Hidden Rocks Campsite in the Nyanga Valley

Reading Time: 8 min

Howzit Woza Rafiki readers! It’s Kate and Nick again, remember us? We’ve been out of internet access for a while but we’re up and running again. Stay tuned for a couple of upcoming posts of our first month traveling Africa. This being the first of our journey to Nyanga, Zimbabwe.

On 17th May, we journeyed from Harare towards Mutare. At Rusape, we hit a left and made our way to Hidden Rocks, near Juliasdale, Nyanga to spend four nights camping.  Upon arrival we setup the rooftop tent and get to work on some smashing tomato and scrambled egg jaffles. And of course, with two snap happy shutterbugs we capture the whole affair.

© Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki
© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki
© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki
© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki
© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki
© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki
© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki

Post lunch we laze about in our two-man hammock, books in hand and a few naps in between, only to be roused from our mid-afternoon slumber by a small wolf pack as they bound over to greet us. We are warmly welcomed by our host Emma, her daughter Grace, fiancé Steven, and their six dogs. That evening we are treated to a spectacular sunset and even more breathtaking full moon rise from the deck perched on top of a cliff overlooking the Nyanga valley.

Hidden Rocks deck overlooking the valley © Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki

The new dawn is welcomed with a smashing cooked breakfast and oats. We have the valley view entirely to ourselves. After a long lazy breakfast, we go in search of a direction in which to wander into the bushes. Emma kindly points us in the direction of the fire break and tells us to follow it all the way around until we reach the big rock (far easier said than done.) We start out on a seemingly mellow walk along said fire break but quickly become distracted by an array of sunbird activity that we have to investigate. We become hopelessly lost and are now trekking through the bush up and over rocks along no real path at all. Every so often we find what may be the path (which we are later told is completely overgrown), but using our somewhat decent internal compasses we use the position of the big rock as a reference to guide us in the right direction. 

We arrive at the base of the big rock. It is known locally as Crying Rock because when it rains, water collects on top and a plethora of tiny streams run down its flanks, thus resembling rolling tears on a cheek. The remains of ancient stone architecture are evident in the tunnels constructed with small rocks against the solid surface and the remains of circular stone foundations on the top of the rock. They are believed to be structures built during the tribal wars fought during the times of the Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe in these lands. 

At the ascent of Crying Rock, the view is vast and utterly breathtaking. For as far as the eye can see, rocky outcrops protrude from the earth’s surface. We can see a few village houses and small neatly laid out crops far in the valley below. We descend the rock late in the afternoon, after bundu bashing for 10kms. 

Nyanga Valley© Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki
© Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki
© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki
Red Aloes © Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki

The day is brought to a scrumptious end by a vegetable curry cooked on the fire in our cast iron pot from Outdoor Warehouse

Bushchef pot from Outdoor Warehouse© Katherine Krone | Woza Rafiki

After two nights of camping, eating, hiking, hammocking, drawing, reading and relaxing, our good friends Marc and Gemma – who are also on a journey through Africa in their Land Rover, Pamwe (@drivingpamwe) –  join us and the relaxation and hiking continue although with the addition of a few drinks and friendly banter.  

The next morning, breakfast is more jaffles and leftover veggie curry. The day’s mission: to head back up Crying Rock for Marc to have a chance to see the stunning view. We take a different route past a quaint little dam hoping to do some bird watching. We sit a while quietly, as we watch the birds and insects take advantage of the small, life giving body of water.

In the evening, we head to the deck for drinks with Emma and Steve. After which the ladies are off to watch Friends and go to bed. Nick and Marc embark on a nighttime mission to take advantage of the full moon light with the hopes of capturing some epic long exposure shots. The night reveals some interesting scenes, aided by a few swigs of whiskey for warmth and good measure. Near midnight the cool, quiet night air is pierced by the hair raising alarm calls and utter chaos of baboons not too far off. After these unnerving calls and being told of leopards in the area, it’s time to head back to camp.


See Marc and Gemma's journey @drivingpamwe © Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki
© Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki
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The next morning, Woza Rafiki heads past Froggy Farm to stock up on a few veggies and chilli sauce.

Froggy Farm © Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki

In Mutare, a town on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, we stop at the very busy town centre to buy more veggies. We hop out the car, pay the parking lady and head to the Spar just around the corner. There are far more people asking for money and selling goods here. At the till, we don’t have enough EcoCash to pay for our goods so Nick heads back to the car to get his wallet. Kate impatiently waits, conversing with the till lady, while Nick takes his time. He gets back a while later flustered. Someone tried to break into the car. A man, called Michael Kutuka, immediately approaches Nicks to hand him his business card. He’s a locksmith and he fixes locks, and car windows etc etc. Coincidence? We think not!

In a panic, Kate goes to guard the car while Nick makes payment. The parking lady didn’t see the culprit as she was attending to a customer round the corner. So, we are now left with a tattered driver’s side door lock leaving us with the frustration of only being able to lock and unlock Rafiki from the passenger side and boot.

Angry and still fuming, we head to Save Valley Conservancy. Apparently, the game is amazing. It’s now 4pm and we cannot find anywhere to camp on the SVC website. After some back and forth research, we find a number online that should be helpful. We are given the name of a camp which we are stoked to hear about but it’s getting late and we are in the smack bang absolute middle of nowhere in the Zimbabwean bush. We also contact a friend’s mom who knows the area to find out if she knows of anywhere to camp. She gives us another contact, but we are strongly advised by this contact not to stay at the camp name we’ve just been given. A: Because the whole conservancy is a massive hunting concession so we could be rudely awoken by a squad of would be hunters, out on a morning plod for some trophy Kudu bulls and B: Because the suggested camp is not safe for a reason which could not be disclosed. We’re advised to get through the boom by 6pm and go to the very first lodge on the left about 4kms into the conservancy.

 (Time now to worry? We think yes).

 With darkness closing in, we get to the boom with only 4 minutes to spare. The guard speaks on his walkie talkie and gestures us along. About 4kms down the road, on the left hand side, there’s a man gesturing to where we need to be. We drive down the road and arrive at someone’s house. We pull into the driveway only to be greeted by four dogs – monstrous salivating Boerboels – who come bounding over barking veraciously and proceed to keep us rooted to our car seats for the next 25 minutes. The lights of the house are on, but no one is coming out and the dogs continue to bark. There is no chance in hell we are stepping foot out of this car. So we continue to sit awkwardly, car engine running and headlights blaring into our soon to be host’s house. We back and forth with each other as to what we should do but our options are few; We have nowhere else to go. After some time has passed, a woman appears from the light (an angel?). We now feel safe enough to get out the car and speak. She introduces herself as Julia and we proceed to inform her that we have no cooking clue where we are, we’ve been told to come camp here and we need help. She invites us in for a cup of tea to see what our next move could be.

 Blah blah blah.

Eventually, we end up camping out on her front lawn. We hastily set up the tent and hurriedly use her gas stove in an attempt to make some dinner (we haven’t had lunch today) Dinner is pasta and canned diced tomatoes. In the morning, we have a quick cup of coffee and Julia gives us some advice on where we can camp that doesn’t involve ruining someone else’s well-manicured lawn. We’re headed to Gonarezhou National Park.

© Nicholas Philipson | Woza Rafiki

We are Woza Rafiki. Come friend and share in our adventure! 

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5 Responses

  1. Martie says:

    Ooh, can’t wait for the next installment. So exciting …… to be there! Great for us to share the ride with you. Just love the inspiring views.

  2. Elaine says:

    Crazy adventures.. long may they last..

  3. Haze says:

    Wow guys. What an adventure. I can’t wait for the next episode.

  4. Sharon Kersten says:

    You have so much more courage than I would have 😂 scenery photos are breathtaking.

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