Archive for Zimbabwe

27 Jan 2013

My how time flies

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Back in Perth tomorrow. I write this with both joy at the thought of it – hot dry summer days, the beach and all that comes with being at home, familiarity – and with regret at leaving Africa – the smiling faces, our distant friends, magnificent National Parks we have barely glimpsed and all the wonderful and frightening animals that make kangaroos look positively dull.

But enough of that nostalgia.

And then it is on to Japan on Friday. The three Ss – sushi, sake and snow!

Final farewells with the Lloyds

15 Jan 2013

Comes with a Wellington boot warning

1 Comment Zimbabwe


Gillian promised us Zimbabwe had the best climate in the world and I suppose if you are a fish, it does. We are holed up in the very colonial Bulawayo Club drinking tea and eating rusks after wading out through the rainy streets of Bulawayo, ankle deep, admiring the impressive Art Deco and 60s architecture. We would show you photos, but pictures of government buildings are frowned upon and a night in the local lockup is slightly less appealing than the Bulawayo Club.

There is a longstanding Zimbabwean joke:

Q: What did we do before candles?

A: Electricity.

We have become accustomed to the frequent power outages and carry matches wherever we go, but no toast in the mornings, how 3rd world!

The Land Rover has been swapped for an Isuzu Dual Cab and we are loaded up with all of the Lloyd's camping gear which so far remains dry and unused in the back, while we check into lodges and chalets along the way.




The Matopos is everything everyone described. Amazing balancing rock formations, softly shaped boulders, God's marbles (although rumour has it Bob has rescinded the title deeds). We took a long drive through deep rutted unmaintained tracks in search of cave paintings, adopted a couple of cheeky young boys who became our de facto guides, and ran bare-footed ahead of/behind/beside our vehicle to show us the way. Then we walked together up a slippery steep slope where they led us to a wide cave where we saw the most impressive array of ancient rock art I have ever seen.

We stayed at the marvellous Big Cave camp (Pictured below. A free Matopos pebble to the first person that spots it) which is entirely built on rock in a magnificent thatch a-frame with views to die for and had a couple of clear hours to take it all in before the rains set in and the rock mountain across the way became a waterfall and then disappeared from sight altogether. Ah well.

Along the way we have been doing our share of game spotting: lion, giraffe, rhino, buck, grasshoppers (just checking to see if you are still with us) and chameleon. I have decided when I come back in my next life I want to be a chameleon. We watched one crossing a dirt road camouflaged as limestone, then in that slow robotic like manner, cross into the greenery and leaf-matter and darken and change colour until it was suddenly invisible; very cool and a great party trick — find Al! I'd do anything to get out of this ol' brown suit. Those 180 degrees independent eye sockets are pretty cool too. Sure I'd miss my yogi svelte, but you can't have everything right!


09 Jan 2013

The graceful art of smiling

2 Comments Zimbabwe

There is a certain charm about Zimbabwe; I can't quite put a finger on it.

At first I thought it was the magnificent stands of Eucalyptus. The familiarity. They are taller, broader and appear healthier than their Australian counterparts. (Although I believe there is a program to eradicate them because they don't belong. A familiar theme if ever there was one. This at least I understand!). But no, I realise it is not the Eucalyptus that gives Zimbabwe its charm.




Then I thought it might have been the mountains. As we weaved our way into Nyanga, each turn opened up to more and more magnificent views. Soft rounded boulders, balancing rocks, many shades of green. We weave because that is the way you drive in Zimbabwe, navigating potholes like negotiating a slalom. In our trusty green Land Rover (courtesy of Peter and Margo) the country is open to us and the odd pothole we slip into does not phase us. We watch roadside workers fill deep unnavigable trenches with branches and rubble, knowing that after a few more heavy downpours the road will once again become unnavigable. But no, I realise it is not the mountains, which is no small claim in a land blessed with natural beauty, and definitely not the roads that give Zimbabwe its charm.

And then I thought it might have been the skies. We stayed in a large stone cottage that commanded those same magnificent mountain views, but it is the skies as much as the mountains that are part of the view. Expansive skies, that make me feel insignificant, like the smallest particle. Clouds rolling in, moving fast and thick, ever changing, ominous and black, then thunder and lightning and heavy rain — and with it all, power cuts. In fact in the six days we have been here, along with the routine rolling power cuts, the outages due to storms, trees down etc, there have only been two days where we have had continuous power. At nights we eat by candlelight which for a few days is romantic, but on a daily basis I can imagine it becoming extremely tedious. In Harare we sleep to the gentle hum of generators (and barking dogs). But no, I realise it is not the skies which give Zimbabwe its charm.




And then it clicks — the Zimbabwean charm. It is the Zimbabweans themselves. Marcus, our domestic help at the cottage, who smiles continuously and clasps his hands together as he greets us and then insists on washing our muddy Land Rover. The omnipresent hitchhikers — with children, babies slung across backs, tools, suitcases on heads — who smile and wave even though we pass them by. The roadside fruit and vegetable sellers who mob us when we stop, present us with all types of fruits and vegetables and when we say we only want tomatoes, there is a shuffle and a woman emerges from the throng, popping up magically at our car window with bags of juicy ripe tomatoes. We hand over a couple of US dollars — for that is the currency now —and say our goodbyes. For a moment I am stung by the mass of smiles; you would have thought we had bought all their produce. It is infectious. In fact everywhere we go we are greeted by smiles and pleasant encounters. Even the police at the frequent roadblocks we encounter go about their business with a smile, waving as on, or asking us where we have been, chatting about the weather.

Despite all its problems (and Zimbabwe has far too many to list), it is that smile, that willingness to communicate, that gives Zimbabwe a charm that many countries lack.