Facebook  Pinterest  Twitter

About the Blue Cross

Posted on 30 April 2014

Blue Cross 2014

Day 4 - Starting the ascent of Tank Nek, from Chimanimani town to Cashel

The Blue Cross is an annual charity event that raises money for the ZNSPCA. It requires that participants get from the lowest point of Zimbabwe – where the Save River leaves the country – to Nyangani Mountain – the highest point. Some people walk, some have ridden horses, but the majority ride a bicycle. https://www.facebook.com/zimbabwebluecross?fref=ts

Many people see this as a grueling challenge, limited to those who are superbly fit and have extraordinary stamina. In order to extend participation we have come up with variations that allow relatively ordinary bicycle riders the opportunity to participate in this wonderful event. It truly is a life changing experience so we ask you to read on and see if we can persuade you to join us in 2014.

The notes below focus on the Traditional Blue Cross (not the off road Brown Cross or walking) and outline three significant options

Relay – you don’t have to be fit and tough if you share the load with a friend or two
Extended time – split the difficult first and last day to make the ride so much more pleasant
Accommodation – either camping (for a budget Blue X) or comfort in lodges/B-and-B’s

Bicycle Options

For the bike riders there are two routes (the Traditional Blue Cross and the Brown Cross), each 500kms.

The Brown Cross (as it has become known) is the MTB route, with virtually no riding on tar roads, and the bulk on small tracks. This option really is limited to folk who are in a good state of fitness and who can deal with some serious riding challenges. These notes are NOT intended for Brown Cross participants.

The Traditional is a combination of gravel road and tar, with about one quarter on gravel. More serious riders in this option will use two bikes – an MTB for the gravel and a road bike for the tar, but those who are not intent on racing, and want to focus on enjoying the event can do the event on a typical MTB or hybrid.

Bikes are ridden from the Save River to the Nyangani Car Park, and then one walks up to the top of the mountain to sign the famous Blue Book at the beacon.


Last year two pairs did the Blue Cross as relay teams. This meant that it was possible to break the day up into easily done 10-20 km stretches with a reasonable break in between. The relay option allows riders to take part in this wonderful event even if they are not that strong or fit, and yet enjoy the experience. One of the participants, a fifty-plus lady, had only been riding a bicycle for 3 months and coped admirably.

The rules for relay teams are more relaxed than they used to be – just as long as the whole ride is covered by at least one member of the team. We would suggest that teams can be two to four riders. Last year some of the sections were ridden by both member s of the teams because some of the route is just “too good” to miss, but then spilt up the rest of the journey.

Extended time

Previously, the Traditional option started on a Monday and riding was completed on the Thursday – four days. In 2013 we tried a new format which we called the Extended Time or XT option. This option uses exactly the same route – so the same distance is covered - but the riding time is spread out a bit. The first 42kms of what used to be Day 1 is ridden on the Sunday, thus breaking up the long 158km ride from Chilo to Chipinge into two stages – one of 42kms and the other of 116kms. The Tuesday and Wednesday rides stay as they were. Then on the Thursday, instead of riding all the way from Vumba to Nyangani car park, the XT ride stops at Rhodes Hotel, and on the Friday morning, prior to the walk up the mountain, the 15kms of steep gravel from Rhodes Hotel to the Nyangani car park is done with a fresh body, getting to the car park by 8:30am – when the walk up the mountain starts.

These two changes have made the ride much much easier and allowed the XT riders more time to enjoy the scenery. It means that weaker and/or older riders can take part in the event without undue pain and stress.


In years past (pre-2008) many of the riders and their backup crews camped. We want to make this option available again for 2014. We believe that we will be able to get camping for $10 a night or less at spots where it will be safe and comfortable - hot showers etc. Of course campers will have to make their own arrangements for food.

If you’d prefer to have more comfort then there are the usual options of staying at the self-catering chalets at Chilo, the Chimanimani Hotel or Frog and Fern in Chimanimani, Inn on the Vumba and Rhodes Hotel , and a number of other places. In Chipinge we have located a B-and-B just a couple of kilometers behind the polo ground so there would be no need to “rough it” that night.


For the extended option participants need to be at Chilo Lodge by late afternoon on Saturday 2nd August and the prize giving lunch will be over at about 4pm on Friday 8th. If you do the ordinary Traditional you will need to be at Chilo on Sunday 3rd August. Entrance fee and charity contribution

The no frills entrance fee will be $50 and each participant (whether entering as an individual or as a member of a relay team) is required to raise a minimum donation of $100. This donation will entitle you to a Bronze medal. Donations in excess of $400 entitle one to a Silver medal and those raising over $600 will receive a Gold medal.

The cost of the prize giving lunch will probably be $25 and supper/breakfast at Fiddlers Green will be around $15. These amounts still need to be confirmed.


If you are interested in more information on the Traditional bike ride, either as an individual or as a relay team, please send an email to: bluextrad@gmail.com, or see us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/zimbabwebluecross

If you want to find out about the Brown Cross or other options such as walking, horse riding then go to the web page www.bluecross.co.zw

Description of the Ride – Extended Time

Sat Aug 2nd: Drive to Chilo Lodge which is on Save River, just a few kms before it leaves the country. Chilo is on the north bank of the river, and Gona re Zhou is the national park on the south bank, stretching to the SA/Moz border. Either stay in full board in the lodge, or self-catering cottages at the lodge or camp in the lodge grounds.

Sun 3rd: Starting at about 6:30am ride from the Save River bed to the tar road, a distance of just 42kms. This is a gravel road on which sedan cars can easily drive, albeit slower than a pickup or 4x4. It usually takes something under 3 hours for an average rider. Riders are collected at the tar road and get back to Chilo for an early lunch and then perhaps a game drive in Gona re Zhou for a few hours. This is still a wild park, good game concentrations, amazing birds.

Mon 4th: Drive to the tar road and start riding about 7am. There is a fairly boring stretch of flat tar next to the Save River for about 75kms, but this can be quite sociable as there is not much traffic and the friendly locals give one quite a bit of encouragement. One then leaves the tar and climbs up a long gravel hill called Barbara - about 15kms. This is definitely one of the biggest challenges of the event, but if you are in a relay team it is not bad as one can break it into 3km stages. Some walking is likely! At the top of Barbara there is about 28kms tar road to the Chipinge Polo Club – called Fiddlers Green. Most people will camp here, or sleep inside the very large clubhouse. The club provides supper and breakfast. It’s always a festive evening as the Brown Cross riders are there that night as well, and stories are shared. There are other accommodation options.

Tue 5th: This is the easiest day - about 68kms all on tar from Chipinge to Chimanimani. It is hilly and there are some longish climbs, but also some stunning downhills. Chimanimani is picturesque. There are several options when it comes to lodging or camping.

Wed 6th: This is the hardest day of the Traditional Blue Cross. The day starts with a dramatic 20km drop into the Martin Forest valley, and then the tough 20km climb to the top of Tanks Nek. Stunning scenery all along this old gravel road helps to overcome the tiredness. The ride is not that tough if you are in a relay team. Next comes one of the best sections of the Blue Cross - the 20km descent to Cashel. Sedan cars cannot do the Tanks Nek stretch from Chimanimani to Cashel but there is a good tar road via Biriwiri. From Cashel there is a pleasant downhill stretch of 20kms through the Umvumvumvu River valley to the junction of the Chipinge/Mutare road. The 60kms from this junction to Mutare is the probably the least enjoyable section of the whole ride. There is always some traffic and may be a bit of a headwind. But again, doing 10km spells in a relay team will make it fly by quite easily.

Thur 7th: This is an all tar day of just over 100kms with lovely mountains all around, and usually very little traffic. Starting at 7am after a good breakfast one is usually finished by mid-afternoon, even allowing for a coffee and snack break at the Montclair Hotel. That night one can stay at National Parks cottages, Rhodes Hotel or camp at Nyangombe nearby. Riders opting to do the original format would not stop at Rhodes but continue all the way to the Nyangani car park.

Fri 8th: An earliesh start to the ride of 15kms to the base of Nyangani Mountain makes it easy to get to the car park by 8:30am. The route is all gravel and there are some steep sections so most folk take it slowly - two hours - and enjoy the magnificent views. Around 8:30am the entire Blue Cross group, including most of the backup crews, then hike up to the top of Nyangani - about an hour and a half or so for most normal people, although the odd show-off will do it in 45 mins! After a good rest at the beacon, photo shoots, signing the Blue Book, hugs, sighs and all that sort of stuff – everyone heads back down the mountain and off to Rhodes Hotel for a fine lunch, medal presentations etc. Some leave for home that afternoon but most will stay on and go home on Saturday.