Zimbabwe - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 58

Harare

Friday 9th May

Some days I am just so very tired at the end of the day that I can’t sit down and write about all the things that I want to. Such was the case last night. Since it’s an early night for us tonight with no time pressure on us for the morning, there are a couple of things I want to reflect on that I might have missed from yesterday’s log entry, or indeed the past week or so.

One particular event that I had to chuckle to myself about took place as the four of us were returning from the Zambian side of the border, after viewing the falls. It is very hot here under the African sun. A natural tendency for us Europeans during hot weather is to shed clothing – particularly when on holiday. Since we did a lot of walking around in Zambia and then had to walk a kilometre or so back across through the two border posts, Mags, a Scottish woman and very proud of it thank you very much, decided that she was hot enough to take off her top and walk in her bikini top. Now, if we were anywhere in a hot climate zone in Europe nobody would even notice and none of us gave it a second thought. As we crossed the bungee-jump bridge, however, a young security office (I assume) that was sitting on the railings with an AK-47 rifle, motioned for us to come over to talk with him. He asked Bertie if ‘these women’ were his. He then asked the three of us to step away whilst he spoke with Bertie and proceeded to lecture him on the merits of allowing his woman to walk semi-clad through the streets, as this is apparently an offence. The whole thing was just completely ridiculous and it was debatable as to whether or not the guy was simply looking for a bribe. Luckily, however, it seemed more like a warning than anything else and we were all allowed on our way (with Mags now fully clothed). Africa certainly does keep you on your toes.

Having spent a whole week in Vic Falls, we now have a pretty good feel for the place and the people there. I loved it there and would go back in a heartbeat. We met so many really friendly people in all corners of the place. There was Michael Johnson who wrapped and packed all our curios for us at his little stall at the rear of the market. The guy in the post office was called Faint and was such a warm and friendly character that went out of his way to help us every time we needed to send a parcel. Butterfly was the huge, cuddly, bouncer at Explorer’s bar. Romeo was one of a dozen or more of the regulars on the street trying to hook tourists so that he could earn a little bit of commission. Andy, our taxi driver and personal guide was always there for us when we needed him and kept a watchful eye on our safety. Warren and Vusa, who were manning their posts at Shearwater’s Adventures always had a smile on their faces and did a lot of phoning around for us. Gift, the waiter at the rest camp, was always nice to chat with. The two lodge shuttle bus drivers were also always good for a quick, friendly chat. Several market traders that we bought curios from got to know us on a first name basis but I can’t pronounce, much less spell, their respective names. Almost everyone on the streets knew who we were after a while and people would whistle hello to us, as we would walk up and down the town. So many nice people that the average tourist would ignore or dismiss as irritating touts became our friends during the time that we spent there. We collected a number of addresses and contact details and I must remember to send some T-shirts or some other things for them when we return back to Europe.

One of the challenging, yet rewarding in a way, elements of travelling through Africa is the unpredictability that we must constantly deal with. Since we arrived in Vic Falls, we were immediately thinking of our continued, onward journey, yet it took a full week to get anything concrete sorted out. During the course of the several days that we were there, we were arranging and re-arranging a whole host of different options for moving on. Initially, we were going to take another overland tour with Nomad up through Zambia, Malawi and into Tanzania with Dar Es Salaam being the termination point. After 19 days of rough, dirty and difficult camping, we decided that this might be too much of a good thing after all. Also, since Sandy was keen to get back to Europe sooner rather than later, we really couldn’t afford the time for another three-week overland trip. Our next option was to get a train from Vic Falls up into Dar Es Salaam but this feel through due to the limiting factor of no trains running from Vic Falls. There is, however, a minibus service that would take us from Livingstone in Zambia to Lusaka in about five hours. Once in Lusaka, we could get the ‘ordinary’ train to Capiri and then the ‘express’ train across the border and up into Dar. We looked at this option a few times but the regularity and reliability of the train services might have left us stranded in places where we would be out of place as backpackers so this idea was eventually rejected as a primary option but might otherwise be used as a failsafe backup option. Since flying out of Vic Falls is an expensive proposition, we were desperate to arrange a surface transportation option and next turned out attention to possibly catching a life with one of the dozen or more overland trucks that come through Vic Falls every week. We were having no luck finding a truck that was transiting and were starting to get desperate when we bumped into a Wildlife crew at the rest camp that were keen to assist us. We were to meet with them the following morning but when we got up and went to where their truck was parked, they had already gone and had left no messages behind. Then, yesterday morning, we bumped into another overland staff member, from Drifters I believe, that had three trucks that were heading up North. We were welcome to hitch a ride with them if we could get to Livingstone, just across the border in Zambia. The only problem was that he wanted $100 each for the privilege. Since we had such a lousy experience trying to obtain US dollars in Zambia the day before together with the fact that his trucks were going to take almost a full week to traverse the distance, this option pretty much evaporated also. My last hope was to call the Wildlife headquarters again to speak with Clair about getting on the northbound truck that she had told me about the other day. It took a bit of phoning around but we eventually got confirmation that we could hitch a ride but would need to arrange our own transport to Harare. As luck would have it, we managed to book the one-way flight this morning for a mere $59 per person.

And so it came to pass that we are now in Harare, even though we never had any concrete, or even tentative, plans to be here up till this morning. Who knows where we will be tomorrow or next week.

Since we will not be spending the full four-months in Africa as allowed by our flight ticket, we have had to shave a couple of destinations of the list and so we will not be seeing South Luawanga (the wildlife national park in Zambia that Theron had recommended to us), Dar Es Salaam or Zanzibar – at least not this time around. Perhaps we will return to Africa in the future to see these places. Instead, we are now trying to make our way to Arusha, where we are supposedly able to organise some safari tours into the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. I cannot leave Africa without visiting these places. They are also our last hope of seeing the Leopard and Cheetah in the wild.

Returning to the events of today, we said a very sad goodbye to Bertie and Mags this afternoon at the airport. After packing half our gear, we went into town this morning to book our Air Zimbabwe flight to Harare. We had arranged for Andy to pick us up but he didn’t show and so we had to take the shuttle bus instead. We later learned that his taxi had broken down. We booked the flights quite easily and efficiently from the Air Zimbabwe office next to the post office and we also took the opportunity to say goodbye to some of the regulars on the street and at Shearwater’s. Andy came up to the lodge with his wife and little girl and subsequently took us to the airport. Chez, the friendly and very helpful public relations office from the lodge through which Bertie and Mags had their lodge accommodation arranged, took them in his car and we met up with each other there.

The flight to Harare was uneventful up till the point when the luggage belt in Harare stopped and we were missing Sandy’s carved walking stick. After a bit of a verbal exchange between myself and the baggage handling staff that was quite content to just knock off and head home, they went back to the aircraft and eventually found the walking stick.

We met the Wildlife driver that was sent to the airport to pick us up and he took us into Harare to the Small World backpackers place. As he dropped us off here, he picked up Theron who we had said goodbye to in Vic Falls almost a week ago. Strange how small the world can be, sometimes.

We have a Spartan but otherwise very nice room with an on-suite shower – although the hot water pressure is extremely low and opening the cold water tap more than a fraction of an inch forces cold water down the pipes so fast that a hot shower is practically impossible. We do have a brand new mattress, however, and so should be quite comfortable for the two nights that we must spend here until our truck arrives from Jo’Burg early on Sunday morning.

We’re not quite sure yet if the truck will be able to take us into Arusha directly or whether or not we will go right the way through to Nairobi. I looked at a map of Africa briefly back in Vic Falls and it seems like Arusha is on the way so I am hopeful. Otherwise, there is a shuttle bus service that goes between Nairobi and Arusha for about $20 per person but I don’t know how long this takes and, frankly, by the time we’ve spent three or four days covering the distance from here to there, we probably won’t be in any kind of mood for another marathon drive.

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