Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category

Zim and Zam

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

After a difficult border crossing with the Zimbabwean customs agents telling us we did not have the proper paperwork for our Sani, we finally made it into Zambia. My guess is that they were trying to find something to charge us for, but eventually gave up and just let us go. We set off into Zambia with a sigh of relief to be out of Zimbabwe. It hasn’t all been bad in Zimbabwe, the people seem very friendly. In fact, on our way into the country, we met a Zimbawean also crossing the border who helped us at customs and gave us his phone number in Harare, offering to show us around. For the most part, it’s hard to criticize the Zimbabweans for what they have to resort to in order to make money. It must be difficult to live under a government where corruption is not only condoned, it’s rewarded. I don’t imagine most people want to use deception to make money, but it’s the only way.
another fuel crisis just outside Chirundu, ZambiaWell, we thought we were free and clear in Zambia, knowing we could get gas anytime we want, little did we know…Thirty km or so after the border crossing, the truck wasn’t running very well–not accelerating over the hills, and sputtering. Another 5km pass, and on the way up a hill, the engine cuts off, and we roll back down onto a bridge that is a construction site. By this time we realize that we are out of gas, which doesn’t seem possible considering the 80L we just put in at the border should take us about 600km. I can’t confirm this, but it’s likely we paid $140 and didn’t get any gas in Zimbabwe. The construction workers come to see why we are stopping on their worksite. And Mike learns that the nearest town is about 8km. He hitches a ride with a jerry can in hand. Only about 6 cars pass before someone is willing to give him a lift. According to Mike, he got in and they cranked up the radio, and didn’t say a word. He returned an hour later with gas, and we were on our way, again.

Mana Pools NP

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

accomodations in Mana Pools National Park We had no intention of spending more than one night in Zimbabwe(which we did at the Holiday Inn at Mutare), but then at the last minute we decided to detour to Mana Pools National Park, where there are no fences between you and the animals. It’s noted for it’s great beauty, and therefore a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park is off the main highway and one of the last stops before the border of Zambia. We arrived at the park office around 5:30pm, and received approval to head to the gate and into the park (the gate usually closes at 3:30pm). Once we arrived at the gate, we were told it was another 30km on a potholed dirt road to the checkpoint. After an hour we arrived, and were told to continue on another 45km to the campsite. Looking at the fuel gauge, we figured we had enough to get to the campsite and back with just a little to spare.
By this time it’s dark out with still the last 20km to go, we run into an elephant bull in the middle of the road side. Rather than move back into the bush, the elephant decides to walk towards us, and keep walking towards us. Mike backs the car up, but he keeps following us. His ears are flapping, and is aggressively shaking his trunk. He backs us up about 1km, and by this time we decide we need to take action, as this elephant won’t give up. At one point, the elephant is slightly off to the side of the road and we decide this is our chance to get past. As we inch forward, the rogue elephant moves its body back into the road. Mike guns the engine, but forgets to shift gears, so the engine is roaring, and the elephant rears on its hind legs and jumps right into the bush. We were scared,and so was the elephant who went tearing into the bush. (It was kind of funny in the end, and I felt sorry for the elephant, too).
View from Mana Pools accomodations Initially we planned to camp, as they said there were no cabins available, but when we arrived, it was pitch black(and not possible to make camp), so we were offered lodging in a chalet. The guide told us the price, but said for us he would give the South African rate (which was half price). The way he gave us the offer Mike and I both knew he planned to pocket the money. It’s off-season at Mana Pools, and we were the only guests in the entire park. Eventhough we had a thatched chalet, the accommodations were rundown — the door was a gate, the windows had no glass, only chicken wire and a screen. Giant spiders lived inside. No running water. I slept in a twin bed, suffocating from the heat of the night with the mosquito net tucked under the mattress. All night we heard an orchestra of sounds– peacocks cackling, monkeys calling each other, hippos grunting, and an elephant trumpeting.
The next morning we woke up to birds chirping softly and viewed the beauty of Mana Pools, so different during the day than at night.

traffic violation

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

After adding fuel to the tank, we headed off again. We made it to the city limits of Karoi, and I got pulled over by the police. We were informed I was speeding, going 80km/hr in a 60km zone. Rather than ask for our license and registration, he asked us where we were from. We said Cape Town, and he asked us how much Rand we brought him from South Africa. Rather than negotiate, we just gave him 100R for each of the officers on duty. He actually seemed relieved, and very grateful for the money. (We heard some government jobs have gone without pay, meanwhile Mugabe is celebrating in style for his birthday.)


Friday, February 22nd, 2008

We’re heading to Victoria Falls from Mozambique, and the most direct route is to cut straight through Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe is unfortunate, though, and we seriously considered driving hundreds of kilometers out of our way in order to avoid the country all together. Then we spoke to a few Zimbabweans, and they all reassured us that the country might be a mess, but that we would be safe. Inflation continues to rise, with a loaf of bread costing upto 50,000,000 Zim Dollars (or $5USD), and continued sanctions on Zimbabwe make daily life difficult which increases the need for a black market. Our planned route was to go from the eastern border of Mutare, drive through Harare(the capital), and exit Zimbabwe on the western border of Chirundu–the distance of 600kms.

The lack of fuel tends to be a problem for any road trip in Zimbabwe. When we entered the border, a Zimbabwean man informed us that there was no fuel in Harare, but they were hopeful the petrol trucks would arrive the next day. The shortage of fuel is typically for unleaded gas, not diesel. As you drive by the gas stations, they have a sign out front that says “diesel” and “petrol” with a “yes” or “no” next to it written in chalk.

A few hours later, when we arrived into Harare it appeared they did get their delivery of petrol, and Mike and I figured that meant the country had gas, so we kept driving. Then we took a wrong turn, and ended up adding another hour to our drive. By the time we had driven halfway through, I decided we should stop in Karoi to fill up. But there was no petrol in Karoi, except for the farmers. The attendant at the station suggested we try the black market. So, I asked where was it? A man seated next to her stood up, and voila! we were back in business. Rather than $1.40/L, we were charged $2.00/L. Most of the Zimbabweans prefer US Dollars, not Zim Dollars. We bought 50L.

From the petrol station, we drove this man into a back street of a neighborhood, where another car followed us that had a large plastic barrel of gas sitting in the back seat. They told us that all of the stores in town had closed down, there are no jobs left, and the only way to make any money is through the black market. They pay truck drivers to fill their second gas tank with petrol from a neighboring country. There is even a fixed price for black market gas, the man helping us was called by another black market to raise his price because he was undercutting his competition. This man sincerely wants a job where he knows he will earn a paycheck at the end of each week, but he’s not hopeful that will happen any time soon.