Southern Rhodesia

now called ... Zimbabwe

Tarred Strip Road

While we were living in Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) we made a few trips to visit Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia).

In the 1960's Zimbabwe was referred to as Rhodesia and Zambia was referred to as Northern Rhodesia.

Mainly we travelled through Rhodesia on our way to Beira on the Mozambique coast, stopping along the way. Salisbury (Harare) and Bulwayo our main ports of call.

My Uncle,Geoff Bannister, lived in Salisbury with his family and we went to visit them.

Geoff went out to Africa just before my father, and maybe it was he who influenced my father's decision to move out to Africa. Geoff married a local black girl called Anna and had 12 children. I don't remember much of the visits to them.

While we were visiting Salisbury we went sight seeing ...

Salisbury was also known as the "city of flowering trees" ... purple jacarandas, Australian flame trees, poincianas, bauhinias, and bougainvillaea were in abundance. I remember the Flame trees vividly.

Purple Jacaranda Trees and Australian Red Flame Trees

On the eastern skirts of the city there are extraordinary rock formations in an area affectionately known as the Giant's Playground.

Not far from Salisbury in the foothills of the Hunyani Hills water created a vast sinkhole in the dolomite rocks called Sinoia or Tshirorodziva meaning "the fallen pool". The pool is over 90ft deep. The water in the sinkhole is a deep blue colour and is crystal clear. The pool is home to many goldfish which were released in the pool by some unknown person.


Sinoia Photo (large)

My black and white photo does not do the pool justice so I have added a colour photo from the web, but even this does not show the deep beauty of the pool.

Another place which we visited because of some friends from Zambia, the Robinsons, who had moved there was Bindura ... which means "a place of trapping" because of the hunting by the KoreKore tribe.

To get to Bindura we had to pass through the Mazoe or Mazowe Valley which means "the place of elephants" by the Karanga tribe.

The Europeans cultivated large citrus estates here as well as avodados, mangoes, litchis, nuts, olives, and lemons. One estate alone covered 21,000 hectares.

While we were in Rhodesia we visited the ruins of Great Zimbabwe.

The name is derived from the Shona dzimbabwe, or maDzimbahwe, meaning "a great stone building".

The ruins lie in a valley at the head of the Mutirikwi River and consist of several sites.

The Great Enclosure is in the valley itself while the Acropolis lies on a hilltop. The military and the priests residing in the Acropolis and the king and the people residing in the Great Enclosure and in the other smaller residences.

Europeans had the romantic idea that the buildings were constructed by the Egyptians, perhaps in Cleopatra's time, or some other superior nation, but archeological evidence has not revealed signs of the presence of any foreign people other than the Arabs and Portuguese traders.

Digs in the western enclosure of the Acropolis have revealed evidence of five eras of occupation ... the first ended during the 4th century AD, when the second began. The third beginning in about 1000 AD, and the fourth during the 15th century.

The ruins were first discovered in 1868 by German-born Adam Renders. And in 1869 a hunter, Willie Posselt, found one of the soapstone "eagles" which used to decorate the pillars on top of the walls. A further 8 of these birds were found ... six are now in Cape Town, one is in Bulawayo, and the head of another is in Salisbury (Harare) while its body is in Berlin. Replicas of the bird can be seen on the country's coat of arms and on its coinage.

Stone ruins similar to Great Zimbabwe have been found at various places in Zimbabwe although not on such a grand scale.

Top Left: Khami Ruins, Matabeleland. Top Right: Dhlo Ruins, Matabeleland. Bottom Left: Nalatalie Ruins, Matabeleland Bottom Right: Nyangwe Fort, Nyanga.

Not far from Bulawayo is the Rhodes Matopas Park, a name given to the area by the Europeans.

Its native name is amaTobo meaning "the bald heads". It is named this by the Matabele king, Mzilikazi, who remarked that the granite outcrops reminded him of the elders of his tribe.

Artist: Aquarell von Reinhild Primbsch

The Matopas is 80 km long and are estimated to be more than 3,000 million years old.

The Matopas was used as a stronghold by the Matabele in the 1896 Rebellion, and it was here that Cecil Rhodes (after whom Rhodesia was named) met the Matabele leaders in the four "indabas" or conferences which ended the fighting.

Although Rhodes died at Muizenberg in South Africa his body was transported to the Matopas and was buried on the summit of the granite dome, known by the Europeans as Worlds View.

Also buried on the summit are Sir Leander Star Jameson, Rhodes' friend and colleague; and Sir Charles Coglan, the first prime minister of Rhodesia.

The remains of Major Allan Wilson and the men of his patrol who lost their lives in pursuit of the Chief Lobengula are contained in a monument erected on the summit.

Some of my photos are now in colour. This is because after we had moved to Swaziland, my aunty Alice came out to Africa for a holiday. My father took us all on a trip back to Rhodesia. The black and white photos are from the early 1960s.

When the Chief Mzilikazi died in 1868, his son Lobengula became the new king and in 1872 founded his capital kwaBulawayo which means "the place of the persecuted man".

But in 1893 the Matabele tribe were defeated by the British South Africa Company army and Lobengula fled to the north.

When the new Bulawayo was planned Cecil Rhodes ordered that the streets should be wide enough to allow a wagon with a full span of oxen to turn.

The last picture I have taken in the 1960s is of the bridge which spans the Sabi River, a major river of Rhodesia and Mozambique, on the way towards Umtali and Melsetter on the eastern border; and one of the routes we used to take to get to Beira on the Mozambique coast.

The colour photo is from a book, and was taken in the dry season when the Sabi River is low.

The bridge, the Birchenough Bridge, is a single-span arch 329 metres long and 18 metres above the river. It was designed by Ralph Freeman, the designer of Australia's Sydney Harbour Bridge and named after Sir Henry Birchenough, chairman of the Beit Trust which was founded by the multi-millionaire partner of Rhodes to provide money for the building of bridges, roads, and railways in Rhodesia.

Umtali lies at the foothills of the Chimanimani Mountains. We took my aunt to the National Park here.

Chimanimani Mountains

The Pungwe Gorge in the Chimanimani Mountains -

Zimbabwe lies to the left of the Gorge, and Mozambique lies to the right in the lowlands.

Chimanimani is the European derivative of Tshimanimani meaning "to be squeezed together" and was given by the Ndawu people to the narrow pass in the range through which the Musapa River flows.

The highest peak in the range is the Inyangani named after a celebrated witchdoctor, Sanyanga who held sway over the mountain, and is the highest mountain of Zimbabwe.

Melsetter was named after the Settlers from the Orange Free State who arrived in 1892. And near this town are the Bridal Veil Falls whose pool at the bottom is said to be haunted.

In the photo you can see my Aunt, and the vehicle on the right is our Khombi.

The memorial to the settlers from the Orange Free State

Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side. Top views of the gorge and the Bridge that spans it, and below Livingstone Memorial.

Other places we visited were :

The Big Tree at Pandamatenga

This specimen was estimated to have a girth of about 65ft when visited by Francis Harold Watson in 1891. The men at the foot of the tree were stationed there to give an idea of its size. Modern measurements give the girth as 53ft (16m) and height as 66ft (20m), while the tree is thought to be in the region of 1500 years old. Watson first travelled to Zimbabwe in 1873 and made subsequent expeditions, both as a trader and as a hunter.

Because of his visits to the Zambezi valley, he was affectionately known as "Zambezi" Watson. He was accompanied by Hartley and Selous on his journeys, and became a close friend of Selous. The Big Tree was on the route of the Hunters Trail which starts at Pandamatenga/Kazangula and ends at Victoria Falls.



The border between Rhodesia, Zambia, Botswana and the tip of South West Africa

We also went to Wankie Game Reserve, the Inyanga National Park, the Van Niekerk ruins, the rock art in the Nswatugi Caves in the Matopas National Park, the Khami ruins outside Bulawayo, and Lake Kyle Dam.

Oh, and we also met and shook hands with this guy :

Prime Minister Ian Smith

Coat of Arms

Victoria Falls cataracts




Back to Africa    Continue Tour 

Gloriosa (Flame Lily)

More about Rhodesia

Attractions and Tours of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe places of Interest map and Info



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