Our Burning Planet


Joseph ‘Travel Mufasa’ Makowa learnt some valuable life lessons on his epic walk around Zimbabwe

Joseph ‘Travel Mufasa’ Makowa learnt some valuable life lessons on his epic walk around Zimbabwe
Joseph Makowa gets close to an elephant on his epic walk around Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

In 2021, Joseph ‘Travel Mufasa’ Makowa embarked on a remarkable 35-day odyssey circumnavigating Zimbabwe. Along his 1,500km journey, he rediscovered his love for wildlife and his cherished homeland and learnt the power of perseverance.

Born in Harare in 1997, Joseph “Travel Mufasa” Makowa says his passion for travel started with “an urge to get out of the comfort zone… to get out there to experience life, not just the city life but outside the nine-to-five and everything.”

With the travel restrictions that came in response to Covid, Makowa’s urge to hit the road burnt ever more fiercely. 

“We couldn’t travel. I mean, it was locked down, cities were closed and everything. So we were all boxed inside our houses, and with that came the urge to travel more, to connect with my country.

“So initially what I wanted was to travel around Zimbabwe. I wanted to experience culture. I wanted to get a connection with the environment of flora and fauna. Just to get that feeling because of how we’d been so boxed up,” Makowa explained.

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Joseph ‘Travel Mufasa’ Makowa charts a path to walk around Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

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Joseph Makowa enjoys contact with an elephant. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

He had several options for getting around the country before settling on the most simple – walking.

“I mean, there was hitchhiking, there was using the car, there was using public transport, cycling… and when I was mapping out my route, that’s when I realised how I wanted to travel around.

“I realised it was one road that connected the entire Zimbabwe and no one had ever walked it. This was more challenging and also the most humane way of travelling.”

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Makowa walks across Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

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Makowa sets up camp for the night under the Zimbabwean sky. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

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Makowa joins a game of football with village children. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

Committed to the idea, he began preparing for the great trek.

“My idea was to start walking and if I got tired, I’d just come back home. So for me, it was not a marathon… It was a journey that might not finish or might not end.

“So I just said to myself, I’m going to walk and connect more with my country because if you’re walking, you can’t miss a thing… it’s so slow. You get connected, you meet people, experience cultures, you taste different foods, language, you get to understand how diverse our cultures are.

“You start understanding the environment better because you are only surviving out of the goodness of the people you meet, and you’re also surviving by being protected by the environment itself,” Makowa explained.

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The sun sets on Makowa during his travels through Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

Locals share the road with Makowa on his walk across Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

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Rhinos in the background while Makowa speaks to a local man. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

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Makowa shares a lesson with children about the wonders of nature and wildlife in Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

“So there was no proper preparation for it. I said I wanted to do it and the next day there was no procrastination. I just hit the road.”

And off he went, walking across the country, through the tapestry of diverse ecosystems, cities and villages of Zimbabwe

Asked what surprised him most about the journey, he said: “I didn’t realise how much I was in love with nature. The thing is, I was filming everything, just sharing the journey with people. And I loved how beautiful everything was. As I was walking, the trees, the mountains, the playgrounds… it was so beautiful.” 

That beauty continued until he came across the aftermath of a veld fire. 

“It was hard because I was coming from seeing all the greenery, coming from seeing how beautiful nature is, and it got to me, like, who would actually cause damage to the beautiful nature that we were given on earth? And with that came my passion for wildlife conservation… for nature conservation.”

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Makowa makes his way through one of the more built-up areas as he travels on foot across Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

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A road bisects the greenery that Joseph Makowa walked through on his journey across Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

A second surprise along the journey was seeing just how disconnected from nature most communities are. 

He said he’d chat to children and ask them questions. Their answers were often unexpected and sad.

“Have you seen an elephant before? Have you seen a buffalo before? Have you seen a cheetah before? And each and every one of them would say no, no, no. These children live so close to national parks, so close to remote areas where we have wildlife, and yet they have little knowledge about them. They are not even connected to these things. 

“We need to find a solution to this. How best can we have children be a part of conservation? Because the moment we start introducing children to conservation, at that very young age – one day, one child at a time – it is possible to have a generation without poachers, not because of the law, not because it’s a crime, but because that generation now understands and is in love with conservation from a very young age.” 

The journey was not all smooth sailing. Besides having to contend with numerous blisters and angry mosquitoes, he at one point survived near dehydration thanks only to a lollipop.

“I remember it was very hot because we were already in summer. By 10am, I was out of water. I walked for over 10km without a drop of water, and the only thing that was between me and passing out, was this lollipop that I had – it was the last one. 

“Going through those kilometres without water was the most difficult, brutal, gruelling part of the entire journey,” said Makowa.

Makowa feels the journey has changed him.

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Makowa watches the sun rise on another day in his home country, Zimbabwe. (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

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Makowa’s message after his epic journey? ‘No matter how huge the challenges, no matter how difficult something can be, or how life can be in general, if we take it one step at a time, if we don’t give up, we can achieve our goals.’ (Screengrab: Wild Africa Fund)

“It changed me into a person who now appreciates life in general. You get to appreciate what you have because you are now meeting people from all different parts and walks of life. Some are privileged, some are less privileged … imagine, I come into a village where these people are living in poverty with close to nothing, and they are still willing to share the little that they have with you.

“The walk also taught me to become an advocate for conservation. I felt as if the animals and plants don’t have a voice. We can become their voice and share the understanding and information about these beautiful creatures and beautiful animals and beautiful plants and we can tell a different story.

“If we can teach this to children and others as well, then we can have a different world… that’s how it changed me.”

So what would be Makowa’s main message?

“Don’t give up.”

He added: “I got blisters along the way. I didn’t have water along the way. I had to survive with the help of people along the way. The journey itself was gruelling, it was tough, it was painful, but I didn’t give up. 

“I didn’t look at this journey as a 1,500km walk, but as a day’s walk – 35km a day. Forty kilometres a day. Forty-five kilometres a day.

“I remember getting a message from someone who said, ‘Hi Mufasa, I really love what you’re doing and I just wanted you to know that I have been battling cancer and because of what you’re doing, walking around Zimbabwe on foot, I am also not going to give up and I’m going to fight this disease.

“So I feel like this is one thing that people need to learn. No matter how huge the challenges, no matter how difficult something can be, or how life can be in general, if we take it one step at a time, if we don’t give up, we can achieve our goals.

“We can always conquer, no matter how gruelling life can be.” DM

Absa OBP

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