A Thing about Trees

Article and images: Frankie Kay

I have a thing about trees, and this year, the trees have been calling me, all the way from the eastern highlands, 600km from where I live!

The Msasa (Brachystegia spiciformis) come into new leaf in the spring (August/ September, here in Zimbabwe.) From bare, twisted branches sprout new leaves: orange, bronze, yellow and ultimately, bright red.

I wanted to capture those colours against the lime green of the mature leaves of the trees nestled in amongst the granite rocks and winding roads of the eastern highlands.  So Lizzy (my dog) and I piled into the car and drove to Juliasdale, before moving on to the Vumba, two unique areas of our country where the vistas of changing trees are incomparable to anywhere else in the country.

The last time we visited Vumba we stayed at a lodge administered by Sally Preston.  A friendly cat had stayed in the room with us, curling up on my lap and keeping warm in the cold winter and several of Sally’s dogs and horses roamed around the property.  Encouraged by this fact that Sally obviously loved animals, I hoped she would accommodate Lizzy and I was not disappointed!

Nothing beats a warm welcome, which is what both Lizzy and I received from Sally and Esther.  During our stay at Hycroft lodge situated at Hivu Nursery, I soon discovered that Esther is a Matabele and was educated at Magwegwe High School in Bulawayo. It was so nice to be able to say “livukenjani” (meaning, good morning) to someone when so far from home!

Once Sally heard I wanted to photograph the Msasa trees, she gave me a map and suggested a lookout point called “George’s Place.” She recommended a fourwheel drive vehicle or at least one with high clearance, which fortunately we had.

The road is fairly bumpy but the view at the end is a photographer’s dream with plunging cliffs overlooking the Bunga Forest, charming views of the massive granite rocks typical of the area and, of course, Msasa trees!

I found it best to photograph them during the couple of hours before sunrise and sunset and this particular lookout point has brilliant photographic opportunities in both directions.

It is not that easy to find the track to George’s Place and probably the best way to get there reliably is to ask the very accommodating Sally, or a member of staff for their map.

George’s Place is in the  National Park and you are required to pay your $3.00 entrance fee at the park office. This entitles you to go anywhere in the Vumba National Park area for a day, including the Botanical Gardens.

I’ll leave the photos I took there for another day!

Hivu Nursery is very easy to find on the Vumba road at the 27km peg from Mutare.  Sally runs 3 cosy B&B’s situated within 5kms of each other which are all fully equipped.

Call Sally on +263 0773 246873??? or email: hivu@zol.co.zw

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