Zimbabwe National Park

Bulawayo And the Matopos National Park

The second major city of Zimbabwe is Bulawayo, once home to the dynasty of fabled Ndebele kings which finally came to grief at the hands of the white settlers at the turn of the century. With a population of half a million, Bulawayo is a spacious and attractive city, laid out on a grid of boulevards designed to be so wide that they would allow a team of sixteen oxen to turn full circle. The city is proud of its grand old buildings, and allocates substantial funds to keep them maintained.

But no visit would be complete without a trip to the railway museum, which houses engines, rolling stock and machinery dating back to the beginning of the century. Bulawayo houses the headquarters of Zimbabwe National Railways, which overlooks one of the largest railway junctions in the world. Zimbabwe's superbly maintained fleet of steam trains was to have been phased out in the 1970s, but they still attract enthusiasts from Europe, the United States and the world over, who come here to recapture some vestige of their lost youth. There is a supremely romantic journey to be made from Bulawayo several hundred kilometers through the bush to Victoria Falls.

A short drive south of Bulawayo are the ancient Matopos hills, a world of knobbly granite outcrops that look as if they have been transplanted from another planet. As soon as you enter this National Park, another Africa descends upon you. Here is an eerie panorama so brooding and mysterious that it has enchanted Ndebele kings and colonial settlers alike. Today, the visitor can gaze upon the tomb of Cecil Rhodes and those of his deputies.

Not far from these monuments to colonial ambition are the vestiges of a very different people, cave paintings by ancient bushmen depicting another world which existed thousands of years before the name 'Zimbabwe' was ever invented.

Special thanks to the Zimbabwe Ministry of Enviornment and Tourism for providing this information.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »