Matobo Hills - nature's balancing act
Just 40 minutes on a good tarred road south-west of Bulawayo, you will find yourself surrounded by a panorama of massive geological proportions – a jumbled, tumble of rocks that seem to have been carelessly thrown together to create a gigantic balancing act. This is Matobo National Park, an unspoilt wilderness of granite hills as old as time itself and proclaimed a World Heritage Site.
The Matobo Hills is a natural wonderland of granite outcrops and diverse, indigenouswoodland, home to a variety of wildlife and bird life and, a few thousand years ago, the territory that belonged to a group of roaming hunters and gatherers known as the San people. Highly artistic, the San folk left an indelible mark on the caves, rock shelters and overhangs of these hills. This is where the history of the Matobo Hills has been told - in delicate strokes on granite walls. Adorned with mystical figures painted with the extracts of plant and animal, the Matobo Hills are anexpansive rocky gallery of global interest. Rich in spiritual significance these fascinating San paintings are on a par with Stone Age art anywhere in the world.
Rambling through the granite outcrops in the Matobo Hills is safe and easy, the diversity of beautiful trees is exceptional, wildlife wanders free and the bird life is prolific. It is here where you can sit quietly under one of Matobo’s magnificent indigenous trees and listen to the silence interrupted only by bird calls. And, if you’re keen on game viewing, you can take a drive through the game park in the west to get close to rhino, giraffe, zebra, hippo, impala, klipspringers, duiker, steenbok, monkeys and the rest.
“The peacefulness of it all, the chaotic grandeur. It creates a feeling of awe and brings home to us how very small we are.” The words of Cecil John Rhodes, Prime Minister of the Cape and famous British imperialist of the last century. Rhodes was so enthralled with the Matobo Hills that his wish was to be buried there. And so, chiseled into the solid surface of an enormous granite dome (or dwala) is the grave of Cecil John Rhodes, the man who founded the country formerly named Rhodesia.
Matobo is of great historic interest. Shrines, sacred places and burial sites of Ndebele kings such as Mzilikazi and Lobengula, British pioneers Rhodes and Jameson as well as Alan Wilson and his uniformed troops of the Shangani Patrol are to be found in and around the Matobo Hills. It is also in these hills that Lord Baden-Powell founded the world-renowned Boy Scout movement.
Spend a short while in Matobo Hills and your mind will become saturated with the beauty of those precarious granite formations, the fascinating rock art, places of historic interest and the wealth of indigenous plants, animals and birds those old hills support. This is Matobo Hills