Matobo Hills is an area of granite koppies and wooded valleys south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The hills were formed (over 2 billion years ago) from granite forced to the surface, that has eroded to produce smooth “whaleback dwalas” and broken koppies, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. This unique topography makes for some amazing riding with many unique features adding to the overall experience. These include the highest concentration of rock art anywhere in the world, a history of Anglo-Ndebele conflicts and a great diversity of flora and fauna.
As the Matobo Hills is home to the local Zimbabwe hosts they have unbelievable knowledge of the area, its history, flora and fauna, etc. This, combined with extensive exploring by the Detour Trails team and building on previous adventures has resulted in us being able to set up great routes and unparalleled riding experiences.
No racing, no timing, just pure riding pleasure. This Matobo Hills Adventure has set the standard for Journeys with Gerald.
In keeping with the Journeys with Gerald philosophy of experiencing more than ‘just the ride’, the 2024 Matobo Hills Adventure actually starts with and evening in the iconic Bulawayo Club which oozes history, a quick visit to Khami Ruins provides more ancient history before we ride from Bulawayo to Camp Dwala in the East Matobo Hills. Here the journey takes riders into the heart of the Matobo Hills for the next 6 days.
DETAILS OF MATOBO HILLS ADVENTURE
|19th – 25th June 2024
|BULAWAYO & MATOBO HILLS, ZIMBABWE
|This adventure is intended for regular mountain bikers who have a good level of fitness. Routes include some moderate to difficult technical sections. There is a possibility of shorter & easier routes for more recreational riders. Routes are E-Bike ‘friendly’ with very little portaging.
|While this adventure is tailored for regular mountain bikers, it is possible for non-riders and/or very recreational riders who wish to get a taste of riding in this unique environment to join in. Wherever possible they will be integrated with the main riding group, meeting them on occasion. However there is so much for non-riders to do and experience that they will be guided by a local Zim to get close up to and learn about the local culture, history, flora & fauna, etc. There’s always something to do or explore no matter what your preference.
HOW TO ENTER
|+/- DESCENT m
|Bulawayo Club experience
|Khami Ruins & ride to Camp Dwala
|Rock n’ Roll Ride (Rock Art & Dwalas)
|Ride the Battles (Ndebele wars)
|Sandy Spruit Trail to Big Cave
|Njelele Koppie Trail & Tourist Stuff
|Big Cave Amble & travel
NOTE: While we have chosen what we believe is a great spread of riding routes to expose riders to the Matobo Hills, there are so many options for amazing riding that we may decide “on the fly” to make some positive changes as our Zim hosts have an intimate knowledge of current local conditions.
Day 1: Arrive in Bulawayo, Transfer to Bulawayo Lodge
Riders travelling by car will be given detailed directions to the BULAWAYO LODGE. Riders flying in to Joshua Nkomo International (JMNI), Bulawayo will be met and transfer to the BULAWAYO LODGE.
After lunch at the BULAWAYO LODGE riders are free to explore the rambling town of Bulawayo as we can take the group around in the Detour bus or enjoy a relaxed afternoon at the Lodge.
In early evening we will make our way to the Bulawayo Club giving all time to take in the history of the BULAWAYO CLUB itself with its masses memorabilia, collection of sporting icon’s kit, an impressive library and the like.
The evening activities will start in the BULAWAYO CLUB bar with formal introductions to Gerald, the Detour crew and local Zimbabwe hosts. Drinks and dinner follow a short briefing enabling everyone to get to know each other.
Day 2: KHAMI RUINS & CAMP DWALA – Ride from Bulawayo to Camp Dwala
Stats: 45km, 700m ascent, 500m descent
A visit to Bulawayo wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Khami Ruins, After breakfast the group travels to Khami for a fascinating stroll through the ruins and learning a bit from raconteur, Rob about the Great Zimbabwe Pre-Colonial Civilization (11th – 15th Century) After a quick lunch the group will prepare for the ride to CAMP DWALA getting a good idea of the riding and flow of the Matobo Hills Adventure.
After settling in at CAMP DWALA soaking up the first experience of the Matobo Hills, it’s time for sundowners and the beginning of being immersed into the area by our local hosts.
Day 3: ROCK ‘n ROLL - Dwala Riding Rock Art
Stats: 55km, 650m ascent, 700m descent
In order to ease into riding in the Matabo Hills, the start of the first ride from CAMP DWALA is gentle and fun as we make our way to find some caves with rock art. We explore caves like Gulubagwe with its fascinating ‘snake’ art and Ntunjambili Cave – the longest cave in the Matopos, and one of the first to be described. It was also a rain making cave, with great views from the summit of the hill. We’ll ride on through the Gulati Communal area, interacting with the local residents, before returning via Sotcha, a massive wall of granite.
There are infinite riding and site seeing options, so our Zimbabwe hosts will decide ‘on the fly’ where to take us as we learn what riding the group most enjoys. There’s no doubt that there will be a festival of “dwala riding” on these amazing granite massifs.
Day 4: RIDE THE BATTLES - Experience the Anglo-Ndebele Wars
Stats: 60km, 1200m ascent, 1200m descent
Leaving Camp Dwala we pass through Horse Shoe Canyon, site of a battle in 1896, and our first major “dwala descent”! We turn east and drop steadily down to the Mtshabezi Valley followed by a long steady climb up from the Mtshabezi River to emerge high up the high valleys of the eastern Matopos. Again some truly great single track, before a testing climb to the summit of Tshingengoma (Drum Koppie) where we will look over the 1896 Battle site; the largest conventional battlefield in Zimbabwe and where the British forces very nearly lost their artillery. We pass Diana’s Pool with its fascinating history and visit the Orbicular Granite, one of only 14 sites in the world. We’ll break at the Great Indaba Site and learn a little more of CJ Rhodes riding unarmed into the hills to negotiate with the Ndebele Chiefs here. After a lunch break, we turn for home enjoying more single track – but some hard climbs await us. This will be a long hard day, but will lead to lots of talk around the fire in the evening.
After this day riders will not only be exhausted, but are sure to be suffering from information overload as they will have been exposed to and amazing mass of history they never expected.
As this is the hardest ride of the tour, the support crew and vehicle will be on hand to shorten the route if necessary and/or there is an option to transfer back to camp after lunch at Rhodes’ Indaba Site.
Day 5: SANDY SPRUIT TRAIL to BIG CAVE
Stats: 55km, 900m ascent, 1000m descent
Saying goodbye to CAMP DWALA riders will set off west towards the balancing rocks typical of west Matobo Hills riding away from the unexpected east Matobo Hills of huge dwalas and excellent trails of the Gulati Communal lands.
Some steady uphill gets us to the high ridges and some great cycling on single track. The route takes us onto the Tuli River where a short sharp, technical hill will test us all. We ride through the 1896 Nkantolo Battlefield, the first major engagement of the 1896 Matopos campaign. Carrying on through the rural valleys we’ll skirt the National Park gate and pick our route to BIG CAVE depending on how the group is feeling. BIG CAVE is sure to be a pleasant surprise as it is a fine lodge nestled into huge granite rocks in a unique setting. The afternoon can be spent at leisure around the pool, followed by a short game drive or ride to sundowners overlooking the vast National Park and its balancing rocks.
Day 6: NJELELE KOPPIE TRAIL & TOURIST STUFF
Stats: 45-60km, 900m ascent, 1000m descent
After the days of challenging riding it’s time to wind down and do the ‘tourist stuff’ in the Matobo Hills National Park.
But before that there’s an opportunity for one last amazing ride around one of the most sacred Ndebele spots, Njelele Koppie. Not only is the riding a fitting finale to the time in the Matobo Hills, but the a last opportunity to suck in some more of the Ndebele culture as Shephard, the BIG CAVE resident guide (and mountain biker) explains Njelele’s significance in rain making legendary.
After the ride and a quick bush shower we transfer into the National Park for a late picnic lunch at Rhodes’ grave.
At Rhodes’ grave on World’s View the riders will gain unexpected insight into the true relationship between CJ Rhodes and the Ndebele as related by the very knowledgeable Shephard,
Sunset over World’s View must be one of the most spectacular Africa can offer.
After a full day out, weary riders will return to BIG CAVE for a celebration dinner as the tour comes to an end.
Day 7: SAY GOODBYE - Safe Travels
The ardent among us will be out before first light to ride to see one of the most spectacular scenes imaginable as the sun rises over the majestic Matobo Hills which have been our playground for the last few days.
The mood at breakfast will no doubt be a little subdued as the reality of the end of the Matobo adventure hits home. The riders pack their bikes and bags and say their farewells to the Journeys with Gerald crew before setting off on their journeys home.
Participants are met at JMN International Airport, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and transferred to Bulawayo Lodge. After a visit to Khami Ruins the riding starts from Bulawayo to Camp Dwala in the heart of rural east Matobo Hills and the huge Dwalas. After a few days riding is in the west Matobo Hills characterized by the balancing rocks, World’s View, etc.
R35 000 per rider sharing in en-suite twin chalets and lodge rooms (40% single supplement).
In order to keep the tour intimate, the total numbers will be limited to 12 so commit to this great adventure soon to avoid being left out. Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for a detailed booking form and bank details.
25% non-refundable deposit is required to secure your place and the further 75% is to be paid before 15 May 2024. See full terms & conditions on www.detourtrails.co.za If needed, substitutions will be accepted with a R2000 admin fee.
Note that the same price applies to non-riders and riders who will ride part days and some days as they are integrated wherever possible in all activities. In addition they are supported by local guides when it is not feasible to be involved with the riders during some of the days.
For anyone interested in extending their stay in the Bulawayo region of Zimbabwe, we are able to help with bespoke arrangements as a service to you. Just chat to us as Zimbabwe is a great place to visit.
While I’m the host of Journeys with Gerald, they wouldn’t happen without the support of a crew of people who share my passion for riding bikes enabling me to enjoy and share unusual places like the Matobo Hills with like-minded riders. On this journey the main ones are:
- GAVIN Raconteur ‘extra-ordinair’ with more knowledge of the Matobo Hills than even Google and AI! So during this adventure expect Gavin to regale stories of rock art, battles, flora & fauna at unexpected moments. While he won’t admit much, he’s the driving force behind the Matobo Hills being a World Heritage Site. You’ll be amazed to find out how many things Gavin is involved in.
- DES despite being Gavin’s quiet little brother, he too has an intimate knowledge of the Matobo Hills, he knows just about every foot path and animal track, so he’s the number one navigator, which means this all round ‘racing snake’ has had to learnt to ride slowly with us! Outside of his passion for the Matobo Hills he runs a successful business in Bulawayo which is no mean feat.
- SURRENDER is the Camp Dwala Conservancy manager with an astounding knowledge of local flora (learnt from Gavin & Des’s father who was the Chief Botanist of Zimbabwe). I’m pretty sure he’s the only Latin speaker in the whole Ndebele nation! When bikes are involved he transforms into the support team meeting riders for tea & lunch on the trail and doing any mopping up necessary all the time wishing he could join us on his bike.
- Aptly named SHEPHARD is an Ndebele tour guide who regales us with history and cultural stories, amazing us as to the Ndebele’s sense of pride in their heritage and specifically their relationship with CJ Rhodes. Remember Rhodes must fall, well Shephard will tell you the story of the Shona wanting to remove Rhodes’s grave.
- ROHAN is an explorer at heart finding gems like the Matobo Hills to ride and sorting amazing trails in these areas. But when it comes to taking others, he’s the planner & logistics coordinator (ie. general dog’s body) allowing us to focus on enjoying being in special places.
- GEOFF takes his job of riding as the sweep very seriously which is perfect as he is capable of fixing just about everything that can go wrong with a bike or cobbling some sort of ‘bodge’ to keep the machine going. However his most important job is to be the coffee ‘machine’ at the start of every day. There isn’t a much better start to the day than a proper Cappuccino at sunrise!