Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa


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March 2nd 2011
Published: March 2nd 2011
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Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa...

Our last stop in Zimbabwe was at the Great Zimbabwe ruins, once the greatest city in sub-Saharan Africa and home to 25,000 people. Today there are just the ruins of dry granite walls, some up to 30 feet high. The walls enclose large open areas and small, narrow corridors that snake up the hillside. Huge boulders have been incorporated into the walls, giving it a kind of half man made, half natural air.

Now that we are out of Zim, we can comment on the current situation there. Zimbabwe is a nation of enigmas. We were warned not to be outspoken and to avoid discussing politics but everyone wanted to talk to us about just that, politics. White ex-farmers told us stories of their arrest, eviction and other atrocities, but those who remain seem to be successfully building new businesses. They told us how they now had to rent land from the Government on 10-year leases.

The government is still kicking whites off their land and giving it to the blacks. Most of the land, perhaps 80%, is still untouched, uncultivated fertile bush – you would have thought there was enough to go around. Due to farms closing down, fruit and vegetables were very hard to come by but across the border in South Africa the market stalls are all full.

The Zims government runs most newspapers but when I went to buy one the guy told me to go to the next stand as it had better, independent newspapers, which do tell it more or less as it is. Banks are also owned by the government and trusted by nobody. It can take days of queuing to get money out – so nobody leaves their money in the bank any longer than they can help it.'

It is a safe country for visitors. Throughout Botswana and Zimbabwe we have stopped at the side of the road to picnic at lunch time. But in South Africa, the crew will not do this as it s too dangerous.

And so to South Africa and our first customs search of the truck, which started off with a “we are going to search everything” but ended up being a rather perfunctory look around for fruit and veg. Didn't they know you can't get fruit and veg. in Zimbabwe?

Kruger was our final game park – a huge place where an all day game drive let us see all manner of game, from little antelope to a pride of lazy lions. Perhaps the most awe inspiring sight of the day was a little macabre. An elephant had died in the night and in the early morning vultures and hyenas were attacking the carcass. It was an extraordinary sight.

A little sightseeing of the low and high velte, of huge canyons and small mining towns and we are on our way home. Goodbye to Titus, Moonu and Trymore – our crew – and to our traveling companions who have become friends. Goodbye, too, to Africa. Wonderful, baffling, endlessly amazing.

Love, Gill and Alistair


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