The Magic of the Lower Pungwe

by Rob Jarvis
There are several small renewable energy projects that have been built along the rivers that flow off the southern and western edges of Mt. Nyangani.  Fortunately, the owners have left some of the facilities built to accommodate project managers and contractors as an eco-friendly camp site for the use by anyone keen to go and live a luxury life in the wilderness!  Luxury you ask?  Well for Zimbabweans it is probably the only place in the whole country where you can take every conceivable electrical device you have in the house and plug them in and lo and behold, they work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Toasters, hair-dryers, microwaves, deep-freezes, electric stoves, they will all work at Lower Pungwe.  All this is possible because the rivers are fed by the mountain slopes of Nyangani (top photo, back-ground) and adjacent ranges and the huge grasslands and forests of Nyanga National Park basically work as a large natural sponge, soaking up the plentiful rain, steadily releasing the water and feeding the rivers year-round Crystal-clear water, clean and ready to drink as it is, rushes and swirls round huge boulders, into large Olympicsized pools and over rapids and falls.  Dangerous in the wet season when the river rages, at the end of the dry season the river can be crossed almost anywhere along its length.

 Always check the weather before going to the Pungwe and before going on a hike.  Be prepared for sudden changes in weather. There are great hikes either along the river itself, and along the mountain ridges that keep the Pungwe firmly on track with its final destination in the Indian Ocean just adjacent to Beira in Mozambique.  In the photo below we see a geological feature on the southern side of the valley, called The Pinnacles.  The mountains in the background form the common border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Ancient civilisations used to live in these parts and the high ground has many ruins long reclaimed by the relentless onslaught of tropical jungles.  Exactly what these people used to do in these parts is largely a mystery, with some believing that they were purely agriculturists, growing crops on terraced mountain slopes and on raised bunds in the valleys and keeping cattle and sheep in strange below-ground shelters.  Others are adamant that the remains of these structures point to a more industrialised activity with the extraction of gold and the servicing of Far-Eastern markets being the primary purpose.  Today there is little evidence of readily found gold in these parts, so either they were very efficient, or the pastoral, cropping lifestyle is the more likely explanation. The Honde Valley, through which the Pungwe flows, is a hive of human activity.  Tea estates, coffee, bananas, avocados, papaya, mangoes, macadamia nuts and every other imaginable crop thrive in the hot humid conditions.  Water is drawn down by enterprising locals using gravity and through bright PVC pipes to irrigate the lower slopes.  If nothing else, you can totally relax at these facilities, like these large round boulders, reflecting and listening to the hum of the hydro plants as they generate the energy to keep everything electrical fully-powered. 

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