The road from Chilo Gorge was awful! En route to Chimanimani we were to spend two nights on a farm in the Chipinge district. This would give us relatively easy access to the magnificent Chirinda Forest – type locality for the elusive Chirinda Apalis. Our farm stay was comfortable and we were well looked after by our generous hostess, Hazel. She is hanging on to what is left of her farm, most of it having been grabbed by the war vets, and runs a successful dairy herd under trying circumstances.
Walks around the farm revealed a wealth of interesting birds, but the highpoint was the visit to the forest. How this remnant of forest has been preserved is anybody’s guess, but it is a wonderful place with trees that have to be seen to be believed. Birding under such a high canopy was not easy, but just being there was amazing. The ‘Big Tree’ was a high point – in every sense of the word – it is a truly magnificent example of what I thought is a Pod Mahogany. High above, the Silvery-cheeked Hornbills kept us well entertained and there were many butterflies for Alice who seemed to know them all them all.
Our next stop was at The Frog and Fern, a self catering establishment on the outskirts of Chimanimani (it used to be Melsetter). Our accommodation consisted of three very comfortable cottages. Whilst the birding was, as ever, good, the area is known for it’s spectacular scenery and we visited both the Bridal Veil Falls and the beautiful Tessa’s Pool at the base of the Chimanimani mountains. A bird party on the track to the former produced my first lifer of the trip – a Cinnamon-breasted Tit! Amongst our sightings were Tree Pipit, Miombo Rock Thrush, Red-faced Crombec, Roberts’s Warbler, Southern Hyliota and a variety of Bush Shrikes..
It was sad to see the degradation and squalour that the town of Chimanimani has been reduced to. What was once a thriving community, now barely manages to keep its head above water. The same can be said for much of the country, with the best parts where there are no people!
To be continued….