HELLO + WELCOME to Zimbabwe. It’s G here today sitting back in Malawi recollecting our time spent in Zim for all to hear about. This post will be followed up by an article that Kirst has written for the next edition of Pat Callinan’s 4×4 Adventures magazine. For now I am sharing our time with you. Enjoy the post.
We arrived into Zim from the border near Victoria Falls in Zambia called Kasangula. Immediately we were greeted by a tall skinny man with a toothy smile. His yellow uniform stood out in the crowd. He greeted us with an outstretched hand and huge smile. Kennedy was the designated ‘Tourist Helper’ at the border. He welcomed us by saying “You are most welcome in my great country of Zimbabwe. Oh, you are from Australia. Maybe I can swap you a small elephant for a kangaroo?” Kennedy was a breath of fresh air and a shining example of the hope and kindness which Zimbabwe exudes. We told him we were very excited to be here.
HWANGE NATIONAL PARK AND THE DOUBLE RAINBOW
We had a plan to visit as much of Zim as we could because the last time we were both here it was only the ‘touristy’ Vic Falls we visited. It was great to be in Zimbabwe… we both felt good and after a quick visit to the falls we headed south towards Hwange NP. We knew that we were in ZIm at the end of the wet season so the grass would be tall and less animals around. Our first night in the park we stayed at the main camp. Things were run down and poorly maintained but everything was spotlessly clean. The bathroom was from the 60s and even though the toilet seats were cracked they were scrubbed clean. The cleaners had even potted plants into empty water bottles and placed them in the corners. No money had gone into the place, but plenty of love.
Our first safari drive we spotted a few Eley’s and some Lion in the distance. Concerned we may not see much the next day we headed out early and were rewarded with a lone lion on the road drinking from puddles and basking in the morning sun. Such a beautiful sight. We were also lucky to see some of Mother Nature’s work in all its glory. A double rainbow so bright we could clearly make out all ends.
The water holes inside the National Park also proved to turn out better than expected. We spotted a round motherly hippo looking after her calf in the morning sun. Hwange was also full of some crazy looking birds. We caught a hornbill with our front bumper but he was very lucky and managed to fly out once we pulled the rig to a complete stop.
:: I got your back, baby
:: The roads inside Hwange were are a little more tame compared to the crazy drivers outside, but that’s not saying much
:: That’s no semi trailer. Thank goodness.
A LOCAL GEM IN BULAWAYO
Leaving the National Park we again headed south towards Zim’s second biggest city, Bulawayo. Not an intended stop but due to the lack of accommodation in between attractions it was sort of forced. We pulled into one of the camps that the Bradt Guide had recommended but it was full with two overland trucks. Digging deep we found a cool little Municipal camp right in town. Beautiful lush, manicured gardens it was actually totally unexpected for a dilapidated city.
It was totally empty so when the four security guards saw us drive in they came over to introduce themselves and let us know that “You will be very safe here”. I didn’t doubt it at all by the look of the gun he had half shoved down his dacks. We went to sleep with African music blaring in the background, and later on Kirsty heard an alarm going off, a few gun shots and then all was silent.
The next day after a quiet night another overlanding couple pulled into camp with an interesting Swiss made rig.
:: Swiss made Bucher overland rig
As I said above the facilities were run down and the light bulbs were non-existent in the bathrooms but they were spotless. I like how they used what they had. A small sign on the back of the shower door proved this even more. I had to put my shower off just to get the camera for a pic. Gold!
:: Toilet block in the Municipal Camp of Bulawayo. I reckon that if you wanted to, you could eat off their toilet seat it was so clean.
:: I love the simplicity of this tiny sign. Made from what they have. With ruled lines as well. Can you see it?
After leaving Bulawayo we headed straight for Matobo Hills. It is famous for its rocky formations, Cecil Rhodes’ grave site and some ridiculously old rock paintings. The scenery was beautiful and the paintings I mentioned were better than expected. We didn’t visit the old boys grave. They wanted an extra $10 per person, on top of the $60, so we gave it a miss. I will check out a photo now on the net.
We found a new Aussie friend at the gate of the park lurking around. The staff wouldn’t let him in on his moto. Eventually they did (hahaha) and we were surprised to see Jono who has been riding a little 125 Yammy around Southern Africa roll into our camp site early evening. We shared dinner, a sip of the local beer Chibuku (which was quickly gifted to the security guard) YUK!, and Jono had himself a nice bottle of cheap vodka to wash it all down. I also polished off a beer or ten.
:: Our new friend Jono cruising into camp with some shopping
One other thing that needed to be taken care of was a visit to Tony’s Coffee Shop. We only knew of it because it was highly rated in our Bradt guide. I was glad (while we were eating) that we paid him a visit but left feeling fat and on a super sugar high. Oh well! You only live once, right?
:: Sugar overload but sooooo delicious
GREAT ZIMBABWE RUINS
Have you ever heard about the ruins of Great Zimbabwe? Neither had I. It was pretty cool to see this UNESCO listed monument and something I didn’t know existed in Southern Africa. Check out some more info on the ruins here.
:: Mind your head. Kirst at the ruins of Great Zimbabwe.
MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK
If you read about Mana Pools National Park online you hear tales of close encounters with animals, muddy roads and beautiful vistas. Kirst and I had been looking forward to this for a very long time. We drove in from the Eastern side of the park in the late afternoon. We were told at the booking office that you could not get past the park gate any later than 3 30pm. We started our drive into the park and no less than 3 minutes later we were confronted by a lone lioness sitting on the bridge basking in the arvo sun. She heard the rumble of the troopy and started heading up the small hill towards us. I turned the engine off so we could sit in silence. She was now level with the side doors of the rig, four metres off the edge of my drivers door. So big and powerful close up. Se looked over and met our eyes, hissed as if to say ‘You interrupted my sun baking’ and then disappeared into the thick bushes. Wow! What a start.
We got in late to camp and were greeted by one of the rangers. He took us to the Boss’s house which was in pitch black darkness and explained that we could pay the fees in the morning. The short drive over to the camp with our gun slinging ranger standing on the side steps, we spotted a big fat hyena jogging away from where we were about to pitch for the night. Cool. Our second animal of the park.
The mozzies were banging up against our rig so we dropped old mate, gun slinging ranger back to his post and then set up without opening the doors. Perfect for Kirst who is a magnet for the blood suckers. Dinner was prepared in the car. Cheese and Vegemite sangas. Our sleep was constantly interrupted with lions roaring and hippos grumbling. We were in natures nirvana.
The next day we woke early and before we even started the car we noticed a massive bull elephant pulling some foliage from a tree about a hundred metres away. A nice start. After that the animals were no where to be seen. It was thick bush on either side of the tracks so near impossible to see anything. We left that day. Happy and grateful to have seen what we saw.
We were sad to leave Zim. The people get an A1 for the way they treat tourists. Well, from our experience. We loved their determination to make things work. Their determination to ‘survive’. We loved nearly everything about this landlocked country of Africa… except for the sky high prices of most things. I think they are trying to re-build their economy and country but some of the prices we paid were extorcinate. More than double than in the guides or what other overlanders paid just 6 months ago! That being said I would have no hesitation in recommending a visit to Zim. They are open for business.
:: Hahahh. Good try!
:: Does this bus seem long to you?
:: Leaving Zim for the Zambian border
Well that’s me done for now. I hope you enjoyed the pics and post.
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To the people of Zimbabwe: thanks for having us. We had a ball and your infectious smiles and kindness will always be with us.