PART 1, GENERAL INFORMATION
Capital city: Harare
Population: 13 million
Km travelled: 3490
Days in Zimbabwe: 66
Languages: 16 in total; main language Chewa, Chibarwe, English and Kalanga
Zimbabwe from Africa’s Breadbasket to the basket case.
The country that was once dubbed “the breadbasket of Africa” suffered more than $12 billion in lost agriculture revenue since Mugabe came to power and started the land reforms seizing farms from white citizens. One of Africa’s strongest economies shrank to half the size it had been at independence in 1980. Zimbabwe’s transformation from exporter to importer of food is blamed by some analysts on the land reform program, which saw white commercial farmers lose farms to landless blacks who are lacking the skills to farm nor have the capital. Today (2010), fewer than 300 white farmers remain on portions of their original land holdings in Zimbabwe and many of the seized farms lie dormant, dilapidated and in ruins. What has been Zimbabwe’s loss has been a gain for neighbouring Zambia, where some of these farmers moved bringing with them decades of expertise for farming similar, arable land. Amazing how such a beautiful and rich country can be so mismanaged. All due to President Mr Robert Mugabe and his government hating white man.
According to the institute for security (ISS) it was concluded that due to the deterioration of government and the economy “the government encourages corruption to make up for its inability to fund its own institutions”, with widespread and informal police roadblocks to issue fines to travellers, ripping off tourist. We hear that public servants do not get paid for months on end and people are hungry. Roadblocks are set up for govt officials to obtain an extra income for police, officials and army. Today minerals, gold and agriculture are still the main foreign exports of Zimbabwe. The mining sector remains very lucrative, with some of the world’s largest platinum reserves being mined by Anglo American PLC and Impala Platinum. The Marange diamond fields, discovered in 2006, are considered the biggest diamond find in over a century. They have the potential to improve the fiscal situation of the country considerably, but almost all revenues from the field have disappeared into the pockets of army officers and ZANU-PF politicians. The downward spiral of the economy has been attributed mainly to mismanagement and corruption by the government and the eviction of more than 4,000 white farmers in the controversial land confiscations between 2000 and today. By 2016 there were about 300 farms owned by white farmers left, out of the original 4,500. Inflation rose from an annual rate of 32% in 1998, to an official estimated high of 11,200,000% in August 2008, according to the country’s Central Statistical Office! This represented a state of hyperinflation and the central bank introduced a new 100 trillion dollar note. On 29 January 2009, to counteract runaway inflation, Zimbabweans were permitted to use other, more stable currencies to do business, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar. To combat inflation and foster economic growth the Zimbabwean Dollar was suspended indefinitely on 12 April 2009. In 2016 Zimbabwe allowed trade in USD, EURO, PULA and the pound sterling. The government’s land reform program badly damaged the sector, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products. Between 2000 and 2016 annual wheat production fell by 75%, Maize was reduced by 75% and cattle slaughtered for beef fell 66%. Coffee production, once a prized export commodity, came to a complete halt after seizure or expropriation of white-owned coffee farms in 2000 and has never recovered. After being charged 90USD dollars at Roberts Camp for entry and 1-night camping (yes 90.00USD!) (these figures were official as they were advertised on the board for Foreign Vehicles and foreigners) we vowed never to return to Zimbabwe. BUT the Zimbabwe people are so unbelievable friendly and so hard done by. It breaks your heart when you hear the hardship they face day to day. Not to mention the white Zimbabweans who lost everything, many of them third and fourth generation Zimbabwe citizens. Why on earth they stay in a country that hates their own people is beyond believe for us. But we have made many friends in Zimbabwe, from truck drivers, camp site managers, rangers, local black people and white Zimbabweans. All afraid of Army, Police and local Politicians.
The town lies immediately next to the Victoria Falls, just across the border from Livingstone in Zambia. One of the greatest attractions in Africa and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, the Zambezi river forms the natural boundary with Zambia and when in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world’s largest curtain of falling water. The Victoria Falls are the major tourist attraction in Zimbabwe (possible the only one for most international travellers).
Zambia or Zimbabwe side?
Unfortunately, we think the town (Victoria Falls) is way overpriced and we would recommend visiting the Zambia side instead. “The Smoke That Thunders”, commonly known as Victoria Falls, is one of the most amazing sights in the world and together with Iguazu Falls one of the most spectacular we have seen.
To cross the border from Zambia to see the falls on the Zimbabwe side, you will need to pay at least US$30 for a Zimbabwe single entry visa (depending on nationality), and if you want to return the Zambian side, you will need to pay an extra US$20 for a multiple entry Zambian visa. To cross the border from the Zimbabwean side to the Zambian side you will need to pay an at least US$20 for a single day Zambian visa, and at least an extra US$15 for a multiple entry Zimbabwean visa. Entry to the falls at the Zimbabwe side was another 30USD pp for foreigners.
The walk down to below the falls is closed on the Zimbabwean side. You can only walk down on the Zambian side. The footbridge on the Zambian side gives a unique experience, with a permanent torrential rain from the wet season through to August.
MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK.
Mana Pools National Park, south of the Zambezi river in the north of Zimbabwe, is a UNESCO world heritage site. A remote location with poor roads, but an abundance of elephants, hippos, lions, antelopes and other animals and bird, in a stunning landscape. This is a must do park. Great camping on the Zambezi River.
Great Zimbabwe is a medieval city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. The stone city spans an area of 7.22 square kilometres (1,780 acres) which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. It is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
THE BVUMBA MOUNTAINS
Or the Vumba Mountains, straddle the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border and are situated some 25 km south east of Mutare. The Bvumba rise to Castle Beacon at 1,911 metres, and are, together with the Chimanimani and Nyanga, part of the Eastern Highlands of the Manicaland and adjacent Manica provinces. They are referred to as the “Mountains of the Mist”
NYANGA NATIONAL PARK
Located in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Between 1800m and 2593 meters high it provides cool weather, stunning mountainous views and numerous waterfalls.
HWANGA NATIONAL PARK
This was one of Africa’s top parks. Roaming Hwange’s savanna grasslands and woodlands you will still find the Big Five and it still has a large herd of Elephants which at one stage was estimated to be 35000. During our visit the park was overpriced and few wildlife left due to poaching.
MATABO HILLS NATIONAL PARK
Small park close to Bulawayo also known as Matopos. This beautiful but little visited area has both black and white Rhino’s but no Lions or Elephants.
Landlocked Zimbabwe’s answer to the Ocean, sharing a border with Zambia, Lake Kariba is best explored by boat. Matusadona National Park lies on the shores and according to the locals is home to the BIG 5. During our trip we did spot lots of elephants, hippo’s and crocodiles (hippo’s and elephants in our campsite also).
The second largest city in Zimbabwe. Since 1992 Bulawayo has water shortages; due to lack of expansion in facilities and supplies, they become steadily more acute. Power cuts are a regular occurrence and cholera broke out in 2008. Bulawayo had a large manufacturing presence with large industries based here before Zimbabwe’s economic collapse. However, some of these companies have either moved operations to South Africa or Harare or closed down, which has crippled Bulawayo’s economy. Most factories are deserted and the infrastructure has since been left to deteriorate.
Harare, formerly Salisbury, is the capital of Zimbabwe and leading financial, commercial, and communications centre, and a trade centre for tobacco, maize, cotton, and citrus fruits. Manufactured goods include textiles, steel and chemicals, and gold is mined in the area. The University of Zimbabwe, the country’s oldest university (founded in 1952), is situated in Mount Pleasant, about 6 km north of the city centre. It is also the main distribution point for the agricultural produce of the surrounding area, especially tobacco.
Zimbabwe has a tropical climate with many local variations. The southern areas are known for their heat and aridity, parts of the central plateau receive frost in winter. The Zambezi valley is also known for its extreme heat and the Eastern Highlands usually experience cool temperatures and the highest rainfall in the country. The country’s rainy season generally runs from late October to March and the hot climate is moderated by increasing altitude. Zimbabwe is faced with recurring droughts, the latest one commencing early in 2015 and ongoing into 2016.
Summer: 15 degrees at night to 33 degrees during the day
Winter: 0 degrees at night to 28 degrees during the day
Rain: December to March
Summer: 19 degrees at night to 40 degrees during the day
Winter: 10 degrees at night to 30 degrees during the day
Rainfall: November to March
Summer: 15 degrees at night to 32 degrees during the day
Winter: 5 degrees at night to 25 degrees during the day
Rainfall: November to February
Summer: 16 degrees at night to 32 degrees during the day
Winter: 0 degrees at night to 28 degrees during the day
Rainfall: December to February
Summer: 15 degrees at night to 30 degrees during the day
Winter: 5 degrees at night to 26 degrees during the day
Rainfall: November to March
PART 2, BLOGS, PICTURES & GALLERY
All went well, and we arrived in Zimbabwe at 8PM that night after a 14-hour drive. Just before the border closed but not before we got ripped off by a fixer who worked together with a custom agent and the bank teller. WELCOME TO ZIMBABWE. (more below) Entering Zimbabwe from the East is picture perfect with many waterfalls, streams and lush vegetation.
We left our bush camp 20KM west of Mutare the next morning, but unfortunately for us in heavy rain and mist. We changed our plans and decided to give Mtarazi falls a miss and travel to Harare to meet up with our friends who we met in 2010 while in Mozambique. Last time in Harare (2010) we never went to see the Tobacco auctions. This fast-paced auction is fun to look at. We got among the action on the floors where farmers on one side sell bales of tobacco to brokers on the other. Tobacco used to be one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign-exchange earners and the country produced the best leaf in the world. We had a great time in Harare with the people we met in 2010 and got a good insight in life in Zimbabwe.
Last year we vowed never to return to Zimbabwe, but the fighting between Government forces and Renamo made it dangerous to cross from Central to Northern Mozambique. Hence the opportunity to join an army convoy to the Zimbabwe border was our only other choice. Please understand the people of Zimbabwe are friendly. The issue is with the Public servants, Army and Police being all very corrupt and getting away with it as it is condoned by the leaders of Zimbabwe. Mr Average shows strength living under such difficult circumstances with a police and army force everyone is afraid off and who gets away with collecting bribes from all as the people in the street are afraid of them. Our crossing into Zimbabwe from Mozambique showed that fixers, custom agents, banks and insurance people all work together, and the name of the game is to rip off the white man, any foreigner or tourist!! It was 8PM a few minutes before the border closed and after being told by customs to use the fixer we had no choice. It became very clear that when I wanted to change money the bank told me to use the fixer? I required insurance the insurance guy told me to use the fixer, road tax the same. In the end we negotiated a 75% discount, but we still paid $25 too much. If I had the time I am sure we would have had this solved but at closing time at the border it was either stay overnight in a Renamo controlled Mozambique or pay up. The fixer, police, customs, bank teller and insurance guy were fully aware of this and used the situation to their advantage. Disturbing is the fact that officials allow police-army and public servants to be corrupt and accept bribes resulting in the few tourists still visiting Zimbabwe being ripped off at land borders, road blocks and when visiting National parks. We hear that public servants did not get paid for months on end and road blocks are set up so poorly paid police, and army can obtain an extra income. Can you believe in 1980 Z$(Zimbabwe dollar) was more valuable than the USD? The use of the Zimbabwean dollar as an official currency was effectively abandoned on 12 April 2009. At present, Zimbabwe literally has no national currency. A combination of foreign currencies, including the South African Rand, EU Euro, and US dollar are the main means of exchange. The Zimbabwe people are so unbelievable friendly and so hard done by. It breaks your heart when you hear the hardship they face day to day. Not to mention the white Zimbabweans who lost everything, many of them third and fourth generation. Why on earth they stay in a country that hates their own people is beyond believe for us. We have made many friends in Zimbabwe, from truck drivers to camp site managers, rangers, local black people and white Zimbabweans. All are afraid of Army, Police and local politicians. YOU DESERVE A MUST BETTER GOVERNMENT. STAND UP!!! For me and Clary it is not easy to understand why a white man wants to live in a country where you are not welcome despite being 3rd or 4th generation Zimbabwean. I would have left years ago.
As immigrants ourselves living in Australia we are so lucky that not only have we been accepted by the Australians, they allowed us to set up a business and create a life style. I wish all my Zimbabwean friends (white and black) all the best and a new government that will get this country back to its former glory.
Last but not the least I would hope that South Africa learns from the Zimbabwe disaster and carefully looks at the plans of land rights, and the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) as it is now 20 years ago that Apartheid finished hence any black person over 26 years has had the same opportunities as a white person.
PART 3, BLOGS, PICTURES & GALLERY
Last time that we visited Zimbabwe was 2010, no doubt things had improved a little. BUT
Zimbabwe has an average income of around 100USD p.p. per month or 230USD for the 30% at work and government workers are paid up to 500USD per month. Zimbabwe had a 70% unemployment rate as of 2014 and it is climbing. Now it is a matter of rip off the European Tourist, no service and most places in disrepair once you leave Victoria Falls.
1. 2 visa’s 60USD, Road Tax for our truck 110USD, Road Tax for our Motor Bike 20USD. This is just to get into to Zimbabwe. (it took over 3 hours as only one custom agent was working with around 100 people lining up).
2. Camp ground Victoria Falls: 41USD! At least it had a pool and showers. No Bush Camping allowed.
3. Entry to Victoria Falls 30USD per person!! for European/Australian/New Zealand Passport holders. SADC countries pay 20USD
4. Hwange National Park 20USD per person park entrance, 15USD truck entrance, 17.50USD camping fee per person total cost for the night 90.00USD!!!! The place was in a state of disrepair. Advertised with Bar-Restaurant and Swimming pool we found that the Swimming pool was empty, the restaurant was closed, the museum had no windows (broken) the bar was a fridge with some drinks in it and you guessed it at some ridiculous price.
We argued with the manager, told him that we felt being ripped off as foreigners in Zimbabwe and received the following answer “Sir if you do not like it in Zimbabwe you should leave our country”. Great suggestion and he was correct. Hence, we followed the 4×4 track back to the Botswana border at Pandamatenga. Article below interesting reading.http://www.newrepublic.com/…/zimbabwe-prices-why-are-they-h…
PART 4, BLOGS, PICTURES & GALLERY
Botswana Customs was fast, Zimbabwe Customs was very slow trucks and busses blocking the road and a long line of people in the hot sun it took over 1.5 hours to enter Zimbabwe. Anyway USD$60 for 2 Visas, USD$30 road tax, USD$30 Third Party Insurance, USD$10 Carbon Tax – USD$130 later! We are told things are scarce in Zimbabwe”. We were also told that we would be welcomed into Zimbabwe”. With that, he waved us through. We set up camp in Victoria Falls, went for a walk to the falls, but unfortunately still too much spray. We then headed for the world-famous Victoria Falls Hotel for drinks on the deck. While we were there we were told about the lookout in the National Park. So, with a security guide in tow, we followed the path only to be cut off by an elephant. Clary was happy! My idea was to walk off the track and re-join the track a few hundred metres later? “No! No! No!” the guide said. “We need to go back and follow another path”. Clary agreed quickly, and I had no say in the matter! But we do have some good pictures. Anyway, all in all, it was an exciting day. Time for a beer and sit around the fire.
VICTORIA FALLS and HWANGE NATIONAL PARK
After a scary elephant encounter on foot, we decided to give the walk through the bush back to the falls, a miss. Two problems – Clary was not sure that she wanted to see an elephant so close again and secondly, the Falls were obscured by the mist. We camped just 1km from the Falls on the Zimbabwe side and the noise of the water is unbelievable, and so is the mist, clearly visible from the campsite. It looks the monkeys (baboons) did a good job on our windscreen wiper on the driver`s side! That will need to be replaced. Wishful thinking in Zimbabwe. I will try and describe our first impression of Zimbabwe, the country that was once the bread basket of Africa. Despite being very poor with more than 80% unemployed, everyone has a smile and the people are extremely friendly and helpful. Sadly, many of the people we saw were obviously desperate. They were asking us to exchange our shoes for artefacts; children were asking for something to eat and the adults were asking for things to barter. We really felt sorry for them and it was hard to walk away and not buy or give them something.
When we arrived at the Hwange campsite, it became clear just how bad things are in Zimbabwe. No power, an empty shop (closed); the restaurant closed, and the bar closed. Nevertheless, the people still smiled. And like many other countries we have visited recently, the government here has joined the bandwagon and is now charging international guests double or triple the going rate despite not offering any service. You may not be aware, but the Zimbabwe currency is no longer in circulation as inflation went through the roof. We obtained paper money worth 25 million dollars that at one stage was worth 1 USD. Two weeks later it was worth 50 cents, today the only money acceptable in Zimbabwe is USD and South African Rand. Today we met two travellers who have travelled down from England in just 13 weeks! Obviously, we got talking and we exchanged information but as they had travelled so fast, the info was limited on the places they had visited. It was a late night. We were not only entertained by our friends Petre and Talana from Cape Town and Hennie and Madeleine from Graafwater, but we also ended up with the elephants for company in our campsite! We could also hear the calls of the hyena`s and jackals. As the night went on, the stories got better, the fire got bigger and the hyenas got closer, or so it seemed. Needless to say, we slept in this morning.
It was cold, very cold and the first thing we did was light the fire. Once the sun came up it didn`t take long to warm up. By 11am it was already over 30 degrees. Petre fixed my windscreen wiper and we also found another broken bracket for the roof lift. During our visit to Zimbabwe Holland played Denmark in the first round for the 2010 World Cup. Yesterday we missed out on the Germany vs Australia game (4-0). So, after talking to the locals, we were told of a lodge 22km away. “They should have TV”, we were told. Of we went and yes after being greeted by a soldier we were told we could watch TV in the Bar. The hotel would have been absolutely 5 stars and the best in its heyday. But all that has changed and now it is run down, probably because of a lack of tourists. The 100-room hotel had just 15 guests. The Bar had no change. BUT IT HAD TV. To make it even more special, the whole bar was surrounded by glass; we saw at least 50 elephants grazing on the other side of the pool, while the baboons had taken over the swimming pool. We had a few beers and Holland won the first game 2- nil with a little help from Denmark who scored the first goal for us. After the game we went for a drive to see Hwange`s wild life and we were told the lions would be very close to our campsite. Besides elephants, antelope, baboons, zebra and giraffe, we saw very little wild life. Tongue-in-cheek and yes, we have been spoiled. Back at camp around dark at about 6.15pm, we quickly lit the fire to ensure we stayed warm. Our Zimbabwean guards really looked after us as they delivered lots of wood and ensured the donkeys were loaded with wood to guarantee hot showers. Petre, Talana, Madeleine and Hennie invited us for dinner (Potje Kos) but Clary already had Brussels sprouts ready. However, a mixture of fish and mutton was not something I was sure I would have liked. Anyway, as it worked out the Potje Kos wasn`t ready until 10.15pm and most went to bed, so I think I made the right choice. Another cold morning and after a nice breakfast next to a warm fire we packed up and left for our overnight stop in Bulawayo. We are now on our way to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. We said goodbye to Petre, Talana, Hennie and Madeleine .We will meet them again in a week in North East Zimbabwe (Mana Mana Pools National Park) on the Zambezi River. Five police road-blocks in 200km was a bit much but the people are friendly and hungry. Not one stop was without the question “have you got something to eat” or “Have you something to give me” It is hard to believe that his country was the breadbasket of Africa.
Early afternoon we arrived in Bulawayo and needed to do some shopping. Shops are bare, and it took a little while before we found a shop that was well stocked. We filled up our tanks with fuel and there is no shortage of fuel at the moment. Bulawayo is the hub of the province of Matabeleland, which covers the western and southern part of Zimbabwe. It is not difficult to imagine Bulawayo 25 years ago. The streets and avenues are wide, and tree lined, and it has a mixture of architecture, which gives it a unique character. The parks are completely neglected, but they must have been stunning. The city park we are camping in tonight is in the middle of the city. I questioned whether it would be safe to camp here but as it turned out, we have 2 armed guards to look after us all night till 6am. Another problem in Zimbabwe is power failure and today is no difference. Zimbabweans love soccer. The population is not happy but does not really complain, despite not having had any power over the weekend and missing the opening games of the World Cup. The newspapers are censored so you would never know what was going on in the outside world. After a few days Bulawayo we left for Eastern Zimbabwe – the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. We decided to take a guide, so we can hear what the locals have to say. Our guide told us about the hardship they went through in 2008 and 2009. No food and no money. At one stage her monthly wages were worth 10 Rand. (1.60 AUD or 1 Euro) as the Zimbabwe dollar collapsed. She told us she lost over 40kg during this period and she was down to 39kg. Tourism had dried up completely. The currency then moved over to the US Dollar and it now means that the majority can`t afford to buy proper food because the prices are very high. Zimbabwe`s average income is around 150USD per month (cleaning ladies and gardeners around 80USD). Electricity supply and water is on and off, many people have no electricity or water and toilets are in the bush. No doubt life in the large cities like Harare and Bulawayo may be better.
GREAT ZIMBABWE RUINS
Our guide told us of the days Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa and she had happy memories of those times. Back to the great Zimbabwe Monument. The great Zimbabwe flourished between the 13th and 16th century. Great Zimbabwe was occupied from as early as the 9th century and by 1200AD it had become a large capital city of a fortune empire that was to last until 1450AD and even beyond. The effort and skill that was needed to cut all that stone and put it together into what is near perfect geometrical form, with only simple tools and technology, was amazing to see. UNESCO has given it World Heritage status. It has four main areas. 1. The hill complex; 2 The Eastern enclosure; 3 The great enclosure and 4 the Lower Valley Complex. The area also has a museum and curio shop. Due to a lack of government funding, the people here are very worried about the future of this important historical site. we set up camp next to the ruins and again we were allocated 2 armed guards. As it was very cold we had the fire roaring and the guards joined us for some warmth. During the night it became clear that life is not easy in Zimbabwe and many people wished the white farmers would come back. Just as we were told this afternoon by our guide, it is no good complaining and after a day`s work people go back to their hut and leave politics alone. One thing is for sure, Zimbabwe people are very hospitable, warm and friendly and most of the older people we met had some level of education. You would think that the English did a very good job here and from what we see and hear, many would people would love to go back to the old days.
Enroute to Harare we called Chris Sheppard who lives in Harare for tips where to bush camp around Harare. He offered for us to come past his office and he would find out for us. While driving north we saw lots of deserted farmhouses and shops wondering if this is where all the white farmers use to live? But we also saw well-kept farms including irrigation which to us looked like white farmers where still farming. Five police road blocks and 2 toll gates where you pay to drive on very poor roads, we arrived in Harare. A typical African city with very heavy traffic especially as the power was off and traffic lights were out of order. It was chaos! Chris had organized a Toyota dealer in Harare but unfortunately, they only serviced Toyota. No Fuso dealer in town. After this we were off to the campsite at Cleverden Dam. Unfortunately, no water, no electricity and the toilets were filthy! We then found out it was closed. But with no one around so okay to camp. Locals came around and advised of the dangers of wild camping in Zimbabwe? What now? We never had the feeling Zimbabwe was that unsafe. Chris offered us to stay in the garden of his house if we were unable to find anything. The following day we first tried Cresta Lodge as we saw security in front of the property. The Zimbabwean General Manager came out and allowed us to stay in the Lodge`s carpark and ensured us the security would look after us overnight. Going out that night it was very dark and as Harare has not many street lights, we were happy that we didn`t have to drive too far after dark. Also in Zimbabwe people must think driving with the driving lights turned on must cost fuel as the majority drives without lights at night. After leaving a bitterly cold Harare after around 5 days we headed for Lake Kariba. Seven police road-blocks in a 250km stretch of road. On one occasion they tried to book us for speeding, but after talking about everything but the fact I was driving 70km in a 60km zone, we were free to go. The second time we were stopped for not having any reflectors on the truck. Same story – we spoke to the police officer about beautiful Zimbabwe the rest of the world and that it was very cold. Once he looked at my International license, he asked, “What is this? Is this your Australian license? Yes? Okay I have never seen one like this”. And then we were ready to go. We had to pay the toll twice to fill the pockets of those in power, I guess.
We arrived at a very neglected tourist town called Kariba, which shows the years of deterioration in Zimbabwe. Our destination was a camp ground on Mica Hill overlooking Lake Kariba. Like the camping area in Bulawayo and Harare there is no water in the toilets, no water in the swimming pool, no customers, restaurant and bar were closed, and the power was switched off. All In all, a very poor state and you really feel sorry for the people who try to make a living, but there is no one around. We looked further in Kariba but except from fancy names for lodges, it appears it is the same everywhere. As it was a long weekend in Zimbabwe, you would expect this prime tourist town in Zimbabwe to be full. But not so! The town is known for the hire of houseboats but 95% were still available for hire. After checking with our Tracks for Africa we found a camp ground called Warthogs, right on the water’s edge, but as we were setting up elephants invaded the camp ground and we were warned to be careful. Last year some-one was killed here by an elephant. After a few days as the elephants invaded the camp ground every day Clary was not happy as they were big! Next door was the lake Kariba Boat Club with beautiful green lawns also right on the water’s edge. It was also fenced to keep the animals out (except the hippos), so we became members and could camp on the lawn near the water. Except for no hot water, this place is beautiful. Only to be warned half way through the night while having a BBQ outside the truck that the hippos had come out of the water and we had to make sure we stayed alert and go inside the truck. One night we had a relaxed night watching our camp fire. That was until I heard a loud noise behind the truck. I grabbed the torch and you would not believe it, but I stood eye to eye with a hippo! Lucky the hippo turned around and went on to do his business. As we investigated a little more we found that 6 or 7 hippos had invaded the camp site. So, we were on the lookout for the rest of the night. The hippos didn`t leave until early morning.
That day at 11 o`clock we were picked up by the captain of the boat we had hired. Until we arrived at the lake, we thought it would be a nice boat only to find it was a rundown cabin cruiser with an old 70HP motor. The skipper had no fuel and we were supposed to have brought our own! Anyway 30 minutes later after we gave him some money to buy fuel, we were on our way. But not before a five-metre crocodile made sure we knew he was hanging around and was in charge. Lake Kariba has one crocodile for every 100 meters of its 2000km shoreline. So as the warnings tells us to stay away from the water and do not swim, we will not be taking any risks. The lake was beautiful and as we cruised along the shore-line of the Matsodonia National Park, we could not believe the amount of crocodiles and hippos along the banks. The captain explained that lots of the wildlife had been eaten in the last few years up until 2009, because the people were hungry and had no money. He also explained about the hardship they had in Zimbabwe. But he feels things are now going better. He was hopeful tourists would come back in the next few years. Then we started to have engine problems. Lake Kariba is huge and when out in the middle, you feel you are on the ocean? After a few false starts we were on our way again, but a few kilometres before the Kariba harbour, the motor gave up completely! “No problem”, the captain told us. As he fiddled, I suggested a few times that he call his boss to come and get us because we were surrounded by crocodiles and hippos! He didn`t want to call his boss and he was determined to fix it. But he had no luck and we drifted into the swamp. At this stage he also realised we had a problem because he could not get out of the boat due to crocs and hippos! As it turned out, we had run out of fuel. One of us had to get out of the boat to get someone to go and get us some fuel. Anyway, there was no way Clary, or I was going to get out of the boat, so it had to be the captain. We stayed behind and the villagers on the shore had a lot of fun with us being surrounded by crocodiles and hippos! At this stage Clary took refuge in the cabin, which had no doors or windows. It only took 30 minutes before the captain got back but it felt like 2 hours. He organized a friend with another boat to deliver fuel to us. Twenty minutes later, we were on our way again. What we think may have happened is when we gave him money for fuel, he kept the money we gave him and took off with what little fuel was left in the tank. THIS IS AFRICA, and this is a day we will remember! Lake Kariba starts its life at Victoria Falls, swirls through Batoka Gorge to the old Zambezi River and on to Kariba Gorge. The dam wall has a height of 128 Meters and produces a lake of 5200 sq. km at full capacity. Kariba is one of the hottest towns in Zimbabwe with summer temperatures going over 40 degrees. Lake Kariba is full of islands formed from the hilltops after the lake was flooded. During 2008 and 2009, most wild life was killed for human consumption because people were hungry and had no money. Our guide told us that it got so bad at one stage that people where eating leaves and tree roots. It was easy to stay longer after a wonderful day on the lake, however Petre, Talana, Hennie and Madeleine are meeting us tonight at Mana Pools.
MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK
The drive to Mana Pools was uneventful except for a truck that crashed. Some of these guys drive like maniacs and sometimes we feel safer in the bush surrounded by a pride of lions than what we do out on the open road. We expected the road in to be bitumen after we had paid USD100 per night for the campsite. How wrong we were, the first 30km took us 2 hours (15km per hour) and the second 45km took us 1.5 hours. But it was worth the drive. Our campsite is right on the Zambezi River and crocodiles and hippos are keeping us entertained. The views are picture postcard perfect with Zambia just across the river. Petre, Talana, Hennie and Madeleine arrived around 4pm. We set up camp and then realised that we were right in the path of the hippos coming out of the water at night. As South Africans say, “we make a plan”. I made a plan and after talking to the ranger we decided to have our campfire right in the middle of where the hippos come out of the water. As the night progressed we heard the hippos and crocodiles all around us. And just as Petre and group were going to have dinner (chicken), one hippo tried to get out right next to us! For us, it meant a mad dash for our tents, truck and caravan, but the hippo turned around and left only to get out of the river about 20 meters from us and disappear into the darkness of the campsite. During the night more, hippos came out and we also heard elephants and the roar of a lion in the morning. The fire did its job and kept the animals at some distance from us. Mana Pools National Park is a rectangular-shaped area of land covering 2196 sq. km. Between its boundaries at the Rukomechi River in the west and the Sapi River in the east, it stretches for 50km along the Zambezi. Mana Pools used to flood badly but since the building of the Kariba Dam upstream, this has been greatly reduced. The escarpment around Mana Pools reaches 1100m. We camped at the river at 350m. During the afternoons we drove around the northern part of the park following the mighty Zambezi River. Except for crocodiles and hippos, we saw very little wild life. Once back at camp we cranked up the fire and settled down for drinks and enjoyed one of those beautiful African sunsets. At around 8pm we heard something at the back of our camp. When we investigated, we found 6 or 7 hyenas sneaking around looking for food. We packed everything up in the hope they would go away. Then just as we were about to sit down in front of the fire to enjoy a night cap, we heard another noise. This time, standing less than 20 meters from our camp there was a very large bull elephant. It too, wanted to inspect our camp. Clary, Talana and Madeleine already had taken refuge in the tents and our truck. After about 15 minutes, the elephant had had enough, and it walked away behind our truck. It was then that we realised the sheer size of the animal. It was bigger than our truck! The rest of the night was typical African with lot of noise, hyenas in the camp and the roar of lions right through the night until sunrise. In the morning, we were told a lion had wandered into our camp but we didn`t see it. Due to all the activity overnight, we all were up early. We inspected the campsite for animals and then we had coffee around the fire. Because we had no luck spotting wild life in the afternoon, yesterday, we decided to go for a morning drive. Unfortunately, we still didn`t see much game except impala, crocodiles, hippos, waterbuck and zebras. As I mentioned before, we believe most animals were killed during the last few years because people where very hungry. We also tried to visit a mass grave but unfortunately this area was closed off. For the rest of the week we lazed around, had jaffles for lunch. Clary burnt hers but mine were perfect! Did afternoon drives and enjoyed our campfire. We then repacked the truck for the long trip to Lusaka. By leaving at 6am, we should get to the main road at about 10.30am. From there it is another 200km to the border crossing. (Back into Zambia) On the last day at Mana Pools we met a local who is saving money to meet a prophet in Nigeria. He believes this prophet will cure him of HIV/AIDS. As this is what he believed, we did not question him. He introduced us to his wife and told us she had a clean bill of health. We have been told that in Zimbabwe, nearly 45% of the population between 16 and 35 years of age have contracted the HIV virus.
Early this morning we left Mana Pools but not before saying goodbye to our Cape Town friends Petre, Talana and kids and new friends Hennie and Madeleine. The company we had was great, camping on the Zambezi was stunning and so was the wild life (including at the campsite at night). After 3.5 hours we reached the main road to the border. The border crossing was as we now are used to, full of corrupt officials (Funny as Robert Mugabe opened this post) and still takes a lot of effort. It was off to Zambia. The road was bad to get out of Mana Pools and we are wondering what happens to the 100USD per night for camping plus 30USD park fees we pay? Mugabe`s driveway maybe??
TIME TO REFLECT ON OUR ZIMBABWE TIME
While relaxing at Lake Kariba it also was time to reflect on our Zimbabwe travel and the stories we heard from both black and white people. All the black and the white people we spoke to are very proud of their country and proudly say that they did not walk away when things became tough. Most black people we spoke to do not agree with the white farmers being evicted from their farms as they do not have the expertise to run the farms themselves. Most do not agree with the way the government runs Zimbabwe. The people we spoke to wish the white farmers would return because they all remember when Zimbabwe was the bread-basket of Africa. As we drove around Zimbabwe, we saw deserted farms, deserted shops and empty shops (except in Livingstone, Bulawayo, Harare and Masvingo). Poor telecommunications, traffic lights not working, no street lights (no bulbs) or wiring hanging loose. The cost of food is very high, as the Zimbabwe currency is obsolete and only USD is accepted. Police at road- blocks are looking for food and bribes. Today in the paper it even stated that there were illegal road- blocks. Police openly admitted that they make more money on road- blocks than they do with their wages. In the same paper you read about council workers not been paid for over one year. The government pays tribute to the mine- workers at Hwange for their resilience during the tough times. You can also assume they didn`t get paid either. Wages in Zimbabwe are around 80USD per month for a gardener, maid, cleaning lady and around 200 for a police officer or school teacher. If you see the prices in the shop you understand that you can`t survive hence we were constantly asked to trade souvenirs for clothing or shoes we were wearing etc. It is terrible to witness this chaos and poverty in a once prosperous country. Since Independence, things started to go downhill but between 2000 and 2008 it became a disaster. Inflation was no longer measurable, 90% of the population where struggling on incomes below the poverty line, and 50% of those were undernourished. 85% of the population was unemployed, Industrial production was down from 75% to less than 10%, whilst agriculture production, which was the foundation of the previously strong and successful economy, has fallen by almost 70%. It created an unsustainable national debt of quintillions of dollars. The infrastructure is on the point of collapse with electricity supplies erratic in the extreme. No water in some areas and in other areas so appalling that recurrent outbreaks of Cholera are occurring. In fact, when driving into Bulawayo, a large sign warned us about Cholera. It is believed that nearly 4,000 people died and 70,000 were infected. Hospitals are hardly functioning, the educational infrastructure is collapsing, rail services are unreliable and the roads we drove on are very poor and do not seem to get proper maintenance. However, despite the abysmal state of the country, the people are the friendliest we have met in Southern Africa. Not once did we not feel safe.
PART 5 VIDEO CLIPS
- Compilation Africa & Middle East
2. Compilation Africa & Middle East