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Zimbabwe: Bicycle Tour Travel Guide




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by David Mozer

[An introduction and overview to travel in Africa is available by clicking here.  If you are look for a bicycle tour to this country, this link might help you.]

The information below may have been extracted from a more comprehensive "Country Supplement" to the book "Bicycling In Africa".  For information on these publications click on the links.

Zimbabwe is full of diversity. It may not be the most "exotic" destination in Africa. It tends to offer a lot of the good things in the world and very few of the bad. The big cities have information centers which are generally very helpful. It offers very enjoyable cycle touring. The eastern highlands offer a variety of walks and climbs. Matopos National Park is another good walking park. Rock paintings are found in all sections of the country. They often require a car, bike or long walk to get to and from the main road. The ruins at Great Zimbabwe and Khami are interesting. And Victoria Falls is awesome. At Victoria Falls you can take a flat water boat trip above the falls, white-water raft below the falls or fly over the falls. Each is unique.

On the negative side a severe drought in the early '90's paralyzed a lot of the economy. Unemployment is a serious problem, with that comes petty crime, especially in the cities. Be particularly alert to scams. A frequently used one involves distracting the victim with a piece of paper for collecting pledge to some kind of fund raiser. The victim is then surrounded and pick-pocketed before he can get the paper out of his face. Be city wise, travel in a group and be alert.

A bicyclist's impression of Zimbabwe will depend upon what route s/he takes. It is like the African story of five people describing an elephant, one described the tail, one described the foot, one described the trunk, one described the ears and one described the ridge of the its back. People passing through, go north-south through the midlands usually have a low opinion of the country. If you head to almost any of the edges -- eastern highlands and along the Zambezi -- you will probably think the country is pretty exciting and has some first rate cycle touring. Road signs, both directional and distance, are excellent throughout the country.

Outside of Harare, the main roads are generally very good for cycling. Many have paved shoulders, gentile grades and traffic volumes are low.

A basic route, which can be enhanced with side trips, is: Harare, Marondare, Rusape, Mutare, Hotsprings, Birchenough Bridge, Nyiki, Masvingo, Mvuma, Chivhu, Harare. You should find accommodations at each of these locations. From Rusape or Mutare is a great side trip to Nyanga National Park. There are accommodations west of Juliasdale, in Juliasdale, in the park and in Nyanga Town. After you stop in at the museum, a second side trip from Mutare is up to the verdant Vumba (which means mist in Shona.) Unfortunately there are no accommodations in Cashel, so it is a challenge to get to Chimanimani, which is a worthy destination, but there are buses and the hardy rider can do it on brawn. From Masvingo the main excursion is to the Great Zimbabwe, there is also a loop road around Lake Kyle. You can also continue on to Bulawayo, usually with intermediate stops in Zvishavane and Esigodini. Zvishavane to Esigodini is a long haul but there are no hotels between the two.

Whether you are approaching from the north, south, east or west, it is pretty uninspiring cycling to Bulawayo. The alternative to Bulawayo is served by train from the north, west and south. Its southern approach is the best side for cycling. Taking the train from Harare to Bulawayo is often most practical. In the vicinity of Bulawayo there is some excellent cycling. Allow several days here for sightseeing in town (museums and markets) and side trips to Matopos National Park (excellent for ATB's,) and Khame ruins. If you head to Matopos don't necessarily stop there. There is some interesting territory to the south of the park.

The next pocket of interesting cycling is between Gwai River and Victoria Falls -- take the train or bus to Dete or Victoria Falls. From Dete you can access Hwange National Park (but you will need a car to go in the park -- they can be rented at Hwange Safari Lodge.) It is feasible to cycle from Dete to Victoria Falls (usually two days, overnight in Hwange City.) Victoria Falls is very bicycle-friendly. You can also travel from Dete to Kariba by cycling to Mlibizi and then taking the lake ferry to Kariba. The boat trip is 24 hours and is not terribly scenic, but it is a way to create a loop that passes Kariba and near Mana Pools -- you need a car to go in the park. The ferry does not run daily, book space well in advance. If you want to add another mode, Air Zimbabwe flies from Victoria Falls and Dete to Kariba and Harare.

Bicycling itineraries can also be easily enhanced by combining them with the country's enjoyable railroads Bicycles are willingly taken as baggage for a reasonable charge.

Harare and Bulawayo are also noteworthy for their urban bike facilities, including bike paths and bike lanes. These are probably the best in Africa and are bicycle-friendly on a world scale.

Links of Interest:


Regional Resources:

South Africa



For current news on Africa and more web sites with country-by-country information go to the link section and click on "Africa: News, Background, Travel."

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