The Traveller’s Tree
- The short walk from the main road down to the Traveller’s Tree makes a welcome break on an otherwise long journey from Mutare to Masvingo and serves as a reminder of those days when the infrastructure of Zimbabwe was much less developed and passengers on the old RMS would have taken overnight shelter within the baobab tree as they waited for transport.
From Birchenough Bridge take the A9 west towards Masvingo; 10.67 KM reach the Devure River Bridge. The Traveller’s tree is a few metres upstream from the old bridge and is reached by walking south from the modern bridge about 400 metres on the east side of the Devure River.
GPS reference: 19⁰57′31.27″S 32⁰15′07.80″E
Lyn Mullin in his Historic Trees of Zimbabwe describes this large hollow baobab tree, Adansonia digitata as now forgotten as it stands close to the old Devure River Bridge now superceded by the new bridge some 500 metres to the north.
At one time the Road Motor Services of the railways were the largest carriers of goods and passengers in areas where rail services were not available. The RMS made a significant contribution to the development of the country by running services in sparsely populated or newly developing areas, making runs which were essential, but often unprofitable. The route mileage served rose from 2,619 kilometres (1,637 miles) in 1946 to 7,512 kilometres (4,695 miles) in 1957.
On the north side of the tree an opening gives access to the hollow interior, nearly 4 metres wide and 6 metres high, sufficient for 25 to 30 standing adults and this provided overnight shelter to waiting RMS passengers. Ashes of old fires can still be seen and the interior is blackened from their smoke.
Lyn Mullin says one of the ancient legends of the San people, the same late Stone Age hunter-gatherers who painted all the rock art in Zimbabwe, describes how the Great Spirit gave a tree to each of the animals of their own choice which they took and planted. The hyena arrived late to find only one tree was left, the baobab and was so disgusted with his gift that he rammed it into the ground upside down, so that to this day the baobab grows with its roots in the air.
L.J. Mullin. Historic Books of Zimbabwe. CBC publishing. 2003.
L. Tow. The Manufacturing Economy of Southern Rhodesia: Problems and Prospects