Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Two Incredible Weeks in Zimbabwe (1)

(One of Zimbabwe's amazing 'tourist attractions'.)

Zimbabwe is the most intersting, disturbing, chaotic and confusing (esp. these last two) country I've been to in the whole of my travels. By turns beautiful, exciting and draining, the last two weeks have been completely different and much more rewarding than I would have hoped for.

From the Mozambique border we had a long drive into our campsite in Harare. We spent two nights there and had one full day in Harare. The full day in Harare was welcome to me. Most of our time in Zimbabwe would be spent in tourist places doing tourist activities (not that there are many tourists around any more) and I was keen to see some of the Zimbabwe that matters to the 13 million (but falling) Zimbabweans.

Harare is quite unbelievable. Many tour groups dont come to the country any more because the situation has deteriorated so much. A few random observations...

I bought a bottle of smirnoff and it cost me 520,000 dollars...which is much cheaper than in the UK... the shops are packed today because there is bread for which you could have to queue for hours... taxi costs are determined almost entirely by the distance, not by the time, so scarce is petrol... a pizza at the black market exchange rate is about US$2, at the official exchange rate about US$1,000.

(Me, Sami, Rod, Caitlin, Kate and Brock)

There is a tense atmosphere in town. I didn't find it threatening but it was definitely not relaxed either. Jane, Nikki, Alex, Brock and I went for lunch and then shopping for booze. We each bought one of the aforementioned bottles of Smirnoff. As we were walking along, a drunk guy grabbed Brock's bottle and ran off with it. To be fair - and as a tip to Brock - it probably isn't a good idea anywhere to approach a clearly intoxicated and alcoholic person on the street conspiciously carrying a bottle of vodka...

(Rod and Alex)

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of Harare as I was advised it wasn't safe to carry my camera with me. Probably true. So instead here's some pictures of our big fancy-dress party.

After leaving Harare, we went to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Supposedly one of the greatest archaeological site in Africa outside Egypt but I just wasn't impressed. Reminded me off the tors in South-East Peru... which weren't very interesting either. But that night, after a long long afternoon drive we reached Antelope Park, and I was extremely excited by the promise of visiting the best place to see lions in the world...

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