Historically, the first white man believed to have discovered the Caves was Frederick Selous, the famous European hunter, during his wanderings in 1887.
It was believed that prior to that the Caves were being used as a stronghold by an outlaw called Nyamakwere who murdered many victims by throwing them into the Silent Pool. The notorious Nyamakwere was eventually defeated and killed by a Headman called Chinhoyi who became a Mashona Chief, hence the name Chinhoyi given to the nearby town. Chief Chinhoyi and his followers used the Caves as a refuge from raiding tribes such as the Matebele. Until a few years ago the remains of Chief Chinhoyi’s grain bins could be seen in some of the underground passages.
The traditional name for the Caves is “Chirorodziva” which means the “Pool of the Fallen”. The name was derived from an incident which took place in the 1830s when the Angoni Tribe, who were moving northwards surprised people living near the Caves and flung them into the pool.
The Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe’s ancient landscape full of mystery and fascination is Zimbabwe’s largest World Heritage Site, in excess of 3,000 km2 and is the country’s only UNESCO Cultural Landscape Site.The Matobo Hills is over 3 billion years old, and has hosted mankind for the past 400,000 years. Within the historic area is found the greatest concentration of rock art to be found anywhere in the world – and this will feature in the Heritage Ride. The hills have been a retreat not just for the bushman, but for various Bantu tribes, culminating in the 1896 Uprising. The hills are a burial ground of Kings and Heroes, and a tapestry of forts and battlefields, through which we will pass. The Hills also posses the greatest variety of tree species south of the Zambezi, a diffusion of plant species, and a rich legacy of rare and unique plants. It also plays home to the greatest variety of birds of prey in the globe, the largest population of black eagle and the longest running bird study anywhere in the world. It is reputed to have the biggest leopard population to be found anywhere, and contains both black and white rhino. The largest black mambas are also found here – but we’ll do our best to avoid those! And of course at the bottom of the food chain is a huge population of dassie (rock hyrax) that sustains so much of the predator pyramid. The Rhodes Matopos National Park, or Matobo National Park, is one of the oldest in the country, with its origins in the will of CJ Rhodes who Left his Matopos estate to the benefit of the people of Bulawayo. Today we will take up that legacy and use the hills for three days of hard recreational activity as we cycle through this special place.