Chimanimani Mountains & Outward Bound Melsetter 

Senior Men's Course # 143 Outward Bound Melsetter June/July 1975 - Part 3 of 5
July 4 to 6 - second expedition to the Bundi Plain, Mtsurussero and Peza; final training

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July 4

Another early start and with the Scribe navigating, the Filthy Five set off from the School at 6 a.m. to pick up Gasman No.1 at the Big Tree and head South for the foot of Bailey’s Folly. Here some tourists from South Africa, still snugly wrapped in sleeping bags, looked somewhat astonished at this motley file of six as we bade them, "Good Morning" and headed East, on our way up Bailey’s Folly at 7 a.m. Arriving at the top, approximately 1 hours later, we were rewarded with the fantastic view of the Mawenje Range of the Chimanimani mountains, stretching from the North, Southwards, to meet with the Murengure Range where Dragon’s Tooth raised its gnarled peak in the hazy distance.

From a convenient vantage point, and while a breather was taken, Peter pointed out, to the uniniated, the main features of the range of mountains before us - Peza, with its grassy top, and probably the best known point in the mountains; the saw-tooth silhouette of Mtsurussero, across the border in Mozambique, and our objective for the day; Dombi, overlooking Skeleton Pass, hidden, at that time form our view, Kweza or Binga, which, at 3 ft short of 8,000 ft above sea level, is the highest point in the Chimanis; Turret Towers, a forbidding collection of slate-gray peaks, almost due East of us; a rugged silhouette of unnamed peaks leading South down to The Saddle, with Point 6204 and Dragon’s Tooth beyond. What a panorama of incomparable beauty!

On down the path to the Mountain Hut, overlooking the wide, grassy sweep of the Bundi Plain, where we stopped to brew up and relax for a while. Then down the steep side of the valley and into the Bundi Plain itself, heading North, more or less parallel with the meandering Bundi River to where it tumbles out of the foothills in a series of lovely waterfalls. With the upper Bundi on our right, and by way of a number of steep ascents, alternating with more level gradients, we eventually arrived at our first main objective, a gigantic overhang of rock, at approximately 11:30 a.m. Not a bad stint for the Old Crocks.

This overhang (see photo), close to the foot of a rugged Mtsurussero situated just across the border in Mozambique, looked for all the world like a giant mushroom emerging from a grassy knoll with fantastic views in all directions. The glass-smooth 'roof' of the overhang resembled the finest marble and was decorated, in several places, with Bushman paintings. Here we set about making camp, collecting wood, finding the shortest route to a reasonable water supply and brunching on "Kurt Hamburgers" (a thick slice of bully beef between two takkie biscuits), bars of Slam chocolate and, of course, tea !


Then, having made all provisions secure from the divining intentions of a couple of Cape Ravens which sat watching our activities from a nearby, and somewhat minor ‘mushroom’, we left camp to walk, scramble and climb our way to the top of Mtsurussero with Pete the Cush, leading the way. At times one wondered whether it really was worth the effort, but, having arrived at the top, the vote was unanimous - YES ! What a view ! To the North, South, East and West, the indescribable beauty of the Chimanimani Mountains, bathed in afternoon sunlight with scudding clouds moving from one embattled peak to another, or drifting across deep valleys and ravines, to alternatively hide, and then reveal, the silver ribbon of a stream or river. This, surely, is what Outward Bound is all about.

Other photos from the top of Mtsurussero. Click browser Back key to return here.
Looking South from Mtsurussero
Looking over the Masapa Valley

With clouds thickening to the East, the Sexy Six, dropped down from the heights of Mtsurussero and arrived back at "Marble Hall" at about 4 p.m. to see two very disconsolate Cape Ravens still sitting on their mushroom. Some days previously they had, apparently, managed to abscond with most of Bundi’s supply of monkey nuts, dehydrated potatoes and The Shrinker’s tooth-paste, but having been warned, Tandaai gave to them no chance to steal. A careful study of these wily birds revealed no signs of bloat or frothing at the mouth, a fate wished on them by Bundi members when their loss was discovered on the previous excursion. Looking back to Mtsurussero, we saw its jagged outline completely veiled in thick, swirling mist - obviously we had come down just in time.

Kurt, spurning the primitive cooking place left by our uncivilized predecessors, Bundi, rapidly organized a working party to collect likely looking rocks and, in no time at all, had constructed the prototype of K.F.K.S. (Kurt Field Kitchens Supreme) which, with suitable modifications, were to be erected at three other sites on our final expedition, to be much admired, not only by Tandaains, but by lesser mortals in other patrols who had the privilege to pass our way.

Leaving the somewhat delicate task of issuing tots of medicinal lubricant, suitably diluted with ice-cold mountain stream water to the C.E.O, Kurt got down to the business of preparing the dinner with five pairs of hungry eyes watching his every move! Has Royalty ever supped so well ? No ! French Onion soup, minced steak, rice and creamed beans, followed by Orange pudding with rum-flavored chocolate sauce ! Replete and happy, the gang settled themselves comfortably on suitably rocks around the camp fire, and spent the next hour or so, singing, telling jokes and anecdotes, until such a time as the Chef decided that a cup of Jaeger Tea, and bed, were due at about 9 p.m. This, surely, had been a day to remember.

Quotable Quote of the Day: "Sounds of Africa Recordings would make a ruddy fortune selling recordings of the noises made by the scraping of these Filthy Five mess-tins at dinner-time!" The Admiral, looking for the last grain of rice in the corner of his mess-tin.

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July 5

The first brew of the day was ready by 5 a.m. and this, together with rusks, fortified us sufficiently to be on our way by 7 o’clock, across frost-covered grass, up towards the now familiar crest of Peza, some 1200 ft and 2 kilometres to the West of Marble Hall. 2 km., that is, as the jet propels, but considerably further by the ‘contouring’ route taken by the Filthy Five in order to make the fullest use possible of the gentler inclines.

En route we passed the border beacon, point BB 70, where we ‘cleared customs’ to return to Rhodesia, and eventually arrived atop Peza at 8:10 a.m., to be rewarded by a series of magnificent views to all points of the compass, with the buildings of the School nestling, like a collection of doll’s houses, over 3000 ft below us in the valley and bathed in the first rays of the morning sun as it topped the range of mountains on which we stood.

Other photos from the top of Peza. Click browser Back key to return here
Looking West
Looking North

A very cold wind was blowing from the East and so, despite the glorious views, we soon set off again to descend by the steep, and at times rocky and slippery path to the Bundi valley. By the virtue of the fact that the Scribe, who was pointman for the day, was so engrossed in watching every step he made, the path to the Upper Bundi Falls was missed and so brunch was somewhat delayed until we had crossed this grassy Bundi Plain and arrived at a beautiful pool in the river, almost immediately below the Mountain Hut. A picture of this crystal-clear pool with the grassy sweep of the Bundi plain and the majestic top of Peza beyond, was indescribably beautiful.


An hour’s rest here and then away South again, following the twisting and turning path running more or less parallel to the Bundi River which, after a relatively quiet, meandering course across the plain, here begins to drop down through narrow gorges and over numerous cataracts and waterfalls, to the Southern Lakes area. A halt was called for, about an hour later, for the Filthy Five to take the opportunity of having a swim in a series of ice-cold pools above a magnificent waterfall. Thus revived, and the Bundi somewhat polluted, we headed South once more.

Instructions were to proceed Southwards and then cut up, West, to cross the "Aerodrome" to join the path at the top of Banana Grove and head down out of the mountains and back to School. Well ! Once again, to quote the Bard, "The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley". Following game trails, mainly, a relatively easy route was found up through the trees, across some rocky ridges and over a few swampy vleis, to the Eastern edge of the Aerodrome and then, with a seemingly endlessly receding horizon, we trudged Westwards across the thickly grassed dome to become, finally, completely ‘boxed’ in the ragged granite outcrops to the West of the Aerodrome. We had obviously moved Westwards too soon, and after quite some time of ‘casting about’ and feeling something like, one would imagine, the Lost Tribes of Israel felt, we eventually arrived at the top of Long Gully, a rock-strewn, precipitous path leading down out of the mountains to join Banana Grove above Dead Cow Camp. This at 4 p.m., with still many miles to go to reach the School. The most liberally-minded censor would, I am sure, blanch at the epithets hurled at Long Gully as we slithered and slid our way down, to reach the bottom at about 5:15 p.m.

Then along the firepath, having once again missed the ‘easy’ path, to the foot of Bailey’s Folly and thence, in the fast-gathering dark, to arrive, footsore, weary and completely clapped, at 6:30 p.m. to a rousing cheer from the other blokes who had long since, apparently, given us up as lost and camping, sans medicinal liquids, for another night in the mountains. I am sure that the only thing which had kept one foot moving in front of the other for the past hour or so, was the thought of the lovely bottle of beer waiting at t’ other end. The genuinely solicitous inquiries from other course members and perhaps, particularly, from Bill Bailey’s welcome of, "You crazy b*****s, can’t you read a map yet ?", did much to make the twelve hour day, with two short breaks for sustenance, seem really worthwhile.

After a beer, some dinner, a piping hot shower and with the shivers of almost complete exhaustion, we all climbed into our sleeping bags, long before the official ‘lights out’ time.

Quotable Quote of the Day: "We had to get back to the School tonight, the medicine bottle was empty." Anonymous member of the patrol.

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July 6

The Admiral’s remarks regarding Bill Bailey and his association with the Gestapo, were definitely proven this morning at 5:40 a.m. as he walked down the passageway of the patrol’s cabins, shouting, "Out! Out!" "Raus! Raus!" would, perhaps, have been more appropriate, as members of the Filthy Five, with groans of excruciating pain, put their tender feet to the floor and endeavored to co-ordinate their seized-up muscles to get bodies into a more or less erect position. A few minutes of gingerly padding around the circuit, loosened us up sufficiently to make a reasonable show of the daily exercises and, by the time we’d been on our run and for our daily dip in Tessa’s Pool, Long Gully had faded into just a bad memory and we were ready, once again, for whatever Bill Bailey and his henchmen, had in store for us for the day.

Tandaai was on the relatively easy pre-breakfast duty of cleaning up the sickbay, stores and garage area and then, after breakfast and morning parade, we were split into groups for ‘Orienteering’ for the morning. An exercise which consisted of finding as many as possible of six check-points marked on a map and scattered over a course of many miles around the School area. The shortest distance between any two points was not always necessarily the easiest route and this exercise put our map-reading skill to the full test. The lessons of the previous day’s debacle had obviously been well learnt and the two groups of Tandaai brought in 4 and 5 checkpoint discs, respectively, in the allotted time.

The early afternoon was taken up with such mundane occupations as washing clothes, kipping, and preparing kit for the final four-day excursion into the mountains. After tea, a needle challenge match of Volleyball got underway between Masapa and Tandaai. In the absence of Masapa’s Big John Horbury (rumor has it that he was seen skulking in Bill’s office, ostensibly waiting for a phone call to Bamba Zonke) it was necessary for the C.E.O to be dropped from Tandaai team to even up numbers. His advice and exhortations from the side-lines, however, were of such excellence, that the game ended with a resounding 15-9 victory for Tandaai. The Tandaai/Banzai war-cry which followed, fully expressed the sweet revenge of our humbling by Masapa at Basketball on a previous occasion.

The patrol then got down to serious business and, having been briefed by Bill Bailey on our four-day excursion, to start the next day, sent The Chef and Gasman No.1 into the City of Melsetter to procure certain essential victuals, not readily available at our school. Some little time later, the welcome clink of glassware indicated their safe return with mission adequately accomplished. The divide-up of victuals etc., between patrol members, was again delegated to the efficient Chef, with five piles growing alarmingly large on the cabin floor. Rucksacks were packed near to bursting point, with such luxuries as soap and toothpaste, standing little chance of being included at the expense of other ‘essentials’. The strategic planning of menus was of such excellence, that there was hardly a pound’s difference in the weight of the various patrol rucksacks. And so to bed in happy anticipation of yet another excursion into the mountains.

Quotable Quote of the Day: "You mean to say that the third night will have to be a ‘dry’ one!" Incredulous Filthy Fivian being advised of Chef’s menu plans.

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