Having lived in Eastern Africa for a couple of years in the late 1980s, I simply had to come back to this fascinating continent. So when the opportunity presented itself in 1991 – I managed to negotiate eight weeks off with my employer -, I returned to where I had left, to Zimbabwe. To address some unfinished business, really. During my earlier trip, in 1989, I had discovered the fascinating rock paintings of the San people, commonly known as Bushmen, and seen some of the caves that contain those, in Southern Zimbabwe. But there were many more in the north of the country, and in the Eastern Highlands.

From Zimbabwe I flew to Namibia, to join a two-week camping tour along the highlights of that country. Afterwards, I rented a car to do some exploration on my own, especially to the Brandberg area, where Namibia’s most famous rock paintings are located.

For the last leg of this trip I travelled overland to South Africa. With the intention to see as much as possible, and in particular visit as many rock painting sites  as I could cram in – a bit of an obsession, I know. The first of those were in the Karoo, the area bordering Namibia. And after Cape Town, where I visited a long-lost uncle, and Stellenbosch, for some serious new world wine tasting, I continued, through the dispiriting Homelands that characterized the Apartheid situation in this country, to the Drakensberg in Central South Africa. For more rock paintings as well as some spectacular scenery, and for a quick visit to Lesotho.

During the trip I wrote home frequently, and from these letters I have now distilled the below diary, copiously accompanied by quite a few of the photos I took along the way – which were originally slides, subsequently scanned. Do note that my observations are from 1991, now thirty years ago. Things will have changed significantly, and so has the way we look upon that time, and the way we – I – would have observed and described things today.

Back to Harare

The first few days of my trip I spent in Harare, adressing one of the unfinished businesses – Shona sculptures – and visiting several markets and the tobacco auction.

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Harare tobacco auction in 1991
rock painting in Mashonaland

Mashonaland

From Harare I went to the NE, to Mashonaland, one of the areas with a lot of caves containing rock paintings. I ended up in Mutoko, with its ‘exciting’ hotel.

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Eastern Highlands

One of the most spectacular areas of Zimbabwe are the Eastern Highlands, where natural beauty is home to an impressive array of ruins.

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the Eastern Highlands are home to extensive ruins

to be continued