Travels around Southern Africa

Gokwe North – Black Baobabs and Vuvuzela’s…

Our work takes us all over Zimbabwe, and occasionally to neighboring countries. Most of the time, the place has no water, often for miles. We are fully equipped with camping gear….and luckily most of the places are fairly remote.

In late 2009 we did a contract in the Gokwe area, siting about 20 boreholes due to the cholera outbreak.

Rushing to make it from Shingayi business centre to the main hospital at Nembudziya, we came across some baobabs. We had no time to stop and gaze in wonder or take photos. I should have because the light was just right, low and sloping and tinged with red. So when we got a call from a client repairing a dam in the area, I jumped at the chance to return and see the baobabs again. I couldnt remember what it was that made them remarkable…but I knew I wanted to get back to see them again.

When we arrived at the site in Gokwe, not much had been done by way of setting up camp. Only two tractors and a handful of workers stood under a big tree…( we passed their lorry with Nissan huts etc way back down the road.)
We went out for a drive, to glean any information of other boreholes in the area; depths, water yield, age. I photographed these baobabs:

BabobabsbaobabsbaobabsBaobabsWomen washingstopped and spoke to the women at the boreholes close by and then went up to the business centre to garner more information.

ChildChildRural borehole ZimbabaweI got some lovely evening shots of the huge Mopane trees near the dip.

Rural Cattle Dip ZimbabweWith the late afternoon sun shining through the dust:

Rural Cattle Dip Zimbabwe

It is a short distance across the dam site and to where the construction workers and our guys had pitched their tents.

Vimbe DamAbove is the dam site and the little white dots you can see in the background are the tents and construction equipment.
Will wanted to set up our tent close by.
“No.” I said. “ I want to go over there…” I pointed to a cute little place in a grove of Mopane trees a distance away.
I get the “What the hell?” look men are so good at. Or maybe its a “for goodness sakes” look, because it came along with that resigned expressions men are taught at their bachelor parties.
Annoyed I add, “Well some privacy would be good…”
Same look.
“I would like to fart in peace…”
So we set up our little two man tent where I wanted  – it looks like one of those SANParks camps doesn’t it with the swept out areas? Actually it was like that – we just backed the car into the gap in the middle of the seclusion and erected our little tent. We blew up the mattress and snuggled down to sleep in the pristine Gokwe silence. (We didn’t take the roof top tent because the car uses SO much diesel.)

Toyota Hilux
It had been a long drive – we left Byo early in order to be able to fit in a conference with the client in Gweru so I’d had to stock up with liquids when we arrived and of course, needed to visit the bushes…
Well, when the inevitable happened, the reverberations could be felt at the business centre four kilometres away…according to my dearly beloved…

He ducks and hides, thinking he is back in the Rhodesian war….he says.
“No more photo opportunities with Mopane leaves…You’ve blown them all off!!”
Very funny. On and on he went as if this were a memorable occasion!
Here we have a boring consultant in uncontrollable giggles over a tiny byproduct of digestion.
I’m very pleased, after thirty years of marriage, to still be able to entertain my own husband so royally.
What I hate about men, is the self satisfied, smug expression they have after producing a vuvuzela-like fart. They punch each other on the shoulder with a “good one chum…” or wave their hands in front of their noses – really pleased the stinkier it is.
Sometimes I wonder why we take our mattress pump with us on trips sometimes, and yet one tiny little peep from me is blown out of all proportion.

We went to find the strange baobabs – about twenty five kilometers out of our way. And the reason they are remarkable? They are black!

Black baobabsArmed with my pics, I’ve since investigated this and apparently its a fungus infection that some baobabs get when they are stressed. First noticed in the Beit Bridge area in the early 1980’s I spoke to a lady who has been studying them since then.

This one is right next to several  healthy ones.

Black baobabsBlack baobabsBlack baobabsThese huge crusts are the fungus…and you can see, the tree isnt that old. There are about twenty five baobabs in the area with about five of them diseased.

Black baobabs

Leave a Reply


joanfrankham - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

Even though it’s a fungus, and probably harmful, they do look pretty!

frankiekay - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

Im told it will eventually kill them

joanfrankham - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

That is a shame, as they are so interesting and different.

frankiekay - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

I  have not had enough time to ask the lady much more about it – she had arrived back for a two week stint in the bush when I rang her. Ill definitely do  a follow up and see if I can get any more information

spookmoor - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

Magic man, really enjoyed this and that must have been some vuvuzela ye let off.

frankiekay - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

It was not – it was the tiniest delicate little feminine squeak, the eeniest little waft

spookmoor - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

The things you chicks want to believe hey?

frankiekay - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply


Jacko - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

Judging from the cleared area around the car, we can more or less site your temporary ablutions.

frankiekay - 19. Aug, 2015 - Reply

Nonsense – It was like that BEFORE…I think the fairies cleared up a space the size of the car and made it all nice and flat for us to use as a camping site…

Suki - 20. Aug, 2015 - Reply

Those Baobabs are amazing. Never the same shape size or look.
Nice to see the big Mopani trees standing and not lopped down.
The disease on those trees makes me want to go scrub it off….
🙂 men always look gobsmacked when we want something different – you think they would have learnt that by now 🙂
Thank goodness we dont have to get taught the burping “and passing” wind bit….

frankiekay - 20. Aug, 2015 - Reply

I just hate the double standards! I also love baobabs and yes, these Mopane are some of the biggest Ive ever seen – they are particularly nice at this time of the year – the black trunks and branches dark against the yellow and orange

Margaret Macneill - 24. Aug, 2015 - Reply

Hello Frankie. Wonderful pictures as usual.
UK and Europe have had some nasty fungus infections of certain types of trees over the years. They are now ruthless in chopping down diseased trees and burning them at the first sign of fungus in order to protect the nearby trees. Maybe they should be doing that in Zimbabwe before it takes over. Could the cut wood be used by locals as firewood?

frankiekay - 24. Aug, 2015 - Reply

I will have to ask the lady who has been conducting research since the early ’80’s – Ive been storing up a whole load of these questions for when I get together with her – Ill post her answers. I think the wood is very fibrous and I have never heard of it being used for firewood Many thanks for the visit and comment