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Zimbabwe

Various people had repeatedly told me not to go to Zimbabwe and other places. It was too "dangerous". The only problem with this sort of "information" is that the giver of this info has NEVER - or not recently - been anywhere near Zimbabwe, or whatever country they are warning me against. Back in 2007 I was told, emphatically, that I would be in danger of being killed by bandits if I went to Colombia. What a load of hogwash! Colombia was brilliant, and the people were fabulous, friendly and helpful. Yes, there were lots of military and police checkpoints, but they are there to care for foreigners, not hinder them. I visited twice, and had no problems whatsoever in the beautiful country of Colombia.

Naturally, I used a bit of common sense (surprisingly!) and did not go riding into areas where there MAY have been likelyhood of landing in the middle of some rebel action (FARC) against the government forces. And I don't go to pubs drinking and getting inebriated, therefore not allowing occasion where I may be kidnapped - or whatever. Yes, a bit wussy and not much social life, I suppose, but I'm still alive ...

So now I'm here in Africa. I could have taken a different route, bypassing Mozambique and Zimbabwe, but I chose to disregard this "misinformation", and take my chances of seeing the country as it is today, after the ravages of civil wars and independence in the not all that distant past.

I could have taken this route - Above - avoiding Mozambique and Zimbabwe, but I took this one instead - Below:

There is some difference in mileage, but that doesn't worry me.

Once through the border, I was pleased to see the roads were a little better than those in Mozambique - thankfully! But one still had to use a little caution, as things could change for the worse, rapidly.

I'd been told at the border that there were no ATMs until Harare, the capital city. Hmmmmmmm, I wondered, is there any fuel before Harare? As time went by, and by, and by, I found out that there wasn't any, for about 200km, and I was getting low again, so took it easy to conserve fuel where possible. Going slowly (80-90kph) is not conducive to covering ground quickly. It was pretty boring riding, just barren, dry land with some scraggly scrub occasionally, together with the odd mud huts in villages. And the ever present pedestrians and cyclists, of course.

The rivers were generally dry, and some looked as if they'd not run for some years, as decent sized trees and shrubs were growing in the dry sand of the river beds.

All along the way there'd been evidence of bush fires, and in one town, I saw a large scale hothouse facility had been totally burnt recently, leaving a mess of tangled aluminium framing and dripping, melted plastic sheeting.

Forty km out of Harare, things started to change for the better, with much large scale agricultural activity present, and more roadside stalls selling their produce. I love the tomatoes - they are in small buckets (about 2-3 litre size) with the topmost ones stacked like a pyramid - way, way above the top of the bucket . It's amazing how they can get them to stay so high.

I came to a toll booth, and was worried as I only had ONE US dollar left, hoping desperately that it was no more than $1. Rolled up to the guy, asked how much it was, and was cheerfully told that bikes are free! Bewdy! Funny how the road became INCREDIBLY BAD as soon as I passed the toll booth. I thought tolls were to pay for improvements to roads. Silly me.

In towards the centre of town, I spied an ATM sign, so pulled in to get some US currency. Yes, Zimbabwe runs on US currency, as well as the South African rand, and sometimes other African currencies as well!!! Strangely, they don't have any US coins, just notes. So if one is due change, either of two things can happen: 1: they try to fob you off by saying they have no change to give you. BTDT. (I insisted and persisted, on principle - and got it!) or 2: if you're lucky, you'll be given rands. BTDT. Weird!!!!

Anyway, I climb off and wander over to the guard (yes, all ATMs have armed guards at them) who didn't think my cards would work in that machine. She was correct. Did she know of any other ATMs? Nope! So I rode two blocks into the centre of town, on the same straight road, to where all the banks were, and got some money there. Did she really NOT know where the ATMs were, I wondered?

It was getting rather hot, so I checked the GPS for campgrounds. None! OK, it's back to the Holiday Inn, then, over the road from the first ATM. Got slugged again, but couldn't be bothered, just wore it. And the damn Wifi connection was down the whole time. Just my luck! But it was a bed for the night.

Next morning was Monday, and it was a public holiday in Zimbabwe, for Heroes Day. I set off through the city, noticing that all intersections were manned by police. Then a .bike cop came past, pointing furiously over to the edge of the road . We all eventually stopped and waited. Another bike cop went past, harrassing the slow to park. Then along comes a dual cab ute with some other vehicles hanging on behind. That was it. Was that Mugabe, I wonder??????? Anyway, they all turned off 500 metres up the road, into what may have been parliament house, possibly. Or a cemetery, perhaps?

This section from Harare to Bulawayo (about 490km, from memory) was a vastly different kettle of fish! The speed limit was 120kph, for starters. WooooHoooo! Lots of police roadblocks, as well as a few hairdyers/radar traps. Only had to stop at two (for their curiosity only) the whole way. The towns looked like western towns, meaning you could actually differentiate between houses and shops. There was petrol available in every town of any size.

I made it as far as Gweru, where I sought the caravan park. Yes, well, I rode in, looked around and rode straight back out the gate again!!! No thanks! YUK! 500 metres up the road was a motel. That'll do. Sheeesh, $100, B&B. Daylight robbery. A chronicle of errors, this place:- They gave me a room almost at the furtherest distance from the office (there were no other guests); a guy comes along and wants to come inside the room to "close the windows". No, I don't want them closed. "But I must." Nope, sorry mate, I'm leaving them open to get some air. Got rid of him; there's no TV remote; the power went off; the closed door bangs in the slightest breeze; two loose sheets of tin on the roof keep banging loudly in any breeze; I start bitching to whoever will listen; during the evening while watching TV, I look outside (curtains are open onto the neighbouring bush only) and there's at least one, possibly two, guys in hoodies standing about 10 feet away looking at me! So much for their security guards! (actually, I think one 'may have been a guest, as I saw what appeared to be him the next morning as I was going to brekky). I closed the curtains, but then couldn't sleep, hearing voices outside the windows several times during the night.

The debacle litany continues:- brekky, and it is appalling!!! Get back to the room to have a shower before departing - no water! Ring reception to bitch. Someone comes and thumps the pipes. Nope, nada. A plumber is called. [ have I mentioned African plumbing previously? OMG!] Someone (the plumber?) comes into the room and bangs the pipes with a wrench, and huge gobs of rust from in the galvanised pipes fall into the bath. Still no water in the shower, though. "Just have a bath" he says. I don't like having a bath! But I run one, anyway. Ooops, the cold is rusty water filled with more rusty bits. Flushed that away and tried the hot. Yes, that works, but it's boiling, far too hot to use. Try adding cold - now it's running clear-ish. It'll do. Sheeeeesh! And to top it all off, I ended up with puffy eyes - from bloody dust mites in the pillow! I shan't be staying there again any time soon! T I A (this is Africa)!

I safely made it to Bulawayo - all of about 180kms for the day - and settled in at the caravan park, in a "chalet" (aka rundown cabin) for $30 per night.

Above: This, believe it or not, is a Steak & Kidney pie! The shape is halfway between a pastie and a high-top pie, I suppose.

Bludged around doing nothing much except sleeping and reading (ie: relaxing, recuperating, recharging the batteries, call it what you will) for a couple of days, as no internet access, of course.

Then it was time to move on, bound for Victoria Falls. The roads were still quite good on this leg, although very little traffic compared to the previous leg. Thought I'd camp at the Halfway House Hotel/Camping. Ran the gamut of the hawkers through into reception. Camping is $30, madam! Well, madam won't bother, thank you! Back on the road again, but nothing more looked a likely overnight spot.

Saw a few of these signs, but no sign of any dogs, painted or otherwise, along the way. Apparently they are an endangered species, only found in this area, I think.

Then I arrived in Hwange.

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