The 2020 participants will start their Blue Cross adventure by heading towards the Save Riverbed on DAY ZERO, Tuesday 4 August. On Wednesday 5 August, all cyclists head out from the lowest point in Zimbabwe and six days later, riding ends in the car park at Nyangani, with the walk up to that mountain’s summit the next morning, 11 August, in the company of all the other participants – runners, walkers, horse riders and enduro.
The arrival on 10 August of ALL Blue Cross participants at the Mount Nyangani Car Park is always a heart- warming, often emotional and festive time. Coffee, tea, and fabulous bacon and egg or wors rolls are cooked fresh by the SPCA team for you. Please support them, but bring your own cold box and don't rush off, when it becomes your turn to welcome the next person in.
Read more on this site about the accommodation, daily end points, detailed route, and finale - the fun-filled 'Spirit of the Blue Cross' celebratory lunch.
Then make the commitment, register and we look forward to seeing you in the warm sands of the Save riverbed. The night of Day Zero camping near the Start Point, or in the luxurious Chilo Gorge Lodge is recommended if you want to leave early with the Team.
CYCLISTS -DAY 0
Night Zero– Chilo Lodge area
Participants have a number of accommodation options; one can camp in the grounds of the self-catering chalets at Chilo, sharing loos and showers with those in the chalets. This offers the use of a kitchen, plunge pool, electrical power and a braai amongst other things. Alternatively the self-catering chalets themselves are very comfortable but there are only five available, so early bookings are indicated. For an upmarket experience, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge is a luxury tourist lodge with all the amenities. Bookings may be made at +263 77 499 9059 or via www.chilogorge.com
For those preferring a taste of the outdoors, the Jamanda Community Camp offers basic amenities and a secure place to camp. Finally there is the option of wild camping outside of the Jamanda Community concession but this option necessitates some time-consuming traveling to reach the start point.
CYCLISTS - DAY ONE
Day One: Start Point at Mahenye to Musikavanhu Primary School (Night One)
From the start in the riverbed (168m AMSL)opposite the old Mahenye Lodge, the gravel road leading northwards climbs steadily for the first 15 kms before giving way to more undulating terrain. Along the first 15 km stretch it is advisable to keep an eye out for elephant and buffalo.
From the 15 to the 65 km mark there are several minor ascents and descents but at the 65 km mark the road enters an area of relatively broken country with some stiff and stony climbs and descents over the next 34 kms, reaching the highest point of the day (636m) at the 85km mark. 15 kms further on the road descends steeply to Mwangazi Business Centre.
Beyond the Business Centre, the road again becomes steep and stony for the next 1.5 kms until the overnight stop is reached. On the left of the road opposite the Musikavanhu Primary School, a bush camp will be set up offering hot showers and bush loos.
Participants will, however, be responsible for providing their own tents, meals, sleeping kit, toilet paper and water for cooking and washing up. There is at least one working borehole within walking distance of the camp where water containers can be replenished.
Day 1: 108 kms
CYCLISTS - DAY TWO
Day Two: Musikavanhu Bushcamp to Fiddlers on the Green Polocrosse Club; a total distance of 59.8kms
From the bushcamp at Musikavanhu School (450m AMSL) the first 16.4 kms 0f the Tuzuka Road challenges cyclists and back up vehicles with a tough and stony climb (Fawcett's Folly?) until the spine of the ridge is reached at 1149m. There, riders are rewarded by spectacular views, both east and west, and the unexpected sight of some stunningly beautiful, mature miombo woodland along the crest of the ridge.
For the next 20 kms the route retains its height in a series of relatively short ascents and descents, eventually contouring through picturesque miombo woodlands dubbed Sally's, to the intersection with old Barbara's at the 34.5 km mark.
After less than 4 kms on the busy and broken narrow tar road, the route turns north onto farm tracks reaching the highest point of the day (1189m) at the 45 km mark.
Thereafter the route descends in an easterly direction to the Mt Selinda Road which it crosses to continue along a farm track through a veritable forest of the notorious bee bush, reaching the Makandi access road at the 53 km mark.
Another 6.8 kms through Makandi's well-tended orchards brings riders to the imposing Fiddlers Green Polocrosse Clubhouse (970m) offering the comfort of hot showers and some wonderful home cooking, courtesy of the Chipinge ladies.
Day 2: Musikavanhu Bushcamp to Fiddlers: 59.8k
Day 2: 59.8 kms
CYCLISTS - DAY Three
Day Three - Fiddlers Green to Chimanimani: A total distance of 86.8 kms
From the overnight stop at Fiddlers Green (969m AMSL) the route ascends gradually northwards through farmland and orchards to join the broken and potholed Junction Gate Road where it turns east at the 7 km mark. The section through the farmland from Point A, (see map insert below) is unsupported as vehicle access has been blocked. Back up vehicles follow the Cyan track through Chipinge Town to RV with the riders either at Point B or at the T junction on the Junction Gate road.
On reaching the Junction Gate Road, the next 9 kms of road descends in a series of short but taxing ascents and descents until turning northwards again to begin a long and steady climb through the picturesque macadamia orchards and tea fields of Clearwater Estate, finally cresting the ridge and crossing the Eastern Border Road at the 25 km mark.
An almost unbroken and, at times, exhilarating descent for the next 7 kms takes riders to the Rusitu Valley Road; a broad gravel road heading east.
After a mere 3.3 kms on the Rusitu Road, riders take the left fork at the 35 km mark to begin what promises to be a strenuous, 14 km climb through the forests towards Roscommon Estate.
At the 38km mark riders cross the newly repaired Rusitu Bridge, badly damaged by Cyclone Idai. 11 kms further on at the 49 km mark and at an altitude of 1232 m, a welcome descent takes riders down past the manicured Roscommom tea fields before heading north east into the communal area astride the Nyahode Valley. Riders will be struck by the sight of the Nyahode River which Cyclone Idai transformed from a well-hidden stream through the forest into a 300 metre wide, boulder-strewn gash which now dominates the countryside.
From the 57 km mark at 921m AMSL, the ascent to the village of Chimanimani, the highest point of the day at 1519m is unrelenting even if relatively gradual. At the 75 km mark the route joins with the main Chimanimani access road at Charter Sawmill. Riders follow the tar road the 10kms into the village witnessing the destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai on Ngangu Township.
There are various self-catering and bed and breakfast options in the village of Chimanimani. These include The Frog and Fern, The Farmhouse, Kweza Lodge and the popular lodge, HEAVEN, where there is a restaurant, pub and pizzeria. For those with time to spare, a visit to the stunningly beautiful Bridal Veil Falls is well worth it. Please book early. See the Overnight Stops page.
Day 3: Fiddlers to Chimanimani: 86.8k
Day 3: Fiddlers to Chimanimani: 86.8k
XT Day 3: Elevation Profile
Day 3: 86.8 kms
CYCLISTS - DAY FOUR
Day Four: Chimanimani to Whitewaters Bushcamp; a total distance of 86.7kms.
The day begins with a gentle 20 km descent along the Chimanimani - Cashel road with stunning views of the Chimanimani Mountain Range, Masapa's Gap and The Corner.
From the second Chikukwa turn off, the road begins to climb towards the shoulder of Groenkop Mountain which it ascends in a series of switchbacks, climbing almost 300 vertical metres over the 11 km stretch. The views looking back from Groenkop Mountain towards The Corner are amongst the most breathtaking of the Blue Cross.
Once on the plateau, the next 10 kms offer more spectacular views as the road winds along the contour towards the iconic Tank Nek, reaching the highest point of the day (1807m) at the 41 km mark. The last 20 kms into the village of Cashel are virtually all downhill. Post Cyclone Idai roadworks have greatly improved the surface but the dust can be very powdery in places particularly if there has been no winter rain. The Umvumvumvu Bridge just south of Cashel has been temporarily repaired after being seriously damaged by Cyclone Idai.
From Cashel the route follows the tar road westwards for 11 kms to the Mutambara Mission where it turns northwards along a sandy track to join the Whitewaters Road 6 kms further on at the 76 km mark.
The final 11 kms of the day take riders through the highly productive Muwengezi River valley and into the unpopulated Mashayamvura catchment where the Whitewaters Bushcamp will be set up at the day's end.
The bushcamp is situated amongst the granite kopjes in the truly lovely, brachystegia woodland on the left hand side of the Whitewaters Road. Again hot showers and bush loos will be provided, but participants are responsible for providing their own camping equipment, food, toilet paper, refreshments and water for cooking and washing up. There are NO water points in the vicinity of the camp.
Day 4: Chimanimani to Whitewaters Bushcamp: 86.7k
Day 4: 86.7 kms
CYCLISTS - DAY FIVE
Day Five: Whitewaters Bushcamp to Zimunya Uplift; a total of 70.8 kms
From the overnight bushcamp at 943m AMSL, the route loses altitude over the first 21 kms of picturesque kopje and woodland countryside in a series of sharp climbs and more gentle descents to reach the day's low point of 722m.
Having crossed to the west of the main Mutare to Birchenough Bridge Road, the route curves around in a northerly direction along a ridge offering relatively gentle uphill gradients and pleasant vistas eastwards towards the Himalaya Range. The rather sandy road reaches the Bazeley Bridge road at the 38 km mark where it turns west along the tar road and descends gradually towards the bridge at the 46 km mark. A short detour from the route down to the old low level bridge offers the perfect spot for a welcome break and some lunch on the banks of the Odzi River.
From Bazeley Bridge (812m) the route heads north and then north east through the granite hills, climbing in a series of sharp ascents to 912 m at the foot of Laurie's Ladder; a beautiful but extremely challenging section of road which ascends 143 vertical metres in less than 3 kms to the day's highest point at 1124m.
The remaining 5 kms to the Zimunya uplift point at the 70.8 km mark are relatively easy, providing a welcome breather after Laurie's Ladder.
The Mutare SPCA has arranged for Blue Cross participants to camp at the Hillside Golf Club, where they can make use of the showers, toilets etc. A meal will be provided, and the bar stocks will be more than equal to the combined thirsts of all but an army of cyclists.
There are numerous other options for places to stay in Mutare including a number of BnB’s and hotels. See our OVERNIGHT STOPS page or contact us for more info.
Day 5: Whitewaters Bushcamp to Zimunya Uplift: 70.8k
Day 5: Whitewaters Bushcamp to Zimunya Uplift: 70.8k
XT Day 5: Elevation Profile
Day 5: 70.8 kms
CYCLISTS - Day six
Day 6: Mutare to Nyangani Car Park; a total distance of 85 kms.
The start point for Day 6 is reached via a turn off from the main Mutare to Nyanga road at the Watsomba Growth Point, 40,5 kms from Hillside Golf Club (41.2kms from the main Post Office). The Back-Up vehicles transport the cyclists and their bikes the 3.7 kms from Watsomba to the Day 6 start point at an altitude of 1339m AMSL.
Whilst the most scenic countryside lies to the south west near Osborne Dam, the XT route still traverses through some beautiful granite hills and kopjes so cyclists should take a moment to savour the views.
Over the first 11.5 kms of the day's ride, there is a net height loss of 60m, but from 20 kms onwards, there is a long and taxing ascent dubbed the Bonda Bump. Thereafter the gradients become a little gentler but there is an almost continuous height gain, courtesy of several short ascents and descents, some more challenging than others.
Just after the 33 km mark, the route turns left onto the Bonda Mission tar road which it follows for just under 3 kms before turning right onto the Chamakohwa Road. A steady height gain follows through smallholdings to a brief but taxing climb up a concrete stripway at the 48 km mark, just before the main Rusape to Juliasdale Road (1894 m) is reached at the 50 km mark.
The route then follows the tar road for 5.5 kms, passing the Montclair hotel, declared by veterans of multiple Blue Cross events as serving the finest toasted sandwiches IN THE WORLD!
At the Placefell Road, the route branches off the tar, passing the Claremont Golf Club as it heads east and then north through Erin Forest Estates to join the Pungwe Scenic Road at the 61.9 km mark. 9 kms further on, and after some more gradual climbing, the back road from Rhodes Hotel to the Nyangani Car Park is reached at the 70.7 km mark and an altitude of 1833 m.
From there to the Nyangani Car Park (the highest point of the day at 2133 m), the 14km climb, via the northern loop of the Circular Drive, is almost continuous.
The welcoming SPCA Mutare Team commits itself to wresting the no 1 spot from the Montclair by dishing up the most delicious egg and bacon rolls IN THE WORLD!!
The most popular places to stay in Juliasdale are Rhodes Hotel or National Parks cottages at Rhodes or Udu. There are, however, several guest cottages and hotels within striking distance of Rhodes if nearby accommodation is fully booked over the long weekend. The National Parks camp site at Rhodes has quite acceptable ablution blocks for those who opt to sleep under canvas. Beware, though, as the campsite is notoriously chilly!
Day 6: Mutare to Nyangani Car Park: 85k
XT Day 6: Elevation Profile
The Bonda Bump
Day 6: 85 kms
CYCLISTS - DAY SEVEN
Day Seven - Nyangani Summit
ALL participants return to the car park by 0800, to summit Nyangani Mountain en masse.
Successful soloists sign the Blue Book while relay participants and seconders sign the Brown Book. It is becoming something of a tradition that participants take along a bottle of bubbly to the summit to celebrate their achievement.
After summitting, it is strongly recommended that everyone heads straight for the Awards Lunch at the Rhodes Hall without taking time to shower and change. Starting the lunch early will allow time for those wishing to leave early from the lunch to reach their destinations before dark.
Please remember to bring along to the lunch, a cooler box with your tipple, as any bar on offer will be very basic.
For those who want to enjoy one more night, we suggest that you stay on to enjoy some fireside ambience with old or even newly made friends.
Day 7: 2.9 kms