Mines, Melons and Matopos
By Livingstone Tent and Heyerdahl Tent
After a couple of days back in camp, we were once again packing… this time for a casual 10days away. Three to be spent on a mine, 3 on a farm and 3 once again in the bush. We were split into two groups. The first group was to head to the mine, the second to the farm and after three days swap over for a further three days, finally all meeting up at the balancing rocks of the Matopos for a hike and cycle back towards Quest. Most of our group fell asleep on the trip to the farm where we were rudely awakened and turfed out to the overlander truck to walk the final stretch to our camp site. This was on some lovely green grass on the edge of a beautiful dam with petrified trees standing tall in the middle. The main area was held up with Leadwood poles, making it all look wonderfully rustic. We set up our tents and set about making a big mopane wood camp fire. Farm work commenced at 7am and we started planting honeydew melons. From there we saw the tomatoes and learned how they went about farming them, and visited the pecan trees that they had planted. We were also shown how they try to extract gold ore from the claims they have using a centrifugal motion. After an excellent lunch we then planted cabbages and in the evening we were asked to help net the fish from the ever dwindling dam. The net was placed in a line across the dam and we walked holding the top and bottom down, slogging through knee deep mud, from one side to the other. Barbel, bream and freaky looking ‘bulldogs’ were trapped. Myself, Skinner and some of the farm workers chased fish out of the shallows and inlets into the nets. From there we hauled the nets ashore and mud and fish were strewn along the banks. Smaller fish and the bulldogs were sent back into the dam whilst the bigger ones were taken by the workers as rations. That evening the owner of the farm, Mr Sean Nicolle and his family and friend came to join us for supper, and we all had some great conversations with them. Sitting around the fire later, Kai McQ put a chemical pack into the flames which turns the flames a beautiful green colour. Daniel and I spent a while talking about home and our lives and loves… The next day we got stuck into some bush clearing followed by onion planting. Whilst we were resting over lunch a big eland bull came to graze on the other side of the dam. I also tried my hand at stalking a legavaan and although I got very close it was too quick and slipped passed and into the water and was gone. Later on we went to visit some ruins in the hills surrounded by huge trees. I opted to walk back and enjoyed the quiet evening amongst the hills. During our last day we went looking for snares on the farm and did some more bush clearing. That evening the eland male came back to drink and some waterbuck. I slipped into the water and swam up to very close to where they were drinking. Once they got used to the slight ripples my rather chilly body was causing in the water, they continued to drink. It was an amazing experience but I was glad to be able to go back to a nice shower and bed. After a final climb up the kopjes the next day we packed up and headed for the mine, briefly passing the other group on their way to the farm.
We spent the afternoon settling into the new ‘mining’ environment. The next day we ate our breakfast in apprehensive silence. The thought of going 500m down into the mine was overwhelming. We had our safety briefing and then the excitement started as we reached the entrance to the mine. Off we went from bright sunny sky to a dark abyss of emptiness. After a 7hr shift our eyes had been opened as we realised how difficult it was to work in a mine. From shovelling rocks all day, to pushing a ton of rock up and down in a coco pan, we learnt to respect how hard miners have to work every day and appreciate how good we had it at home! Later on in the afternoon we returned to our accommodation where we had a delicious meal served by our master chef Chum, swam in the pool and slept on comfortable mattresses.
During the next day we had a comprehensive tour of the mining complex from the geology, chemistry, engineering right up to the smelting process. On our last day we were back down the mines with our head torches and boots for another shift.
Finally the two groups joined up and headed to Mtshebezi Dam in the Southern end of Matopos. Camping on the banks in the evening, swimming, jumping off the dam wall into the clear warm water, abseiling and playing paintball were order of the day. Mr. M had an accident with the paintball when one of the guns malfunctioned so he was quickly whisked into casualty in Bulawayo to be checked out. (Fortunately no long term damage is expected, and although he is enjoying looking particularly cool wearing shades all the time, these will be discarded very soon – ed)
From Mtshebezi we cycled to another idyllic spot called Lumane Falls. Camping on short green grass surrounded by lush vegetation and clear running streams. From Lumane we headed off for our main hike of approximately 17km to Diana’s Pools where we had lunch and spent some time sliding down the rocks and swimming in the pool. A fitting end to a busy 10 days.