It is a long bumpy ride into one of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful but often forgotten places.
Tucked away in Matabeleland North, Binga one of the most arid regions in Zimbabwe is the home of the BaTonga people whose relatives can be found on the other side of the Zambezi.
It was set up in the late 1950’s to re-house those whose homes were flooded when the country’s Lake Kariba was built and filled but it’s been marginalised since independence in1980 with few schools and fewer health centers.
But getting to see the beautiful BaTonga land is a tedious journey.
The curves on the mountainous roads that leads to Siachlaba village would fool any visitor that the 100km stretch is all there is to see.
There is a rough ride ahead.
Any driver would dread treading this pothole-ridden path, punctuated with remnants of a tarred road, fast disappearing and turning into a dusty road.
As we approached, Siachlaba about 80km from Binga centre, the treacherous ride begins.
Reducing speed is the only way to survival on the curved road and it is like a metaphorical gun pointed at the driver;” reduce the speed.”
Along the way, one cannot fail to appreciate the warm faces of the BaTonga people going about their business in the scorching sun.
Craftsmen selling the popular BaTonga chairs, kitchen wares and other artifacts greet us with warmness as we asked for directions to Binna Trencia’s shop the woman we had gone to visit.
They quickly pointed to her shop, which is quite well-known there.
Once we were done talking to her, the tedious journey continued.
The journey punctuated with a bit Oliver Mtukudzi’s music was now nearing the end, but exactly how far where we from Binga centre.
“Another 70 km,” a colleague said.
70km on this raggedy road would take us another hour or so, we grumbled.
As we approached Binga Centre, the patched road turned into a full blow dusty road, with a tar strip in the middle.
Here elephants often straddled the road.
But it is 9am and the largest inland mammals would be having a drink on the Zambezi. So we trudged on.
Once we got to Binga centre, the road had smoothened, as if to entice the visitor of what lay ahead.
A gentle decent downhill is met by a blue reflection of waters in the Zambezi.
One would instantly forget the tedious journey as the lovely landscape meets the eye.
“Is there such a place in Zimbabwe,” we asked ourselves.
We were consumed by the beauty of God’s creation tucked away in a sedentary Binga, a place often called medieval and backward.
As we drew closer to our lodging for the duration of the stay, The Journeys end, one could not fail to notice a crocodile habitat to the left and the hot springs to the right.
“How many people in Zimbabwe know that there is such a place,” I asked myself.
The Zambezi view from my dwellings were breath-taking.
The expansive blue waters that stretch into Zambia, are an absolute beauty to watch.
Lodges around The Journey was all full booked. This meant that indeed people knew about Binga and are indeed visiting.
The day would not end before we could visit the sand beach, which is about 20km from our lodgings.
Nothing fancy, just therapeutic sand dunes, a potential tourist attraction.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, and this is its first beach.
Most remarkable is how a group of youths in Binga helped market the place a few years ago and now the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) is working on improving the beach.
As we headed of out of Binga, again through the patched road, we were met by several visitors looking to spend the weekend.
Binga is indeed a diamond in the rough, with potential of becoming a tourism hub. ‘
The warm of the BaTonga is enough to attract anyone to stay longer.
But government should be deliberate about marketing Binga, as well as making it accessible to tourists.
A one-of-a-kind sandy beach, warm weather and wildlife are touted as major attractions, but residents feel not enough is being done to put these tourist features on the world map.
Creating a good road network is the first step towards making Binga a prime destination for visitors.
“In the last three years, we have done a lot to bring Binga to the fore. But not enough is being done. There is no development being done, mainly with regards to roads,” ZTA head of communication, Godfrey Koti says.
He however admitted that:” We have a 100% occupancy rate in Binga, which means we have reached people’s ears.”
Binga is a great holiday destination but the roads!