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Pole to Pole

Day 121: Bulawayo

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAbout thirty-five miles outside Bulawayo, in the modestly spectacular and historically fascinating region of the Matopos Mountains, is buried the man whose foresight, determination and insatiable ambition created a country which bore his name for fifty-seven years before becoming Zimbabwe in 1980. In a short life he had a massive influence over the whole of southern Africa - opening up farming land, developing the gold and copper mines, and setting up communications. When he died in Cape Town in 1902 his own personal train, designed by the Pullman Company of America, brought his body to Bulawayo. He was a year short of fifty, and had left precise instructions in his will. 'I admire the grandeur and loneliness of the Matopos in Rhodesia and therefore I desire to be buried . . . on the hill which I used to visit and which I called "The View of the World" in a square to be cut in the rock on the top of the hill, covered with a plain brass plate with these words thereon, "Here Lie the Remains of Cecil John Rhodes".'

Ninety years later, and despite threats by Mugabe to dig up the body and send it back to London, this is exactly how and where Rhodes lies. The area is now a National Park, a controversial move which involved the forced removal of local residents and accusations of desecration of holy places by the Ndebele people.

The grave lies on top of a great smooth pate of exposed granite, topped by a ring of massive boulders, some twenty feet high, frozen at a gravity-defying angle on the very tip of the slope.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 121
  • Country/sea: Zimbabwe
  • Place: Bulawayo
  • Book page no: 270

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