Zimbabwe

 

Day 90 Sunday 9th January. 2011

We had managed to cross boarders again on a Sunday and had no local currency and little to change from Mozambique Kwatcha. So we were saved when were told that Zimbabwe had adopted the USD. As their currency had crashed.

We headed for the capital both feeling rough as we had colds coming, god knows from where, but these things happen. The distance was too great to Harare but we need chemicals in the form of contact lens solution, a fast internet connection would be nice to enable us to update the blog. After checking email we thought that we did not have enough money or time to spend in a café.

We got a forty bucks (the cheapest with security, and was not a brothel) hotel in town and crashed out. We both felt rough and did not have the energy to get the cooking gear off the bike so we headed for pizza town for a meal that alas as bland as the bread, but was filling. An early night worried me even though I was bushed, if I sleep to early I wake at silly O’ clock, so managed to keep one eye open till half eight then slept till six.

Day91 Monday 10th January.

We both woke really thirsty as we had left the water filter on the bike, the baths we ran were a mid colour between brown and green. Even I did not fancy it so we drank the alcohol from the night before!!! well is was six a.m. And I would not be riding till two or three that afternoon, and I’m ill and need cheering up…..

Harare was a really nice city, which offered all that we needed, apart from the internet. We spent an enjoyable five hours ambling around a town that could have been in Europe if you were dropped there. On the plus side it had lots of different individual stores and on the minus a shed load of fast food outlets, but oddly no Mac.Donald’s, yet.

We rode out of town on the wrong road and did not realize it until we were well lost, and in blind desperation had gone forty clicks down a dirt road. In Africa we had before done similar distances on poor surface that WERE the main road. We stopped one of the many dollar buses coming the other way and he confirmed we must turn around and head back to Wedza or only certain death awaited further on. As we only had one hundred km or so of fuel left we headed back. Something I really dislike doing, but this is the first time we have been lost. We had stopped in Wedza as we went through and tried to camp at the police station, everyone there thought it was a great idea, apart from the man who signs the cheques, bugger. So we knew it was a bit of a dive and the local hotel had no place safe to put the bike. Having passed a red cross station on the outward leg to the place where there be dragons, and still very keen to recoup some of our hotel money by ”wild” camping We asked, and after the two brothers (doctors), convinced their sister (grumpy), that her chattels would remain firmly untarnished we parked the bike in the waiting room and put up the tent in the garden, again. Should clarify the waiting room was a large covered area outside the surgery door.

They were fantastic folks and even the sister warmed up a little. One of the brothers who had a motorbike, we called him the flying doctor, wanted to hear all of our travels and what countries we had come through.

It is for me, only when you tell a stranger that the enormity of what we are doing sinks in a little, but not much!!

We reckon we still are travelling to fast, (probably hence the cold) but when there is no affordable accommodation en route you tend to motor till you find it.

At the red cross station they had no services, the water came from a huge pump with a handle three metres long and electricity from a small generator, only on for a few hours after dusk, then it was candles.

We cooked under the roof and watched the lightning that was all around us but very distant, later it rained soft but steady most of the night. We were warm and glad to be in a safe place. I felt awful as I now had an eye infection with the cold but in the tent I felt really restful. We both slept sound.

Day92 Tuesday 11th January. Selwyn’s birthday.

As promised we packed up and left early, not that they seemed overly bothered and they waved us on our way, or saw us off their property, whichever way you reckon.

Back at Wedza we filled up and checked ”Tracks of Africa” to find our way out to the highway. We were amazed to find that no roads were marked for a sixty km radius of where we were and Wedza did not exist. We asked for the routes out-of-town and were told of three. Two we knew so opted for the third. Success, and by two pm were had pitched up under a barbecue canopy at a safari lodge. I fussed with the bike for a couple of hours then had a siesta. Nice slow end to a mad few days and were determined to keep this pace from now on, lodging permitting….

Day93 Wednesday 12th January.

We rode the one hundred and forty km to Masvingo, stopping off at a few lodges to get a feel of the cost. At the Great Zimbabwe Hotel, while Diane was inside getting the prices I saw a lizard with the better idea of having a bright blue tail and camouflaged body, so if he got a bite take out of him it would be a tail hit and not a direct head shot. Much better chance of survival. he should talk to the one in Tanzania..

We camped up in the Great Zimbabwe Monument, people have said the camp site there is a rip off but we paid fifteen USD to enter the monument grounds then five USD per person for one night. We thought that was the cheapest we have been offered yet so will stay here for a couple of nights. We have caught up with the wet season proper now I reckon and Diane has forgotten over the last few months how dismal the rain makes me. It’s not so much as rain here but we are at eleven hundred meters and are sat in cloud cover and ever thing is getting that damp feeling. I did say yesterday that I wanted to head south to Durban for sunshine and dry but after looking at our paper map its wetter there than here!! Our intended route is the best option as the further west we go the dryer it becomes. But that means ten to fourteen days with damp conditions. Oh hum. At least it’s not cold, still in the low twentys’.

We had a little moan at the staff about the showers being cold, and good people they are they wound up the temperature and we had a scalding wash, the first for four days. Made me wonder on what grounds the turned them up, we booked a tour guide for tomorrow, he probably wanted us not to smell. Spent the afternoon walking the monument (ruins) in the drizzle and had an early night.

The Monument is made from local granite using dry stone walling technique and was the fortified home of Shona speaking people from the thirteenth to seventeenth century. Zimbabwe country took its name from here in nineteen eighty, when Rhodesia was given up as a name. It means ”big house of stone”, in Shona. This ruin is the largest pre colonial structure in southern Africa, the other being the pyramids. The whole site is seven hundred and twenty hectares.

Day94 Thursday 13th January.

After a fantastic nights sleep we played Bao with a steady rain stopping play, and had a slow morning.

We took our guided walk in late morning sunshine, and the guide told us how the town had grown and died in four hundred years or so. The reason for its demise was that the population had grown to large for the land to support. At its peak two thousand five hundred adults were in residence. So they headed north to the Zambezi river, where they could trade much easier, with river transport and grow more food. The walk took three hours and on our return we had a slow afternoon and early bed. Still tired, but nice to be a little slower.

Day95 Friday 14th January.

Packed up and rode to Bulawayo in one hit, did not intend to but all the towns we passed through were just staging posts with no shop. The tea rooms that were signed looked as though they had gone with the colonists.

The only highlight of the run was a police road block who asked if we were English or Australian, then he asked whether the two countries are neighbours. Then how far Australia was from England, and whether any water was in between. I was not sure how much of this was genuine, a trick line of questioning, or a geography lesson. The next road block was a younger man who waved us through. So I guess he had listened in school or he did not think I looked Australian.

So we hit town late afternoon, found the site and pitched up. A walk into town bought us much-needed supplies and a stretch of the legs.

Day96 Saturday 15th January.

I spent the morning shirt off very warm and sunny, with bike maintenance and Diane wrote her diary. We had a walk around town in the afternoon and sussed out the various markets, most of which sold the flip-flops we saw being repackaged on the Wadi Halfa boat. We tried a spicy Russian sausage, which is a popular local dish. As a bloke, can’t say I enjoyed it much, glad Diane took more than half of it, think I took it the wrong way as I felt ill after.

Day97 Sunday 16th January.

We gathered up our gear nice and slow to give the soggy items time to dry out as it poured all night, although it was trying to be sunny as we packed. We had a forty km route planned to Matobo national park to look at grave or two and some wind eroded rocks that were left standing on top of each other in totem like stance.

The road at the thirty km to go marker post turned to wet slippery sand and after six km of pirouetting first on the rear then mostly on the front wheel. I gave up and turned around. I was not impressed with myself at giving up, again, due to poor riding ability, poor road surface, or poor tyres or all of the above. But at the back of my tiny mind is that we are along way from anyone who might be able to help, along way from hospital, and a long way from the UK if I damaged either of us. So we headed for the Vic Falls, on tar!

We pulled into a gas station at two hundred clicks on the trip, for a top up and a lemonade. ”No petrol” was the sad smile the attendant gave us as we pulled up at an empty pump stand. So we sat in the sunshine and chatted to him and his friends who had stopped by to keep him from going insane with nothing to do.

Another vehicle pulled in next to us and being a local he knew not to park next to the pump, as there is no fuel.. He joined us in conversation and on hearing we were looking for accommodation he told us of his lodging ground where we could camp up. As it was another hundred km that was all we were up for, for one day. The attendant promised that another station fifty km up the road will have fuel. We never did see it and pull into Sikumi Tree Lodge on vapours I reckon.

What a great place, our camp site looks across savannah with pelican type things, birds with whopping great dangling beaks waddling around looking for fish? Stripy Zebra all over and a boat full of baboons being chased by antelope I think they are. We were given a tree hose to use for showering as they have no camping facilities, and at night a fire was lit in a pit for the four guests to gaze into. Wifi to so you all had an update..

Day98 Monday 17th January.

They did not have camping at the lodge but we had been given a tree house to use for washing and showering. The cost of the accommodation was one hundred USD, which the manager, Marlene had dropped to thirty for us but we still asked to put up the tent as it still was out of our budget. To be honest I prefer to camp!! The facilities were excellent in the tree house and if you were on an organized tour when you arrive there it would be fantastic.

Had a slow start today and talked with Marlene for an hour or so about Victoria Falls, where she used to work. Looking like its going to be expensive but it is the only tourist destination I knew of before we left the UK, that I wanted to visit.

We were kindly given some toast for breakfast and more coffee, as we sat and ate the Zebras came closer the lodge, this morning there was about ten of them.

I packed up and Diane did the last of internet stuff, made good use of it because not only being free, it meant we did not have to sit in a café in town for hours then head back to camp. I did that in Addis Ababa once only, I sat till seven O’clock or some silly such time.

We managed to buy five litres of fuel from Marlene which would get us to the next town, and left at midday.

We filled up and bought food at Hwange, I did not to carry it all the way to Vic Falls but we thought as it’s a tourist trap it may be expensive.

Rode around Vic for thirty minutes and found lots of nice places, Shoestrings was decided on and is situated in the centre of town so the bike can be stood up for a few days and we can use our legs.

While Diane sussed out the accommodation I sat, as usual on the bike, ready for a swift get away. An inoffensive young man came up to me and told me how he printed what you wanted onto your choice of colour shirt. As I was in no position to run I listened and what he showed me did look good.

At the local Spar we had the first of lots of local lads trying to sell us all kinds of unwanted items, from wooded animals half a metre high to obsolete Zimbabwe bank notes. Back at base we talked the evening away with a couple of Australians who told us of the terrible flooding that they have at home. Apparently the water rose to eight metres in as many minutes.

During the evening my young man, Lucas, came back and Diane talked to him about what we may or may not be able to live without, on the shirt front, so to speak..Two hours late a deal was struck and he left saying he would return tomorrow night.

Day99 Tuesday 18th January.

Spent an enjoyable day walking our legs off looking at the plethora of mostly gift shops selling mostly the same products. As we headed to the falls to find out how much and when, the air above the area was full of mist from the falls and you could hear it at the camp site one and a half km distant in the night.

We did however find a chap who said he would make us a set of chess pieces (in the original form and not ‘the big five’, as we reckon it would be hard to play with, as a castle is not a rhino…) for sensible money, we will find out tomorrow….

As it’s looking likely for another weekend border crossing we got organized and changed some money for Botswana.

On our way back Lucas caught up with us and said our shirts were ready and he wanted paying. As he had them in his hot little hand we had a good look at them, he asked if they were ok or would we like anything else on them. I said the date would be nice on the front. After Diane had convinced him that no more money would be required we left. At ten O’clock as I walked out from the shower and was dragged of by security to meet a pissed Lucas who said he had printed the dates on and he wanted his money. My shirt was fine but the other looked like it was done with a marker pen and was badly smudged. I refused to pay him until the second shirt was made good, he got grumpy and left saying no money no shirt, you won’t get anything from me, only the police.

I said to the security guard how I would have liked the clothes as they did look good, but not sub standard. As he did not give a toss either way i went to bed.

Day100 Wednesday 19th January.

Went to Victoria Falls this morning, and though we did not get to the entrance gate for six am as planned, we did spend an hour or so more than the recommended two hours. It was a great walk and although it rained a fair amount of the time it was well worth the entrance fee. When it did not rain the mist coming up from the canyon more than made up for it. It was strange to walk in and out of the mist to sunshine, the mist reminded me of Ireland as it was very wet making rain.

Early afternoon we headed back into town to find our chess man. Our hopes were up when we found him as he said ‘welcome, welcome my friends, come and talk with my colleague who is finishing off your new chess set’.

He showed us around the corner where a young man was in a small dark shop. He was proudly setting out the pieces on a board for us to admire. As he busied himself our eyes grew used to the dim, we focused on the factory made, animal based set. Identical to the many that were adorning the shelves. How are hearts fell, as we both felt, as he had talked to us about what we wanted for thirty minutes or so, we really thought he was going to make what we wanted. No money had changed hands so we thanked the dimly lit man and left the shop. Around the corner we found our man and asked what had been the miss-understanding, he said nothing at all and looked at us as if we were a little ungrateful. To my surprise when I asked about the set to be made based on an original chess set, said nothing at all. Not a word!! we walked on discussing how we could be so miss-understood.

Back at camp we sat out and played Bao. After a game or two Lucas our ‘T’ shirt man walked up and proudly placed two printed shirts on the table, and asked for his money, they were good so we paid him and all was rosy in our still chess free world.

Day101 Thursday 20th January. Auntie Daphne birthday.

I wanted to leave today but we had washing and bike stuff to do so another day was agreed on. Got jobs done and had fat boy fry up for tea, making full use of the site stove. Having more than one burner meant we could push out the boat and fur some arteries. Felt slightly ill all evening, sat writing this wishing I could find room for a beer.

The sky was full of lightning and thunder (our first for ages) with steady rain after.

Day102 Friday 21st January.

We packed with the promise of rain which only came to fruition as we rode out-of-town, but ten clicks down the road the drizzle gave way to hazy sunshine.

We both liked Vic falls as a town, the constant mela of young people , for me gave it the aire of a sea front town in the UK. The one big difference was the warthogs and baboons walking around the streets. A big regret was not having a camera there when the hog family was on the prowl. It will be strange to walk pavements without the wildlife going about its daily business at our feet, mostly ignoring all about them. Also to see a pick-up truck either with the back full of passengers or the tow bar dragging the ground due to the two or three tons its carrying.

The road out was deserted, made a real contrast to the roads of Kenya and Tanzania where the traffic was mental. Also there we had alternating butter flies or dragonflies depending on the vegetation I suppose. But now we have centipedes half a foot long and scarab like beetles sauntering across the road. In the air, which I never saw close up were hard bodied flying things that hurt when you hit them, even through a leather jacket, bet it hurt them too….

We made the border at mid day and very relived to have no visa fee to pay. We rode through no mans land and at the Botswana frontier a very nice polite lady asked us to unpack our spare shoes and be disinfected against foot and mouth. I had to ride the bike through a dip that she assured me was only hand deep, as I was concentrating on the exit route as it was soft deep mud the other side I failed to see how deep the disinfectant was, Diane reckoned it was about thirty c.m.!!! Their country was hit hard, about the same time as the UK was.

The formalities were a breeze and all were done in half an hour, it seems to me that if no money has to change hands the officials are a lot more friendly and less wary. Unless its me being happy not having to pay for a stamp in my passport….. We rode off into Botswana.

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