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"they were stuck in the parched gramadoelas, kilometres from anywhere" : context

The description of the Blue Cross focusses often on the 500km distance, and the lowest to the highest landmarks of Zimbabwe. But growing up in the Southern province of Zambia, we often referred to the gramadoelas, the g and r being rolled together in that guttural way of the tough, and yet warm Afrikaners, from whom the word originates.

The Blue Cross will take you through those very gramadoelas……outback country that you would seldom travel choose to travel through, unless you and your family came from a home there. And you WILL be miles from anywhere. There are a few sections of road where you could mollycoddle your car through, but mostly they are rugged and rough, but interesting to drive. (You know the kind, - the ones that the 4x4 enthusiast overseas would pay $$$ to drive on.) Bridges and storm drains get washed away or broken, large trees fall and the road is re-directed through thick bush, streams becomes torrents, and cause dangerous eroded gulleys.

This is The Obstacle on the map on Day1, (night 2).

There are sections of the route that have a neighbouring vertical drop away that is only good for phenomenal views and vertigo. (In this section, I find myself hugging, literally glued to, the opposite side of the road.) But the sights! Secret waterfalls and lush untouched valleys, tracks of Leopard, Civet, Genet, Hyena, and others, and the bluest skies, spotted with soaring, keening raptors.

The SPCA BLUE CROSS ROUTE is not a foregone conclusion. The rainy season plays a big part in the planning. If anyone thinks our team chooses the route from past history every year, or off Google maps, they are very mistaken. The Mutare SPCA team re-visits much of the route, certainly all the vulnerable bits, every year. Last year to make one section possible, Nick and Soo Fawcett drove 1000kms, by covering it twice. They had encountered a formerly dry stream that must have been transformed to ravaging white waters, and it had become virtually unpassable, leaving its huge concrete drains as a freestanding edifice. On their second visit, they took a member of staff and the three re-designated the track into the bush by about 40m, to a new one that was passable again.

Also, as the event mutates and we attract more participants, we constantly have to re-think the overnight camps, too. If the area was small last year, we have to head out to find new options. Nick spends hours on Google Earth looking for hopeful sites, dragging the cursor North South East and West to make sure the gradients are capable of pitching tents that will not have the participants rolling into a communal pile-up at one end by morning.

This week, Nick and Soo have headed out again over gluey cotton clay near Chilo, to re-visit Bougainvillea camp and Mwangazi village, where they have found us a flat soccer pitch at Musikavanhu school that we will use instead, if we have lots of people joining us. It will be school holidays then.

The narrow linear camp on the way to Cashel Valley may have to be moved to ‘Leopard’s Den’, or a viewsite near the crest of Tank Neck. The SPCA volunteers will cover this route a bit later, when the incessant rains have stopped. We will do what it takes to make the event a remote adventure, but comfortable as possible.

If you do our relay, at the Walkers and Runners suggested schedule, we will be with you every night. IF you want to go it alone, you will have an amazing time too. Make sure you have your GPS. Contact us on the website, and we will help you with information.

Our Enduro team are happy to cover virgin tracks themselves, so we do not have to investigate their routes! (Whew!) The cyclists are working on their routes now, and we are about to post some text in the next few days.


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