After a relaxing 10 days in the Forever Resort with hot pool and all other amenities of civilization, we make our way to Zimbabwe at the end of August. Shortly before the border we have to wait two days because of a general strike and spend them with Arno & Carmen who run a butchery here on a huge farm area. In the season, the hunters deliver freshly shot game almost daily, which Arno then processes directly with his helpers. We fill our fridge with fresh Oryx steaks and sausages from Kudu and Impala and thank them again very much for their hospitality.
Strike and roadblocks from the general strike are history and on the last Friday in August we drive to the border in Beitbridge. On the net we have heard nothing good about this border crossing. Many have taken 5-6 hours in hopeless chaos. We prevent this and take a helper for a few dollars who knows his way around. And that also pays off. Only when stamping the carnet, many locals are actually better at jostling than we are, but even that was done after a good hour. Happy to have made it more or less smoothly we sit in the car and want to start. Unfortunately the barrier does not open. A few days ago a new software with barcode scanner was installed and it doesn't work as it should. But after another 30 minutes we master this hurdle and are finally in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is an incredibly poor country with an inflation rate of 285% in August 2022 and rising. Nobody wants to have the local currency (ZIM$) anymore, because it is almost worthless by the time you put it in your wallet. People pay in US$ or in RAND, and hardly anyone can afford that. A pound of butter costs $15 at the supermarket, diesel is $1.80 a litre, campgrounds with very old or no longer existing infrastructure sometimes cost $15/person/night, and the road toll costs $70. At the street vendors, on the other hand, everything costs $1. On the scale that reflects the level of development of a country, Zimbabwe ranks 173rd out of 187 listed countries. After his fall in 2017, Robert Mugabe and his nepotism left behind a country that is economically devastated. The people are left only with the hope of improvement, but this is not in sight due to the lack of foreign currency and political uncertainty. All the more amazing are the friendliness and serenity of the people who surprise us again and again.
Already a few kilometers after the border we reach the first toll station and have to pay a road tax that is comparable to European standards. After 200 km we reach our first destination, the Lions & Elephants Lodge. While parking we overlook a low hanging cable and in the bungalows there is no internet for a few days. The owner takes it surprisingly easy. She says that this happens often, but usually the monkeys are the culprits, because they do gymnastic exercises on the cable. This time it was the German Monkeys.
The next day, we continue on an endless, dead-straight road that has only been partially rebuilt. Many sections are grotty and only allow walking speed. We drive to Greater Zimbabwe, one of the oldest stone structures south of the Sahara. Next to it is a simple campground where we spend the night. At sunset we make a first tour on the huge area.
The next morning at 7 am we start for a three-hour tour with our guide Maggie. The settlement was the capital of the defunct Munhumutapa Empire and had up to 18,000 inhabitants in its heyday from the 11th to the 15th century. Most impressive is a ring structure that is said to have required as much manpower as the construction of an Egyptian pyramid. The king had his residence high up in the rocks and his numerous wives and subjects lived at the foot of the mountain. Polygamy is still allowed in the country today, only hardly anyone can afford it.
Looking for a nice place to camp, we drive around Kyle Lake. Here people live in simple round huts and live from a little agriculture and keep a few goats and donkeys. They cook over an open fire. Unfortunately, it is not like at home at a lake at a good 30 degrees, because swimming can be completely forgotten because of crocodiles and hippos.
After some searching we find the Romelda Resort directly at the lake and in the middle of a banana plantation. At the entrance, however, a few branches have to be sawed off so that we can get in. The campground turns out to be a real gem and it is so beautiful here that we spontaneously stay a few days.
Oil leaks from the left rear wheel. We are not happy because we immediately have our trauma with the almost lost axle on the right side in front of our eyes. Both bearings are completely new, but you never know. Fortunately, it turns out that it's not the axle, but a defective wheel brake cylinder that is losing a lot of brake fluid. Well, it's also crap, but at least we can drive 350km to the next bigger city and try to get sealing rings there. Unfortunately, the trip to the Eastern Highlands is cancelled because we have to change our route.
Shortly before the city we make a few days break at the Umzingwane reservoir and enjoy the loneliness and beautiful sunsets.
In Bulawayo, the second largest city in the country, they can actually repair our brake cylinder. We take a test drive to the Khami Ruins, the second largest ruin site in the country, whose similarity to Greater Zimbabwe cannot be overlooked.
Unfortunately, it turns out that we are still losing oil on the axle and that a shaft seal is defective. Of course, there is nowhere to find it here and we have to be prepared for the next 2000 kilometers to supply the differential diligently with oil until we can eliminate the problem in Windhoek.
We are a bit outside at Burkes Paradise Campground and from there we take a cab into town. We visit the beautiful railroad museum and then stroll through the city center with some old colonial houses and stop for lunch at a cafe picturesquely located in a park setting.
We continue quickly to the north-west with an overnight stop at the edge of Hwange National Park. The Gwango Lodge with campground has a waterhole where large herds of elephants come in the morning and evening. What a spectacle. There is the waterhole, but the swimming pool on the terrace is obviously more tempting. We can watch up close how the trunk is thrown quite elegantly over the parapet and the water is sucked out of the swimming pool. Only the adolescents are angry because their trunks are not yet long enough and the youngest are content with mama's milk. But we prefer not to swim in the pool. In the morning the monkeys look curiously through the skylight and want to know what's for breakfast.
With Victoria Falls we arrive at the number one tourist destination in Zimbabwe. The place lives almost exclusively from tourism and everyone wants a piece of the pie. We go to the campground of the N1 Hotel. From there it is only a 15 minute walk to the falls and it is like running the gauntlet. Every few meters a carved elephant or something similar is held under your nose and for the next 100m you have a stubborn companion who is then replaced by the next one a little later.
The Victoria Falls consist of four individual falls that plunge 108 meters into the depths over a width of 1688 meters. They are twice as high and one and a half times as wide as the Niagara Falls and are thus considered the largest uniformly falling mass of water in the world. Even from a distance, you can hear the falls and see the spray. A circular path runs parallel to the falls and every few meters you have a different view of the action from various vantage points. The camera is better packed in a plastic bag, because getting wet is guaranteed. We are very impressed and spend a good three hours there.
After visiting the falls in the morning, we look to it from above in the afternoon. Thereby one can grasp the enormous dimensions better and also have a beautiful helicopter round flight.
At a good 35 degrees, the motivation for extended walks is rather low, but we still walk to the Lookout Cafe, which is quite picturesquely located on the edge of the gorge with a view of the Zambezi. Likewise, of course, we have to look at the old train station and have a drink on the terrace of the Victoria Falls Hotel. In the colonial hotel, which is over a hundred years old, one feels transported back to the previous century.
However, our small hotel with the campground is also not to be despised. Right across the street is a pub with various freshly brewed beers and right next to MOMO, the pool restaurant serves excellent sushi that we just can't get enough of. So we don't get bored.
That's it with our stay in Zimbabwe and we cross the border to Botswana in Kasane. What we experience there you will learn as always in the next blog. Until then, enjoy reading and looking at the pictures.