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2016 Africa Adventure: Masvingo and Great Zimbabwe Ruins

May 27, 2016

Masvingo map 1I am so glad I motored around this country because I was able to see so much of the country and people! Walking is common. Posture is great.


Selling by the side of the road is common.


Watermelons for sale. Although no one seemed to be there, the moment you stopped a woman or child would materialize to help.

I know for sure they have speed laws (I got a ticket for going too fast) but as for other road rules, I don’t know.P1000292P1000372

I booked Norma Jeane’s Lakeside Resort because it was close to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. (It was named after the wife of the original owner, not Marilyn Monroe’s birth name.) Built over 70 years ago, it was comfortable if a bit faded.


This is when I discovered the joy of having your car washed by the staff. Turns out this was commonplace everywhere I stayed. Considering the car inhaled dirt every day, this service was very welcome.

Washing Car at Norma Jeane's

Norma Jeane’s overlooked Lake Mutirikwi, home of the country’s largest inland dam, another feat of British engineering. There isn’t much water  in the lake. Because of the drought (and other economic problems) it is at 23% capacity and lakeside businesses and lodges are now gone. I visited the lake and walked across the dam. Still beautiful.

Lake Mutirikwi from the dam

Lake Mutirikwi from the dam

Watch hut at the dam.

Watch hut at the dam. There was a fee for driving across so I walked.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Visiting the Great Zimbabwe Ruins took the day.

GZ21 GZ2

The ruins, built between the 11th and 15th centuries, are a mortar-free testament to early African building skill, although when Europeans explored they decided it was built by more civilized races than the Africans. It was not until the 1930s (thanks to a woman archeologist, Gertrude Caton-Thompson) that it began to be accepted that the Bantu/Shona, the native civilizations, were genuinely responsible for the magnificent architecture.



I hiked to the tallest point to see part of the ruins spread below. There are over 1700 acres and estimates say 18,000 people lived here at one time.


Europeans discovered the ruins in 1868, and for the last two centuries the ruins have been at the center of archeological fights and ownership disputes. The museum contains several stone-carved Zimbabwe birds that were stolen by Cecil Rhodes and others and only returned by England in the past few decades. That bird is the national emblem of Zimbabwe.

Zim flag

The ruins were awesome. Considering the destructive history, I am surprised they are still here. I loved feeling the rock and climbing the old paths. There were not many people and the only American I met was a young backpacking woman who was doing the Africa tour alone. I really admired her!

Amazing video from 1950

Here is another awesome part. I have video of my parents and grandparents visiting the ruins in early 1950. That is my dad talking.

Notice the clothes they are wearing. Mom is wearing a long dress, Dad is wearing slacks, Grandma has a scarf on her neck and Grandpa is carrying his suit jacket!

I can’t imagine dressing up to visit the ruins. This is what I looked like!


Oh, I forgot to mention Noel. He was staying at Norma Jeane’s, too, and was doing work in Masvingo. He is a Zim native (several generations back) and shared with me a lot of the history of the area.


On my travels to Bulawayo the next day I stopped at a rest area and who should be there was Noel! He told me why I should stop at the …


It is called “Africa’s Sydney Bridge.”


And I was fortunate to catch this lovely sight.


Crossing the Birchenough Bridge, Zimbabwe

Next: Bulawayo and  how I got lost searching for rhinos! 

  1. Shauna Shipley permalink

    I can’t begin to imagine the emotion you must have felt visiting the same locations so central to your parents lives. Loved the video!

  2. Our Florida vacation pales in comparison! I read the link “Great Zimbabwe: A History Almost Forgotten.” Fascinating. I love the quote: “These writers are well aware that smallness means less significance.” Incredible that you have that video of your parents and grandparents!

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