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RELAY WALKERS & RUNNERS ROUTE - DAY ZERO
It is a long drive to the lowest point in Zimbabwe at the confluence of the Save and Runde Rivers. Walkers and runners will start their 2018 Blue Cross by backtracking on the route to their first overnight camp on the banks of the Save at the Jamanda Community Camp, opposite the phenomenal and wild Gonarezhou National Park. For those who would like some luxury, accommodation is available at Chilo Gorge Lodge.
THIS YEAR WE WELCOME BOTH RELAY WALKERS, AND RELAY RUNNERS. SADLY OUR FIRST SOLO HEAVY INFANTRY PARTICIPANT IN MANY YEARS (PATRICK MILLAR) IS LOCKED DOWN IN THE UK AND HAS INSTEAD TEAMED UP WITH AL WATERMEYER IN A REMOTE BLUE CROSS CHALLENGE - A CYCLING RELAY FROM LOWEST TO HIGHEST (ISLE OF WIGHT TO SNOWDON) IN THE UK. GO GUYS!!
It is a long drive to the lowest point in Zimbabwe at the confluence of the Save and Runde Rivers. Relay walkers and runners will start their 2020 Blue Cross by backtracking on the route to their first overnight camp at the Jamanda Community Camp, opposite the phenomenal and wild Gonarezhou National Park. For those who would like some luxury, accommodation is available at Chilo Gorge Lodge. BOOK EARLY.
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY ONE
Day One starts with a drive to Day Zero start point where the day's walk commences. The road winds through the communal area adjacent to the Mozambique border. The back-country feeling is heightened by the cheery waves of the local people going about their daily lives, much of which now seems to revolve around Sesame and Cotton production.
The route passes through extensive areas of black cotton soil and there are a number of gullies and washaways to be negotiated by the backup vehicles. A particularly tricky gully is reached at the point named Obstacle on the Machitove stream, approximately 42 kms from the Mahenye Start point. Obstacle is now impassable to anything more than a motorbike.
Vehicles must, instead, follow a detour (the cyan track labeled 'Obstacle Vehicle Detour') which takes off to the east from a point 150m south of the Obstacle. Drivers need to follow the GPS snail trail VERY CAREFULLY. The Machitove stream is crossed whilst on the detour and drivers must be prepared to take a run at the exit slope.
Approximately 10kms beyond Obstacle the route passes a trig beacon and intersects with a road from Chisumbanje. From there the route swings eastwards towards the Mozambique border becoming increasingly rocky on entering the low hills.
71.9 kms from the Mahenye start, a deadly hazard (labeled 'Xtreme Hazard') is reached where the narrow track is sandwiched between a robust and thorny crop fence on the one side and an extensive, 3m deep gully on the other. Only light vehicles may take this section and should be directed through by a third party.
After the Xtreme Hazard, the route becomes increasingly stony and unpleasant, and drivers must remain alert for an indistinct turn off through Zamchiya Village. Further on the route is characterised by large numbers of ancient termite hills right through to Mwangazi Village.
Shortly after Mwangazi village the route begins to climb towards the Chikore Mission area. The night stop is reached on the playing field opposite Musikavanhu Primary School, where a serviced camp site greets tired and dusty participants with bush toilets and hot showers.
Friendly folk with happy smiles!
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY TWO
DAY TWO takes participants from Musikavanhu Primary School to Fiddlers Green, a distance of 59.8 kms. Although relatively short, the going is tough with some steep and stony hills. Back up vehicles will face a number of challenging sections demanding some low range work, particularly on the final approach to the crest of the ridge where the road is very rocky and difficult. A robust 4x4 is needed on this section.
On the ridge, participants are treated to a beautiful woodland of mature Miombo, covered in orchids, a valley of giant forest trees and great vistas both east and west. Only on the Blue Cross!
The rocky track eventually climbs along the iconic 'Sally's' section through more miombo woodland to reach the intersection with the equally iconic Barbara's before turning off the broken tar onto farm tracks which bring the route out to the Mt Selinda road.
There the route crosses the tar and enters a fallow land (please remember to close the gate) at the end of which the main Makandi access road is reached. Having signed in at the boom gate, it is important for participants and drivers to follow the GPS snail trail carefully to avoid being blocked by closed gates as they make their way through the Makandi orchards to Fiddlers Green.
Overnight accommodation is available at Fiddlers on the Green where participants are free to pitch their tents on the Polo Field. Hot showers are available and a wholesome supper and breakfast are provided by the ladies from the local community. Covid protocols require participants to bring their own cups, plates and cutlery when collecting their meals. Please book for yourselves and your team by accessing the Overnight Accommodation page on this website.
Day 2: Scenic, Steep & Stony!
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY THREE
DAY THREE traverses from Fiddlers Green to an uplift just outside Chimanimani; a distance of 76.8 kms. From Fiddlers the route passes through commercial farms to reach the Junction Gate Road. This section 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 walkers at Point B.
The Junction Gate Road surface is of poor quality and calls for care and attention while cycling, running, walking or driving. Just beyond a low level bridge the road turns north and, after passing through Macadamia orchards and manicured tea fields, it crosses the Eastern Border Road on Clearwater Estate and descends towards the Rusitu Valley to join the broad, gravel, Rusitu Road heading east.
3.3 kms further along, participants take the left fork and begin a series of ascents and descents, crossing the newly repaired Rusitu Bridge and passing through Roscommon Estates before heading east towards the Nyahode Valley. Participants will still see evidence of the destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai in 2019. Some of the scars are beginning to heal but the Nyahode River, now 300 metres wide, continues to dominate the countryside.
The route swings northwards, following the Nyahode River to the tarred section of the Nyahode Road and arriving at Charter Sawmill on the main road into Chimanimani. There, participants are uplifted by vehicle into the village, passing Ngangu Township, devastated by Cyclone IDAI in 2019, en route. Several accommodation options are available in Chimanimani. (See Overnight on this site.) For those with time to spare, a visit to the nearby Bridal Veil Falls is highly recommended.
the 300 metre wide Nyahode River dominates the countryside
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY THREE PROFILE
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY FOUR
DAY FOUR is the longest day for the walking/running discipline; a distance of 86.7kms. From the Start Point in front of the Chimanimani Hotel the route winds along the scenic drive towards Cashel. From the road, there are many spectacular views of the Chimanimani range and the Masapas Gap. Steal a few moments to capture the grandeur on your mobile phone or camera.
After descending towards the Martin's Forest Estate, the road contours for several kilometers before it begins the climb towards and then up the iconic Tank Nek. Considerable roadworks have been carried out on the Cashel Scenic Road, and the condition of the road gets investigated annually by the Committee before the Blue Cross. This iconic section of the route is always included, and it differs from year to year, but is always worth the challenge. Participants may complain, but they always remember this remarkable day and the good news is that the road is less powdery than in 2019!
Midway through the day a watershed is reached and the road descends gradually towards Cashel Village. Again, take a moment to peep through the roadside vegetation to glimpse the beautiful Tandai Falls a few kms south of Cashel. Temporary repairs which were effected on the low level bridge just south of Cashel Village are still holding and full rehabilitation is underway.
An 11 km stretch of tar road then takes participants to a turn off at Mutambara Mission from where the road winds through communal farmlands before entering an unpopulated area of picturesque granite kopjes and miombo woodland.
The Whitewaters Bushcamp is on the left of the road a few kms further on. Toilets and hot showers are provided in a stunning area of miombo woodland and granite kopjies.
The start of the Cashel Scenic Road
Elevation Profile Day 4
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY FIVE
The Whitewaters Road: Food for the soul!
DAY FIVE starts from the Whitewaters Bushcamp and winds through the scenic granite kopjes and woodland before breaking out once more into communal farmland. The route crosses to the west of the main Mutare - Birchenough road before turning north to meet the Bazeley Bridge access road.
8 kms of tar road descend gradually towards the Bazeley Bridge where the route turns generally north north east to a pick up point a short distance from the main road near Zimunya Township; a total distance of 70.8kms.
This night is spent in Mutare. Please pre-book your accommodation. Participants may camp at Mutare's Hillside Sports Club in Murambi central suburb. Hot showers are available and dinner may be PRE-ORDERED and taken on the club's lovely deck. Depending on the prevailing Covid situation, drinks may also be available from the bar. See Overnight on this website for other options
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY SIX
Elevation Profile Day 5
On DAY SIX, after sleeping over in Mutare, participants take the Christmas Pass road out of the city and start the day's walk/run just off the Nyanga road near L'Amour Store.
A narrow tar and then a gravel road wind past the remote and undiscovered side of Osborne Dam through some of the most spectacular and beautiful scenery that the Blue Cross has to offer. A series of steady climbs from midday onwards will test participants as the event moves towards its climax.
After uplifting the participants at the Bonda road, the back up vehicles take the short cut past Bonda Mission and up the Chamakohwa Road to their chosen overnight stop in Juliasdale or Nyanga.
The National Parks cottages at Rhodes are being refurbished so it would be worth trying for a booking at Mare, Udu or even Rhodes Nyanga Hotel. Camping is available, but the Nyangombe campsite is notoriously chilly!
Osborne vista - Only on the Blue Cross....!
Elevation Profile Day 6
The "Bonda Bump".
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY SEVEN
Starting at the Placefell Road turn off, Day seven involves 28.5kms of winding gravel roads, initially through commercial forest areas and then through open grasslands and stunted Miombo as participants approach Mount Nyangani.
Tradition has it that all relay team members walk together for the last 10kms, from the Circular Drive junction to the Nyangani Car Park.
The day finishes at the Car Park where participants enjoy a festive, colourful and emotional welcome from the Mutare SPCA team. Although seconders and families join us all to celebrate participants' achievements, please observe Covid-19 protocols, wear face masks and practise physical distancing! Mutare SPCA supply THE BEST WORS OR BACON AND EGG ROLLS, TEAS AND COFFEE
Elevation Profile Day 7
WALKING / RUNNING ROUTE - DAY EIGHT
All of Day eight is subject to Covid-19 protocols. Assuming that the risks associated with climbing the mountain and holding the Spirit Lunch can be managed, the day starts with all participants returning to the Nyangani Car Park by 0800, ready to start climbing the 430 meters from the Mount Nyangani Car Park to the summit.
Our Covid-compliant plan is to call for everyone to climb in their teams at the pace of the slowest member. Soloists are asked to join together in small groups in which they have been interacting throughout the event.
At the summit, the particulars of soloists and relay participants are entered by a Blue Cross official into the Blue Book and Relay Book respectively. For Covid-19 reasons, we ask that you limit your time at the summit to just long enough for a quick photo of your team. No bubbly this year please!
Assuming a celebratory lunch is possible, we ask that, once off the mountain, you head straight to the Susurumba Bhuddist Retreat, beyond Pine Tree Inn, without taking time to shower and change, as those wishing to leave early from the lunch will need time to reach their destinations before dark.
We try to make it special & fun, and it is the only time you will meet all the participants of this year's event.
The function this year will be a picnic lunch in the grounds of the Retreat so please bring along a cooler box with your preferred tipple, face masks, hand sanitizer and camp chairs/tables if needed.
Elevation Profile Summit Day 8