By Lovemore Chazingwa (Own Correspondent)
BULAWAYO – Rail transport concern, National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) will this weekend embark on an excursion from the country’s second largest city to the border town of Plumtree, a 200km span, in the spirit of celebrating Mother’s Day.
Mother’s day is celebrated annually on the second Sunday of May across the globe, in honour of the role and importance of mothers among humankind.
The historic journey is known as Mother’s Day Steam Train Ride.
NRZ has slated the event for the proceeding Sunday as people may have been committed to their celebrations on the particular day (Sunday 12), hence this coming weekend.
In a statement, the national carrier said this is an excursion for steam engine enthusiasts and the general public.
“The Mothers’ Day steam train ride will give the public a unique way to honour the woman in their lives while also presenting an opportunity for steam engine enthusiasts and the general public to experience a memorable train ride in a relaxed mood,” the company said.
The Rail Leisure Unit of the locomotive company had a successful first steam run earlier this year that attracted close to 400 heads (221 adults and 140 children).
The former leisure run dubbed ‘Family Fun Day Steam Train’ was held on April 28. It meandered from Harare to hug Kintye near Lake Chivero. It was also the first steam train run this year.
For sentimental value and memories on the forthcoming one, stops will be organised along the way for people keen on photography to take pictures of the locomotive and scenic places during which the locomotive will perform run pasts for photographers to take the best shots,” according to a press statement by the company.
Speaking at his Five Street office in Bulawayo City, NRZ public Relations Manager, Nyasha Maravanyika, said the attendant aim is to promote domestic tourism.
“These steam tours are growing and for us it’s about growing domestic tourism using steam locomotives and museum coaches to local tourist attractions. They give the public a chance to learn more about our own attractions, their history, importance and relevance.
“There are places like Kuimba Shiri where one can enjoy bird watching and learn a lot about bird species life.” he said.
“Activities like horse riding, boat cruise and game viewing are some of those we intend to promote.”
As a budget sensitive entity, NRZ feels that domestic tourism can best be supported through cheaper initiatives.
Maravanyika said, “There are places people would like to know about. Cheaper terms can promote such domestic tourism to places like Matopos and Khami. Our trips lessens on the budget.”
He added that other entities could be coming on board with their various tourism initiatives such as the Sanganai/ Hlanganai slated for September 12-14 as well as Bulawayo City Council (BCC) 125 years anniversary. Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo is organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
“We support and link other sectors of the economy hence we move the nation,” quipped the public relations practitioner.
For those keen on experiencing the world unique steam train excursion, Mother’s Day steam train ride is a perfect opportunity.
For the record, besides NRZ, South Africa and Germany are the only other countries running the iconic steam engines.
Meanwhile, the Bulawayo headquartered parastatal has witnessed an increase in freight volumes since it received interim solution equipment last February as an offshoot of the US$400 million recapitalisation agreement injection penned with offshore Diaspora Infrastructural Development Group (DIDG)/Transnet Consortium, at least according to Maravanyika.
Further, the wagon company needs to refurbish 50 coaches for commuter service to cover the three Harare and two Bulawayo routes.