was always reliable and the staff, friendly. Kudos to the team! My companion and I got to know some of the staff members quite well from the constant, friendly interactions.
Aerial view of Matobo Hills Lodge
Besides all this, one could take lone treks to other sites such as Matabele Cave where the remains of molded wares could be found. During the walks, I couldn’t resist the urge to sit on the imposing boulders, look out into the wide-open expanse and do some more reflecting.
On our last evening, we even got a taste of wildebeest! I enjoyed a long evening swim in the pool on the last evening, which was just what the doctor ordered for a tranquil end to a tranquil time.
Saying I enjoyed being at Matobo Hills Lodge is an understatement. No words can truly encapsulate the time I had, though shortlived. Through it all, I was reminded that you never know who is out there in the Twitterverse, waiting to turn your bad day or experience into an adventure you never expected. An adventure you’ll never forget!
Thank you, Matobo Hills Lodge!
This article was originally published by Fungai Machirori on her website, Fungaineni. Fungai is a blogger and lover of travel. She enjoys reading, writing and reflecting on life. Connect with Fungai on Twitter.