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Day Nine - Nswatugi Cave, Matobo Village, & Rhino Walk

Up bright and early, we set out for Nswatugi Cave where we found rock paintings all over the walls that are between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. Still fairly vibrant after all these years, they were painted by the Bushmen, who are the indigenous people of Southern Africa.

Our guide, Ian Harmer, who is a third-generation guide in Zimbabwe, did a wonderful job explaining the significance of all the drawings, as well as the history, lifestyle, and current plight of the Bushmen in the region. He was very passionate, knowledgeable, and captivating and I could have listened to him for hours. I learned a lot then and am inspired to learn more. He even speaks at least some of the language, which is a series of clicking sounds. You can read more about them in the Saharan Vibe blog, which is quite excellent.

Rock Paintings in Nswatugi Cave
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Rock Paintings in Nswatugi Cave
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Rock Paintings in Nswatugi Cave
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Next, we visited a small village nearby the caves and asked permission to enter, as is customary. It consisted of many small huts within a fence and had many children playing a jumping game as we entered. Once inside, we were taken to the tribal elder's hut and through Ian's translation, we learned of his life and he spoke to each of us individually and shook our hands. He was 82 years of age, but full of energy and eager to speak to us and tell stories. He told us about how he survived a leopard attack, carefully showing each of us the scars, including the loss of one eye, and how he was saved by a random stranger driving by with a rifle. Next he took us out to a secret storage area where they would hide food stores in case the village was invaded. They would make large clay bins, seal them, and then cover them with massive termite hills. Sealed in this manner, the bins could store foods for up to three years. Even though they no longer had rival invading tribes, he felt it was important to continue this tradition, along with many others to preserve the heritage of the tribe.

Kids Playing at Matobo Village
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Village Elder
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Tribal Dance
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Returning to the village center, they began a series of tribal dances, which were very entertaining. They invited many of us to join, but I declined. They were making and selling little knickknacks, which is a main source of income for them. I purchased a wooden spice grinder that reminded me of a mortar and pestle that we use in pharmacy for compounding drugs.

After a lunch on the road, we ventured out to a rhinoceros habitat and began to drive around searching for signs of the rhinos. If we'd see a set of fresh tracks, we'd get out and follow them on foot. It was raining very steadily and fairly cold for Zimbabwe and we did have much luck after a few hours of searching. We did, however, find some hippos in a small lake and spent some time watching them swim.

Hippos Swimming in Matobo
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Hippos Swimming in Matobo
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Hippos Swimming in Matobo
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With darkness approaching, I was getting a bit worried that it would be a fruitless search. But the driver did manage to locate a couple male rhinos grazing in the grass. We approached them on foot and tried to get them to walk up to us, but they were a little nervous if we got within 20 yards or so. Still, we had a great view and were able to follow them for a about 30 minutes before heading back to camp.

Rhinos in Matobo
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Rhinos in Matobo
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Rhinos in Matobo
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Drenched and cold, I changed before dinner and we were once again sitting around the fire when the rain returned. Eager to remain dry, that was my cue to head to bed early.

 

Day Ten

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