Text Ian Riddell, photography by Simon and Jonathan de Bruijn (Mountain Club of Zimbabwe)
For those that prefer their thrills in the bright light of day, hiking with your world on your back is the one and only way to go. There are no roads, and apart from the Mountain Hut, only your tent or the safe caves offer shelter. There is absolutely no disturbance, apart from the looming threat of destruction and pollution from illegal (or possibly in the near future, legal) small-scale gold panners. This will happen if the short-sighted policies of exploitation in our National Parks and other wilderness areas come into force.
To explore the mountains one must start at Dead Cow Camp – the National Parks’ headquarters – and ascend via Bailey’s Folly or Banana Grove. The three-kilometre hike to the Mountain Hut climbs four hundred metres and is the first test of your fitness and endurance, but please take your time. Stop along the way and do some birdwatching and enjoy the tranquillity and scenery of this wonderfully unique area.
Chimanimani is a unique and stunningly beautiful ancient massif, more akin to the Drakensberg than other local areas. It is Zimbabwe’s most specialised ecosystem, with almost one hundred different endemic flora and fauna species. It is home to over 160 bird species, almost fifty different fish genera, 35 varieties of amphibians and sixty species of reptiles. Chimanimani is the region of the greatest plant endemism in Zimbabwe, with between fifty and sixty endemic plants recorded to date, including no less than seven endemic aloe varieties…