ENDURO ROUTE - SECTION ONE
After a long drive to the lowest point in Zimbabwe near the confluence of the Save and Runde rivers, participants camp the first night on the Banks of the Save River at the Jamanda Community Camp. The camp is just across the Save River from the wild and unspoilt Gonarezhou National Park. For those who would like to indulge themselves, luxury accommodation is available at Chilo Gorge Lodge.
Although the total route has been divided up into sections, the Enduro riders are free to travel whatever distance they choose in a day. Section 1 measures 168 kms from the start point at Mahenye to Fiddlers Green Polocrosse Club near Chipinge. This section traverses through less affluent communal area, characterised by black cotton soils, close to the international border with Mozambique. Gradients along the first 75 kms are benign but there are a number of gulleys and washaways to be negotiated, as well as some exciting off road sections which add spice to the route.
Beyond the 75 km mark the terrain becomes more rugged and the gradients slightly more stony and demanding. As the 100 km mark approaches the route descends steeply to Mwangazi Village where it strikes eastwards through the Mwangazi Gap on a road less traveled. The reason for that becomes apparent at the 104 km mark where the Musirizwi Bridge has been completely washed away. A rocky causeway suffices for the determined traveler but the approaches are overgrown and the road now little more than a footpath.
Beyond the Musirizwi, the road eventually becomes better defined and there are some exquisite pieces of country as the route follows the watershed between the Musirizwi and the Bwazi Rivers.
For the next 32 kms the route climbs steadily through a mix of communal and resettled areas until taking a left turn off the beaten track at the 136 km mark. The climb continues on some rough farm tracks through nondescript farmland, reaching the highest point of the section (1185m) at the 152 km mark.
The final 16 kms of the section take riders across to the east of the Mt Selinda road and through the well tended orchards of the Makandi Estate to the imposing Fiddlers Green Polocrosse Clubhouse at the 168 km mark and 968m AMSL. See our Overnight Stops page if you wish to take a break at Fiddlers.
SECTION ONE : Mahenye to Fiddlers Green
ENDURO ROUTE - SECTION TWO
Section 2 measures 96,1 kms from the start point at Fiddlers Green Polocrosse Club to the village of Chimanimani.
From Fiddlers Green (969m AMSL) the route ascends gradually northwards through farmland and orchards to join the broken and potholed tar of the Junction Gate Road where it turns east at the 7 km mark.
Over the next 14 kms the tar gives way to dirt as the route winds through abandoned tea fields before climbing up to the western boundary of Tanganda Tea Estates (996m AMSL). 2 kms later the Eastern Border Road is reached and the route makes a short dog leg before turning left and descending north east through the tea fields.
At Tanganda's eastern boundary, the road deteriorates markedly, and, for the next 10 kms, the route descends through increasingly rough country before climbing steeply to the crest (841m) of the mountain range that lies to the south of the Rusitu Valley. Magnificent views of the southern end of the Chimanimani Range reward riders as they begin the long and exhilarating descent to the old Bailey Bridge over the Rusitu (505m and 40kms from Fiddler's). The descent passes through banana plantations and orchards in a series of switchbacks requiring riders to exercise great care to avoid numerous vehicles, goats, cattle and children.
Once across the Bailey Bridge, the route joins the Rusitu access road and turns right across the Nyahode River over the newly completed Chinese Bridge. Riders will be struck by the massive silt load being carried down by the Nyahode River as a consequence of uncontrolled gold panning up one of its tributaries.
For the next 15 kms, the road climbs continuously through more banana plantations, eventually crossing the boundary from the communal area into Tarka Forest Estates at an altitude of 1000m. Road conditions within the estate are likely to have been seriously affected by gold panning activities which have lead to large scale environmental degradation. One of the highlights of this section is the view southwards over the Rusitu River valley from the knife edge firebreak (1219m) on the south eastern corner of Tarka Estate.
From there, the road descends for the next 4 kms to a river crossing at 915m where there is more evidence of the terrible effects of gold panning. The next 18 kms along the main road through the forest estate vary from reasonable to very poor as the route climbs past the Chisengu Sawmill to the highest point of the section (1588m AMSL) at the 77km mark from Fiddler's.
The final 19 kms into Chimanimani see the route circumnavigating the Green Mount range via the Orange Grove road to enter Chimanimani village along the tar road linking it to the National Park and the Chimanimani Range.
For those wishing to overnight in Chimanimani, there is the old Chimanimani Hotel in the village as well as various self-catering and bed and breakfast options. These include The Frog and Fern, The Farmhouse, Kweza Lodge and the popular lodge, HEAVEN, where there is a restaurant and pub. If you have time to spare, a visit to the stunningly beautiful Bridal Veil Falls is well worth it. See the Overnight Stops page.
SECTION TWO: Fiddlers Green to Chimanimani
ENDURO ROUTE - SECTION THREE
Section 3 measures 72,8 kms from the start point near the Chimanimani Hotel to Mutambara Mission on the tar road between Cashel Village and Wengezi Junction.
The section 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 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 section (1807m) at the 41 km mark. The last 20 kms through forest and communal area into the village of Cashel are virtually all downhill although the road is stony and somewhat hazardous in places. Keep an eye out for the spectacular Tanda Falls away to the left of the road just beyond the the Timber Estate boom gate. From Cashel the route follows the tar road westwards for 11 kms to the Mutambara Mission.
Section 4 measures 88,6 kms from the start point where a sandy track turns northwards just beyond the Mission, to the clubhouse at Hillside Golf Club in Mutare.
The first 5 kms take riders through communal area to join the Whitewaters road at a sharp left turn. After passing through a short but rugged gorge, the route breaks out into the highly productive Muwengezi Valley before quite unexpectedly entering a beautiful and unpopulated tract of kopjes and miombo woodland at the 10 km mark.
8 kms later, the route exits the miombo woodland heading north north west back into communal area, although the hard sandveld tracks and spectacular kopjes make for some pleasurable riding. 24 kms from the start of the section, the route leaves the well-defined road to circumnavigate a large granite mountain and head east.
From the 28 km mark, the route follows a series of poorly maintained back roads in a northerly direction through the communal area to intersect with the Burma Valley tar road at the 60 km mark. The last 28 kms to the Hillside Golf Club in Mutare offer easy going along the main tar road.
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 can be ordered, and the bar stocks will be more than equal to the combined thirsts of all but an army of riders.
For those looking to spoil themselves, there are numerous other options for places to stay in Mutare, including a number of BnB’s and hotels. Contact us for more info, and see our OVERNIGHT STOPS page.
ENDURO ROUTE - SECTION FOUR
SECTION THREE : Chimanimani to Mutambara Mission
SECTION FOUR : Mutambara to Hillside Golf Club
ENDURO ROUTE - SECTION FIVE
Section 5 measures 46,5 kms from the start point at the Hillside Golf Club to the Watsomba growth point on the tar road between Mutare and Juliasdale.
The section begins with the climb over Christmas Pass to the Penhalonga turn off, and then 7.2 kms along the tar road towards Penhalonga. At the 14,2 km mark from the start, the route turns left off the main road to hook northwest and north past the iconic St Augustine's Mission and Secondary School. 6 kms further on, the route enters the Savillen Forest Estate but exits it again after a short distance and descends in a northwesterly direction along a poorly maintained track towards the Odzani River.
At the 25.6 km mark, the rough track intersects with and then follows the pipeline service track alongside the Odzani River. The next 7 kms to the Odzani Waterworks (at 52 km and 1456m AMSL) offer some exciting back-road riding, and riders need to keep an eye out for the Odzani Falls which are worth a quick photo shoot at the very least.
After the exhilaration of the pipeline, the last 14 kms of the section along the tar road through Forest Estates and then on the gravel road through to Watsomba are very straightforward.
SECTION FIVE : Hillside Golf Club to Watsomba
Section 6A measures 24,7 kms from the start point at Watsomba growth point to the southernmost point of the Pungwe Scenic Road.
This section of the route demands a high level of focus on the GPS route as there are numerous twists and turns where a few moments of inattention can result in considerable lost time. At the start in Watsomba growth point, the route passes between two buildings and descends north west on a long straight, sandy track which eventually crosses a stream at a broken culvert before hooking back to the main Mutare - Juliasdale road.
It is recommended that riders use the cattle trailing on the road verge to travel the 2 kms parallel to the tar road. At 9 kms from the start, the route branches off to the east of the tar road on some nondescript paths and tracks, and for the next 13 kms riders will need to negotiate a succession of paths, tracks and obstacles through communal area, Kukwanisa Training Centre and Selborne Forest Estate before re-joining the Mutare - Juliasdale road near Selborne Store at the 22.7 km mark from the start. An easy 2 km ride from Selborne Store along the tar road towards the Honde Valley takes riders to the start of the next section at the Pungwe Scenic road.
ENDURO ROUTE - SECTION SIX
SECTION 6A: Watsomba to Pungwe Scenic Road
Section 6B measures 53,7 kms from the start of the Pungwe Scenic Road point to the Nyangani Car Park.
The section begins at an altitude of 1639m AMSL where the Pungwe Scenic road heads north from the Honde Valley access road. For the next 31 kms riders follow the Scenic road as it climbs northwards through forest estates, smallholdings, holiday cottages and National Parks Estate to reach the Placefell Road leading from Juliasdale.
For much of this first 31 kms, the road surface is all-weather gravel but the quality is likely to be adversely affected by heavy logging vehicles. 15,2 kms from the start, riders may wish to turn off the route along the track to Far and Wide Adventure Centre, and on to the Mtarazi Falls National Park where spectacular views of the Falls are possible from the newly constructed "Sky Walk" suspension bridge and the adrenaline rush zip wire over the gorge.
The last part of the first 31 kms is a climb through the National Park on a very poorly maintained section of the Pungwe Scenic Road, at the end of which riders enter more commercial forest area and intersect with the Placefell Road. Turning right, the route descends for the next 9 kms until it reaches the southern part of the Circular Drive just near Rhodes Hotel.
A few kms further along the dusty and poorly maintained road, the route takes the southern loop of the Circular Drive past Mare Dam at which point it begins a series of ascents and descents over the last 8 km to climb from 1935m at the Mare Causeway to the Nyangani Car Park at 2136m AMSL. This final part takes riders through wattle forests and montane grassland, the latter offering sneak glimpses of Nyangani Mountain, the end of the trail and the promise of an enthusiastic welcome from the Mutare SPCA team.
SECTION 6B : Pungwe Scenic Road to Mt. Nyangani Car Park
ENDURO ROUTE - SUMMIT DAY
Summit Day (Tuesday 14th) - Nyangani Summit
ALL participants return to the car park, to summit Nyangani Mountain en masse.
They sign the Blue Cross Book, and take time to reflect on what they have just achieved, as a participant or a seconder.
After the Awards Lunch, to be held this year at the Rhodes Hall which overlooks Rhodes Dam from the south eastern side, some participants may wish to head back home – to Mutare, Harare or wherever, but 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.