Monday, December 21, 2009

Mutare - Eastern Zimbabwe

A garden full of the most weird and wonderful plants. Prehistoric-looking cycads and Araucaria greeted us at this garden near Mutare. Conveniently the father of my friend runs it, and so we had a good nose around. The grounds are fairly extensive, and hold a huge selection of subtropical plants.

Once again, I have so many pictures, it's a shame I can't bore you with all of them. The atmosphere in these gardens was quite tranquil, and other-worldly.

A reminder of how the downfall in the Zimbabwean economy affects the smallest things. This garden had one of the nicest collections of cycads I saw in Zimbabwe. Most cycads in public gardens are dug up and sold to collectors. Below is a rare cycad which is native to the region. There used to be many wild specimens, but the native people of Zimbabwe and bordering Mozambique have been so short of food at times, that these have been harvested. The centre of the stems can be dried and made into a rough flour. When the plant has been growing for 50-100+ years, it is a shame for them to end up this way.

A very photogenic Frangipani, blooming its' head off.

An amazing selection of moisture-loving tropicals in one of the shade houses. The atmosphere here was amazing, with a beautiful selection of plants.

If I'm going to get through blogging all of this trip I'm going to have to skip some great stuff. Mutare is set at some altitude, in a valley surrounded by mountains. Having seen some heavy rains a few weeks prior to my visit, the land was green and lush.

We went for sun-downers (alcohol and sunset are a good combination), at a local look out. The skies gradually cleared.

To reveal a most picturesque landscape. Below a setting suns' rays shine through the foliage of a Protea sp.

Mutare has to be one of my favourite places in Zimbabwe. The landscape after the rains is not too different to England on a summers day. I would love to go back one day.

A storm cloud bubbles up behind us, in the light of a full moon.

Darkness falls across the town of Mutare.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

1st anniversary.

I hope the new layout of the blog meets people's approval. I will probably get bored again, and change it, but it'll have to do for now.

It's the first anniversary of my holiday to Southern Africa. I have held back from writing about my holiday before, as this is a garden blog. However, over the course of the year, I've come to realise that garden bloggers appear to discuss most other things, and rarely mention gardens..

Looking back on the pictures, I am quite sad that I can't be there now. Some of you, such as Mr.Colborn, have visited this magical and awe-inspiring part of the world several times. And talk at length about it.

So that's what I'm going to do, to escape the joys of Christmas. Due to work commitments and various other things, I will be unable to revisit Africa for a while. I will be writing a series of posts on my four week holiday, in a bid to try and re-live the time I had there.

In short the itinerary was as follows;
Drive to London Heathrow.
Fly to Johannesburg Airport.
Take connecting flight to Harare, Zimbabwe. Stay overnight.
Drive to Mutare, Zimbabwe. Stay overnight.
Drive to Rio Savane, Mozambique. Have a rest over ten days, and see in the New Year (2009).
Drive back to Mutare.
Drive to Gweru, Zimbabwe. Stay a couple of nights.
Drive to Harare, our base. Stay overnight.
Drive to Chirundu on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi river, the border with Zambia. Stay a few nights.
Drive back to Harare, stay a bit, then fly back to snowy London.

What carbon footprint?

Here are some pictures of the first few days in Mozambique.

Our car tyre went on the main road from Mutare to Beira, so we were forced to stop in a small village. The adults watched us change the tyre from the other side of the road, while the kids came for a closer look. These were the first few kids that arrived at the scene. Being situated on the main road, these Portuguese speakers were more than happy to pose when I asked them for a photo.

By the time we were ready to continue on our journey, there was a group of about thirty five children helping and then waving us off!

Taking a sharp turn left, off the main road, we made our way through a market and village. We did have to drive around some rather large, water-filled potholes.

As we drove on through swampy coastal land, the main dirt track was the causeway for the local bus.

After unpacking our camping gear onto a boat, we crossed the river to the main camp at Rio Savane. We dragged our things through the camp.

The camp was beautiful. It was based in a grove of mature coconut trees, on a spit of land surrounded by the river and the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean.

The sun quickly went down, and we had a much-needed swim in the warm sea, under the stars.