Researching some places to go to in Zimbabwe I found an easily accessible national park just south of Mutare. The Chimanimani Mountains and the skeleton pass. I wanted to go hiking there!
Once in Chimanimani village, I spent the first day doing almost nothing. The 20-hour bus ride in Mozambique wiped me out. At nearly 48 and after 28 months on the road, I am in serious need of having a FULL BODY SERVICE, you know, like a car needs once in a while. Think detox, massage, scrub and a week of being in a dark soundproofed room.
The plan was for an overnight trip. I dropped in at the African Wilderness Link office. And also the park rangers office to pay for my night at one of the huts.
I hadn't been hiking since Georgia, last September. To make it easier on myself I took less than I would normally have done. Leaving all superfluous items back at Heaven Lodge I took just my day pack with jeans and t-shirt and rain jacket, Crocs and a camera. I'd gotten rice with beans and veg at Maria Restaurant the day before, put in a container with some bread, tinned fish, beans, corned beef and cheese from 1 of the village stores.
Maria, host and patron at the Maria restaurant, Chimanimani
From the end of the road at Mutekeswani Base Camp @1250m, which is about 16km from town, I scrambled up the hillside before crossing a plain before descending slightly to the MOUNTAIN HUT @1740m where I would overnight. I dumped my food and clothing and set off for The Skeleton Pass
Heading out of town
The long dusty road walk in
Road junction, African style
Base camp, where I got my permit checked. Don't forget to drop in upon return
Skeleton pass map. You gotta have a reasonable sense of direction, but mostly, it's hard to loose the path. If you do, just retrace your steps.
The scramble up Baileys Folly
Taking a breather on the way up, looking back
Fairly easy footpath
Mostly, you'll know when you are on the footpath
Happy - alone in the mountains.
Beautiful African bush
At the bottom of the Skeleton pass looking back the way I had come. If you zoom in and have a keen eye, you can see the Mountain Hut.
The 'skeleton pass', a former guerrilla route between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, So named because way back when gold prospectors were up there in droves, a skeleton was found on the pass.
In the 60s and 70s, rebels opposed to Ian Smith's Rhodesia were given the freedom to base themselves over the border in Mozambique (also in Zambia, then called Northern Rhodesia) and send raiding parties across the mountains to hit government forces.
This clandestine route over the mountains is what appealed to my very nature.
Bit of a scramble up the last part. It's over grown. Wet feet are guaranteed.
From the top of the Skeleton Pass looking across Mozambique. The single wooden stake marks the border.
Self timer at the Skeleton pass, looking into Mozambique.
Looking back down the pass
Looking back down the pass
At the bottom of the pass, I met the rangers who would stay up there for 15 days before being relieved by the next shift. 3 guys together in a hut not much bigger than a garden shed. They are there for visitors safety and to deter those who come to pan the rivers. The final 300 trackless meters to the top, quite unspectacular if you ask me until treated to the awesome view into Mozambique. The border marked by a single wooden stake. The weather had turned so I did not linger. 40minutes later I was back in the Mountain Hut.
Into dry clothing, bed prepared, fire readied, I ate my food, rehydrated and read til darkness came. After a few false starts, I got the fire going and enjoyed my lonesome evening.
I was a 40-minute walk from the nearest human contact, when was I or you so far from another person?
Home Alone at the Mountain Hut, Chimanimani Mountains national park
This post first appeared on my other, sadly defunct travel blog and is based on my travels to the region in 2016. The post has been up graded to include 17 previously unseen photos.
Since my time there, the RTGS Dollar also nicknamed zollar, became Zimbabwe's new currency in February 2019. Transactions are no longer possible in foreign currencies.
In April 2019, Cyclone Idai wrecked havoc in Southern Africa. Chimanimani was suddenly known across the world after massive rains and landslides caused devastating damage.
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Travelling the world solo, since 1992, as a low-budget backpacker.