STRAPPED in a safety harness, Thandie Nkomazana shrills with excitement as she is about to slide down a 400-metre zip line that hangs over a small valley to an elevated hill where a guide is waiting to receive her.
It’s a heart pumping exercise that is over in less than a minute, but one that is not for the faint hearted.
No one dismisses the screams as being over the top, after all it’s a natural reaction when one is suspended metres above the ground, sliding down a zip line at super-fast speed while making a silent prayer to land on the other in one piece.
For Nkomazana, the experience is one she will never forget, but she is amazed that such an activity is available to pleasure seekers just on the outskirts of Bulawayo. She thought such activities are a preserve of the majestic Victoria Falls or the picture-perfect mountain scenery of Nyanga.
Blue Hills Camp has emphatically dismissed that thought from her mind.
“I came here as part of an end-of-year Christmas party organised by our company and to be honest I always expected to find places that offer such activities in Victoria Falls or other distant places like Chimanimani or Nyanga.
“I come from rural Gwanda so I use this highway on a regular basis but I never imagined that a place like this exists just a few kilometres from Bulawayo,” said Nkomazana.
Exploring local leisure getaway spots appears to be the in-thing for pleasure seekers looking to step outside their homes for the festive season without breaking the bank.
“Before settling for a place to spend Christmas Day, I have to think about the safety of my family in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Places that offer outdoor activities are the best options as long as I can keep an eye on my children to make sure they don’t go around touching things unnecessarily,” said Dorcas Tshabalala.
The local tourism sector is getting innovative in trying to attract patrons to their getaway holiday spots.
“We do need international tourists to come here but at the same time the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to think outside the box.
“More people are beginning to appreciate places such as ours as local tourism continues to get more popular,” Hlompo Nare of the Blue Hills Camp.
But not everyone has extra money to spare on holiday getaways.
The Covid-19 pandemic left many breadwinners without jobs.
“I can’t even afford to go home to Filabusi for the holidays. It’s best if I stay put here in Bulawayo and try to sell more stuff during the holidays so I can pay school fees for my kids next year,” said a grocery street vendor Siphathisiwe Sibanda.
In a recent visit to the Khami Ruins, the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu, encouraged locals to take ownership of such places that boost the local tourism sector.
“We want to encourage people when they visit Bulawayo, be it en route elsewhere or actually staying in Bulawayo, to make it a habit to come here.
“It’s just about 20km from Bulawayo (city centre) and it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get here and have a good time,” said Minister Ndlovu.