Olli Adventures: Road Trip to Zim 

Olli is growing up so fast and keeping us very busy. He’s learning new words every day and keeps us thoroughly entertained. We are fortunate enough to have the good aspects of parenting without many of the stresses that can come with having a baby. Olli has been a remarkably happy and healthy little chap, and he has still yet to have to see a doctor. I put this down to a combination of luck, getting his vaccinations, a healthy diet and being constantly exposed to all sorts of mud and dirt on the farm. 

Ollie’s latest adventure was a 10 day road trip to Zimbabwe. Of course it was an adventure and a holiday for us too, but it was a bit of a pilgrimage for Jen to introduce her family and friends to her new family. She has always wanted to take me there to give me an idea of where she grew up. 

Our trip started with an overnight stay with Dale and Leigh Thomas in Nottingham Road. We then drove all day to Polokwane to stay with long time family friends, Viv and Carroll Bristow. We spent a few days on their game farm and “glorified zoo” called “Wild Thingz”. Jens brother and his wife Kirsty also live in Polokwane so we saw them while we were there.

From Polokwane it was over the border and into Zim to stay with her grandparents for a few days. This is where Jen grew up so we spent the days visiting their old farm and spending time with her grandparents. Their farm is in the south eastern corner of Zim. It’s about an hours drive along a dirt track through the bush to get to the farm 21A. Remarkably Brian has managed to keep the farm going all these years. Over the last few years he’s managed it from in New Zealand where he now lives. 

We arrived on the farm as the final eviction order was given to leave the farm. The farm was being leased or used should I say, by another commercial farmer who was looking after the house and the infrastructure. The farm has now officially been stolen so we were there in the knick of time. 

From there we went and stayed a few days with another Bristow family who are citrus farmers on the Mzungwane River in the south western corner of Zim. Remarkably they are still farming and the citrus industry in that area, for some reason has been left alone. They have obviously farmed through some tough times and their cattle and game farm was stolen, but the heart and soul of the business remains intact. These Bristows also have lions in their garden though these are genuine pets rather than used as a tourist attraction. The two lions Kingy and Tara live in an enclosure behind the house.  It’s the most bizarre thing arriving outside the Bristows house. As soon as the dogs start barking, the Lions start roaring. Imagine getting out your car and greeting you are several yapping dogs and 2 roaring lions. Only in Zimbabwe! 

On the way up to Zim we stayed with family friends of the Cawood, Viv and Carroll Bristow. They own a small game farm that they have turned into a large scale zoo. They have pet lion’s, hyenas, cheetahs, and various other creatures. They have created something really special for tourists to see wild animals up close in their natural environment. Olli was obsessed with the baby hyena who lived with a baby Lion.
Every morning they take their pet lions for a walk around the farm.
Olli meeting his first camel.
The trip to Zim was mainly to go and visit her grandparents who she hadn’t seen for a few years. Sam and Janet Cawood are still living in their home but the farm has been completely destroyed by war veterans. It’s very sad walking around their farm and seeing the shell of once was a great farming enterprise. It’s a sober reminder as to what happens when politicians loose the plot and get desperate to cling to power. 
I can imagine a herd of pedigree white Brahman cattle being worked with through this facility. Sadly the last animal to use this facility was probably more than 10 yrs ago.
Itani is Jenny’s second mother. She was Jenny’s nanny when she grew up. She was so so thrilled to see us and to meet Olli. She is now working at Bubi Village which is a motel and filling station still owned by Jens old man, Brian Cawood.
The farm where Jen grew up is deep into the bush in the south western of Zim. The home is situated on top a Koppie overlooking the Mateki Hills in the distance. 
This was probably the last day the swimming pool was swum in. The water supply to the house on the hill will have been turned off and so the theiving politician who now “owns” the farm realizes that water does not flow out the ground and up hill.
The last of the pedigree Brahman cattle on the farm. What was once a stud herd of several thousand was down to 124 animals. They have now all been slaughtered and sold. One of the top Brahman studs in Zimbabwe has now come to an end.
Sam and Janet Cawood are passionate about baobabs. In their opinion this is the most impressive baobab they have seen. It’s located deep in the bush, a long way from any main road. Relatively few people have sent this tree which is what makes it so extra special. The impressive aspect of this tree is that it is a single stem. Most of the other big baobabs around are several stems growing together. The circumference of the stem was 28m if I remember correctly and the circumference of the crown was about 150m. I climbed the tree but I don’t know how high it is. My guess would be 25 to 30m.
Strangely enough I have never seen a baobab in leaf. I have obviously always been in those parts when it’s winter. It’s a spectacular sight I must say. This particular tree is probably one of the most incredible natural wonders I have ever seen.

This picture is taken from in the main fork of the tree.

It was a special morning for Jens grandparents to share with us their favourite place.

Sticking out above the bush canopy 
 not the most maternal and gushy granny I have met, but Olli followed her everywhere.

Exactly the same place and same toys that Jenny played with 27 years ago.

Janet is not the most gushy of grandmother’s but Olli just adores her and followed her everywhere. He called her Mum.
Our second Zim visit was to stay with Jens uncle and aunt, Patty and Paul Bristow who are citrus farmers on the Mzungwane River. Don’t you just love the sign on the gate. You are greeted with yapping dogs and roaring lions!
Olli was obsessed with lions as you can imagine. Here Olli is saying hello to Kingy and Tara.
Olli running around on the closet thing to a Zimbabwean beach.

A beautiful Rhodesian homestead set in the riverine bush of the Mzungwane River. This is how I would define colonial Africa. Fantastic hospitality, beautiful settings and wild animals as pets. 



  1. Hi Rex,
    I loved reading this post about your adventures with your beautiful family. My family and I moved from Kloof, in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa to live in Sydney Australia, but we still miss the amazing beauty of Africa and its people!
    I also was particularly interested in hearing about the Bristow family of whom I assume your wife Jen, is a member! Over the past 5 years, I have been conducting genealogical research on the Bristows, who arrived in Durban, South Africa in 1850 (Charles and Sarah Bristow and their 12 children). One of their sons, Charles moved to the ‘Zoupansberg’ area (as it was known then) and some of his sons and grandsons moved to Zimbabwe. I have created a private family tree on Ancestry.com and would love to give your wife and her family access to see which links she can identify:) I would also love to be able to ‘grow’ the tree:)
    Best wishes in your farming endeavours. I love your blog and hope to share in your future adventures!


    1. Hi Karen. Glad u enjoying the blog. Regarding the bristows: my wife Jen is a Cawood. One of the Cawood daughters Maried Paul Bristow. Then there are other unrelated Bristows who live near Polokwane who have the walking with the lions.(viv and Carol Bristow). Then there are other unrelated Bristows in zim. It’s a very complicated tree!. Maybe they all related but don’t know it?
      Look up someone called patty bristow on Facebook. She will give u more info. The other to contact is Viv Bristow in polokwane. Good luck


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