MATOBO NATIONAL PARK is an excellent place to see both black and white rhino, do some hiking, and maybe see some leopard.
Not far from Matobo, the vast Great Zimbabwe ruins are the archeological highlight of southern Africa. And scattered here and there are some other bits.
Our final Zimbabwe destination was the remarkable Shona kingdom ruins known as Great Zimbabwe.
We'd begun our trip a month earlier in the granite hills of Matobo National Park.
In between we covered over 3000kms, on roads which were potholed, sandy, rocky, dirt, cratered, isolated, populated, spectacular.
Fortunately we had brought plenty of supplies from SA. Yes, that is an aisle full of baked beans. No, there were no others tinned vegies.
But the food served up at highway stops was usually pretty good. Surrey Pies outside Harare is an institution.
I found Zimbabwean people quite reluctant to be photographed.
This family selling food in Chinhoyi were quite keen though.
Chinhoyi roughly marked the half-way point of our trip, as we left the dry, bush game parks of the west, bound for the green hills of the east.
We broke up a two day drive here, staying in a hotel instead of a tent, and eating greasy Chicken Inn.
While I wouldn't detour to see it, the blue of the Blue Cave is other-worldy and the caves worth a stop.
We approached Great Zimbabwe by the southern back-road passing traditional villages via Lake Mutirikiwi (aka Kyle Dam).
Ancestors of the Shona peoples built here from the 11th to 15th centuries.
"dzimba" means house in Shona, and the word "zimbabwe" means either "stone houses" or "venerated houses".
20,000 people may have lived here, the wealthy kingdom trading gold with coastal merchants from as far as China.
Over 150 smaller "zimbabwe" sites scatter southern Africa. Great Zimbabwe would be packed with bus-hoppers if it were in Asia.
And the adjacent Zim Parks campground was all ours, as usual.
Great Zimbabwe is just 4 hours from where we'd begun at Matobo National Park.
Despite being just 30km from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, Matobo is home to the highest concentration of leopard in Africa.
Apparently, the park "gets quite busy on the weekends". It didn't. We did see visitors. Perhaps 6.
Matobo has been inhabited for millenia. Cave and rock paintings can be seen a few kms from the central Maleme Camp.
There are some expansive views to be enjoyed uptop the hills too. And some godawful roads behind.
Another set of rock paintings are in the southern Togwana Dam area.
The hiking in this area is fantastic, too.
Mutsheleli Dam is a third alternative for camping, with similar settings and (lack of) facilities, but further from the game.
We made a second foray into the Whovi Wilderness Area on our final morning, yet to bag any big game ticks.
Guides, rangers and other tourists are great sources of game sightings. We asked a patrolling ranger what he had seen.
He jumped in our car, and soon spotted a black rhino, which we then spent an hour following on foot.
Not done yet, he took us in search of the larger white rhino, and soon we had two rangers leading us through the bush.
Unlike the black, white rhino are not aggressive, and our ranger friend had us running after them.
This was certainly one of our more memorable experiences in this unforgettable country.
Zimbabwe is not without its challenges, but the people will go out of their way to make it a trip worth making.