IT is a long bumpy ride into one of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful but often forgotten places.
Tucked away in Matabeleland North province, one of the most arid regions in Zimbabwe, Binga is the home of the BaTonga people whose relatives can also be found on the other side of the Zambezi River.
It was set up in the late 1950s to re-house those whose homes were flooded when the country’s Lake Kariba was built and filled but it hags been marginalised since Independence in 1980 with only a few schools and health centres.
But getting to see the beautiful land of the BaTonga requires a taxing journey.
The curves on the mountainous road that leads to Siachilaba 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-ridded path, punctuated with remnants of a tarred road, fast disappearing and turning into a dusty road.
As we approached, Siachilaba about 80km from Binga centre, the treacherous ride began.
Reducing speed is the only way to survive the curvy road and it is as if a metaphorical gun is forever pointed at the driver with the dire instruction: “Reduce the speed!”
Along the way, one cannot fail to notice the warm faces of the BaTonga people going about their business in the scorching sun.
Craftsmen selling the popular BaTonga chairs, kitchenware and other artifacts greeted us with warmness as we asked for directions to a shop owned by Binna Trencia, the woman I 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 of Oliver Mtukudzi’s music, was now nearing the end, but exactly how far were we from Binga centre?
“Another 70km,” a colleague said.
70km on this rugged road would take us another hour or so, we grumbled.
As we approached Binga centre, the patched road turned into a full blow dust road, with a tar strip in the middle.
Here elephants often straddled the road.
But it was 9am and the largest land a animal wals at that time preoccupied with having a drink on the Zambezi. So we trudged on.
Once we got to Binga centre, the road had smoothened out, as if to entice the visitor to what lay ahead.
A gentle descent downhill is met by a blue reflection of the waters in the Zambezi.
One was lulled into instantly forgetting the tedious journey as the lovely landscape met 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 secluded Binga, a place often called medieval and backward.
As we drew closer to our lodgings for the duration of the stay, a place called Journey’s 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 was breath-taking.
The expansive blue waters that stretch into Zambia are an absolute beauty to behold.
Lodges around Journey’s End were fully 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 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 the potential of becoming a tourism hub.
The warm of the BaTonga is enough to entice anyone to stay longer.
But the 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 teeming 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.
However, he 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 are punishing!