< Last Photo   << Last Chapter                Notes on the Geography of Places: Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo         Next Chapter >>   Next Photo > 
 

Notes on the Geography of Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo

We'll drive about 200 miles today, from Harare to Masvingo with a side trip at Chivhu to visit the church built by Arthur Cripps, a poet-missionary who spent his life in service.

Make default image size larger

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 1

Zimbabwe's a basket case, right? Well, there are basket cases and basket cases. If this is the way into (and out of) Harare on a weekday morning, it's safe to say that the economy has not reverted to the Neolithic.

This was early in 2018, with Robert Mugabe gone and a new regime in place. From a repeat visitor's perspective the most impressive thing, besides more traffic than a few years earlier, was the complete absence of police checkpoints, alias bribe-uptake stations.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 2

Maybe an hour down the road. If we were bus conductors on the express service we'd sing, "Chivhu, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Polokwane (Pietersburg), Pretoria, Johannesburg, Harrismith, Pietermaritzburg, and Durban." That's a thousand miles.

The road surface isn't as good as in South Africa, but it's not bad, and there's a lot to be said for roads where most of the time you can drift over the center line without getting smucked.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 3

A sign of poverty?

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 4

People buy firewood in posh American suburbs, but the wood there isn't hacked by axes, as it is here. Implication: the woodcutter can't afford a sharp saw, let alone a chainsaw.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 5

Where's that rural economist when we need him? Here's the problem: who can pay $4 for 50 pounds of potatoes? Answer: not the people who live around here. Translation: the buyers are people rich enough to drive cars.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 6

Despite the good news of traffic jams, the news in the countryside is bad, with lots of former cropland reverting to bush.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 7

We won't see any tobacco, and there won't be much of anything else, except relics of colonial infrastructure like this low-level pipe culvert bridge.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 8

This is what once made driving in Africa fun: no guard rails. It's assumed that you're a big boy and don't need them. Just don't try it at night after a good time at the pub.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 9

Sissy stuff. Anyway, the bridge is a Callender-Hamilton prefabricated truss that requires no welding. The technology was patented in 1935 by the engineer who built Kurdistan's Hamilton Road, which obviously means that the bridge was built sometime after that. In this case it's still in use, though on the old road through Beatrice, now bypassed.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 10

Power lines run along the road, too. Oops: tense correction. "Ran."

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 11

We're 80 miles from Harare and in Enkeldoorn ("one thorn," referring to a lone, now-vanished Splendid Thorn,or Vachellia robusta). The town is now called Chivhu, but the old name survives here at least.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 12

The road is momentarily preempted by a caravan of mining-truck trays.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 13

Yes, they have pilot cars.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 14

Despite the name, this particular tray was made in Peoria, Illinois, probably came to Durban, and is working its way north. Destination? I'm guessing the coal fields around Tete, Mozambique. That's a 1,300-mile hike. Begs the question: why not offload at Maputo or Beira or Nacala?

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 15

Enough metaphysical speculation: here's the Chivhu pub, leftover from the days of Enkeldoorn.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 16

The owner needed a bit more space, so sacrificed the portico.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 17

The main commercial street runs perpendicular to the highway.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 18

Poor but tidy.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 19

Here's some recent investment: one of Zimbabwe's 40-odd SPAR supermarkets.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 20

And here's a church from the days of Enkeldoorn. Guess the denomination: the facade on the right should tell you.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 21

There you go: Dutch Reformed. The verse from Exodus is, in English,"Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." Well, it didn't work out that way. The Afrikaners have all left town.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 22

A Type B pillar box made by McDowall and Steven, London and Falkirk. Somehow the royal identification has been removed.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 23

Detour: we're heading back north on Cripps Road, parallel to the highway and just east of town.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 24

Dare we? This is a passenger car. Answer: yes, by sticking to the right side and for heaven's sake not slowing down.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 25

Here's what we want, the shrine one kilometer off to the left. Puddles from recent rain mean we mostly have to walk.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 26

Whether it's a shrine is open to question. It's certainly the ruin of the church built by Arthur Shearly Cripps (1869-1952), an Oxford graduate and Anglican missionary who came to this place in 1902 and stayed with few interruptions until his death, by which time he was blind and dependent on the people he had spent his life serving.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 27

Cripps made no attempt to build a Gothic or Romanesque church, as did, for example, Clement Scott, the equally untutored architect of the huge Presbyterian church in Blantyre, Malawi.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 28

Without angles, the building instead echoes Great Zimbabwe, though in this case without shaping the stones or laying them in courses.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 29

Altar.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 30

Grave.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 31

Original tombstone. Cripps has been the subject of at least three books: a sober biography( God's Irregular, by the Quaker Douglas V. Steer, 1973), a much more imaginative reconstruction by a great-nephew (The Dust Diaries, by Owen Sheers, 2004), and an appraisal of Cripp's practical accomplishments helping the people around him (Maronda Mashanu, by Murray Steele, 2017).

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 32

We've arrived at the main corner in Masvingo, known as Fort Victoria or Victoria or Fort Vic until 1982. The sign to the airport is misleading: the airport is listed with flights to Harare and Bulawayo in the May, 1999, issue of the Official Airline Guide but is missing in issues from 2001. Beitbridge, across the Limpopo and 180 miles farther along the road we've come on, marks the South African border. The Great Zimbabwe University is a post-independence institution just outside of town.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 33

Fort Victoria got a railroad in 1915, but it was only a spur from Gwelo, which is on the mainline from Bulawayo to Harare. That isolation was pretty much curtains for the town's ambitions.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 34

The station is substantial enough that you might think there were passenger trains, and it's true that The South and East African Year Book and Guide for 1929 says that "since the completion of the Railway to Victoria in 1915, this township and the ruins at Great Zimbabwe have been brought within easy reach of the traveller." By the 1950s, however, Rhodesian Railways instead ran buses to and from Fort Victoria. It apparently wasn't quite the end: you can find photos of the occasional passenger train here at least until the early 1960s.

See https://www.flickr.com/photos/windlass21/5711287794

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 35

No point in being patient today, unless you're willing to ride the very occasional freight.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 36

At the edge of town, an impromptu market has sprung up along the track.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 37

Fort Victoria was mindful of its history, though, and in the civic center grounds there's an old German-built locomotive from the 1950s.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 38

Across the street, and at least into the 1950s, the bell in the city's watchtower was rung every night and morning--and had been since the town was established in 1891 as Southern Rhodesia's first town.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 39

Government offices next door.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 40

The departmental tenants have changed over the years.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 41

A hotel on the main street sticks with the city's old name.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 42

Across the street and down a block is the old Meikles department store, part of a chain. By 2018, the building on the left was still in business, barely, but the building on the right, a supermarket, was done.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 43

The customary shaded sidewalk survives; the bakery doesn't.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 44

A once-stylish office building carries the name of a nearby reservoir heavily used for recreation, though of course built for serious business--irrigation.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 45

The city's streets are very, very wide. Here's the most important of them. Now it's the A4, but in colonial times it was Allan Wilson Street. The name may not ring bells for Americans, but Wilson led 1893's Shangani Patrol, which was wiped out in the First Matabele War and became a symbol of pioneer sacrifice. There's a very substantial memorial near the grave of Cecil Rhodes (see the Bulawayo folder).

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 46

A true boulevard, though in need of sprucing up.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 47

Here's another, in an industrial neighborhood near the railroad.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 48

No median here, but still wide enough to more than meet the demands of traffic.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 49

The town's one attempt at a highrise office building shares parking with the city's busy SPAR supermarket.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 50

Things are generally pretty quiet.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 51

Lots of colonial-era housing.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 52

Some are well-hidden.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 53

A late-colonial apartment block.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 54

It's not all decrepit; on the outskirts, there's new construction.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 55

The civic center is still impressive as a sign of pride in the 1950s.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 56

Several buildings are laid out as a group.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 57

Posters for productions in the civic center's theater.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 58

Probably the most stylish building in town, this is on the campus of Masvingo Polytechnic, which celebrated its 25th commencement exercises in 2017 and was shut down the following year by students protesting the misuse of Zimbabwe Manpower Development Funds (Zimdef) by the college administrators.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 59

From another angle.

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 60

We're parked for gas; see the Great Zimbabwe mimicry?

Zimbabwe: From Harare to Masvingo picture 61

Another example; the business is a mortuary. The real tower is a half-hour's drive away.


www.greatmirror.com Web   
 

* Argentina * Australia * Austria * Bangladesh * Belgium * Botswana * Brazil * Burma / Myanmar * Cambodia (Angkor) * Canada (B.C.) * China * The Czech Republic * Egypt * Fiji * France * Germany * Ghana * Greece * Hungary * India: Themes * Northern India * Peninsular India * Indonesia * Israel * Italy * Japan * Jerusalem * Jordan * Kenya * Laos * Kosovo * Malawi * Malaysia * Mauritius * Mexico * Micronesia (Pohnpei) * Morocco * Mozambique * Namibia * The Netherlands * New Zealand * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Pakistan * The Philippines * Poland * Portugal * Senegal * Singapore * South Africa * South Korea * Spain * Sri Lanka * Sudan * Syria (Aleppo) * Tanzania * Thailand * Trinidad * Turkey (Istanbul) * Uganda * The U.A.E. (Dubai) * The United Kingdom * The Eastern United States * The Western United States * Oklahoma * Uzbekistan * Vietnam * The West Bank * Yemen * Zambia * Zimbabwe *
go back to previous picture go to next chapter go to next picture go to previous chapter page