6 May 2012
Driving to Victoria Falls from Harare can be quite a bother, its long, strenuous, boring, and for twelve or thirteen hours…. “OH MY GOSH!!!!!! I cannot be doing this…” Don’t worry though, you are able to change this, make your journey to the Falls part of the holiday its self.
Instead of setting out for Victoria Falls at 2am or 3am, to do the trip in one day, set out later, split the trip into two days. There is so much do, places to stop, things to see, all fun and interesting, on the road from Harare to Victoria Falls.
So leave Harare at around 7am, the first few hours of the trip (pretty much until you get to Gweru) are not too interesting. There are a couple small, landmarks, and establishments that catch the eye on the way through, that will start up conversation and bring back memories. One such establishment is the restaurant outside Chegutu, which is made out of old aeroplane fuselages. Its unique, even though today the restaurant is looking worse for wear and no longer running, it is still novel to see to aeroplanes parked on the side of the road.
About half an hour from Chegutu, you will be in Kadoma, where it is your first toilet stop generally, even if you have a weak bladder. The Lodge (Kadoma RTG Conference Centre and Hotel) on the right as you drive into Kadoma. Sign posted, difficult to miss. The lodge is slowly being renovated, and is now looking really good. Haven’t stayed there yet or had a drink or meal, but it looks very inviting and maybe a place to consider having breakfast, because it would be around 8:30 am or 9:00 am.
You could wait an extra hour for breakfast, and have it at the Kwe Kwe Sports Club. In my opinion best meals in the world, slaap chips and a burger. Kwe Kwe sports club is also the only club in the world probably, that world famous batsman and West Indies Cricket player, Brian Lara, was asked to leave for wearing his cap when he went into the bar to update himself on the cricket score of a televised international cricket match.
After Kwe Kwe you’ll arrive in Gweru, the time now should be around 11 O’clock. In Gweru you will find the Midlands Butchery, which has undoubtedly the best biltong in the country! It is an absolute MUST to stop off here and by a couple of sticks for the trip.
I remember one year travelling to the Falls, we arrived at the butchery at 8 am, just as they were about to open, got our biltong, fresh, a bit too wet, so we asked for some plastic hooks. In the heat of the car, we were able to dry them, by hanging them from the rear view mirror. By the time we got to Bulawayo our biltong was in perfect eating condition.
Exiting Gweru on route to Bulawayo, you will come across the War museum, on the right, where you will be able to see the old war planes and machines.
The stretch of road from Gweru to Bulawayo is about an hour and a half’s drive, very boring, there are just open grasslands and farmlands, but the road its self is very good. By the time you arrive in Bulawayo, it will be lunch time, so you can go to your overnight stop; we usually use the Farm House, about 45 minutes outside Bulawayo, on the Matopos road. It’s a small, basic, lodge on the outskirts of the Matopos National park. After unloading your car, and/ or trailer, you can head back into town and do some sightseeing there. Bulawayo has so much more to see and do than the previous towns you have travelled through. The main attraction is the Natural History Museum.
There is also The National Railways of Zimbabwe Train Museum, the Centenary Park. During the festive season, the theatre runs a pantomime. You can do any of these activities, but it’s advisable just to do one, so that you also have time to venture into the Matopos National Park. Also while driving through the National Park stay alert and keep your eyes open because there is a fair chance you will come across rhinos. By the time you are done in the park and have arrived back at your overnight stop it should be about five o’clock. And if you are, like me, staying at the farm house, you will be able to see probably the most stunning sunset. The Farm House is built at the base of a rock kopje about the size of Domboshava (the highest point in Mashonaland West near Harare) but it’s much steeper to climb. We usually ask one of the staff members to accompany us to the top, to view the sunset. From up there nothing obstructs your view. It’s a hard climb, not for the faint hearted, but it’s so worth it. (For more information on what to do, see and where to stay in Bulawayo go to www.bulawayo24.com)
On the second leg of your trip from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, you would ideally want to leave Bulawayo at around seven in the morning. This gives you a nice drive in the cool of the day. Your first stop after Bulawayo at about half 8/9 would be Halfway House, just outside Lupane, it’s a bit run down, but the bar works perfectly if you would like a drink and the toilets are clean.
You should arrive at Hwange Safari lodge at around 10:30, in time for a late breakfast/early lunch. While eating your lunch in front of the water hole, you can watch out for game, from Kudu, to Impala, to Elephant, anything could come down. But beware of the Baboons and Monkeys and the Yellow Billed Kites who like to steal your food off your plate. The light meals like Burgers and Sandwiches are cheap and satisfying. After your breakfast you can take a quick trip to the Wild Dog Conservation Centre which is directly opposite the Safari Lodge airstrip. The Conservation Centre is run by Greg Rasmussen (www.painteddog.org). Here you will be; given a guided tour of the centre, educated on the wild dogs, as well as being able to see a few rehabilitated wild dogs. After you have finished at the centre, you will be on your way to your final destination, the Falls. Still a good hour and half to two hours away, which will get you to Victoria Falls Just in time or just after the 2pm, the start of check in for most hotels.