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Published: November 15th 2010
Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe and was at one time apparently the cleanest city in Africa... It is still the cleanest in Zimbabwe I'm told. We arrive on the night train from Vic Falls, the journey has been an experience. We travelled first class for $10, so we had sleeper carriages sharing with one stranger, but there are no lights let alone a dining car. Lucky we came prepared with snacks and a bottle of wine! Also most of the exits are open for the whole journey so you have to make sure you don't stumble out when going to use the delightful toilet which is just a hole to the platform, no idea why they bother with a sign asking you to flush as there is no water and the contents are already on the track!
Bulawayo on a Sunday is a ghost town, not sure I believe it has a 6million population. The only food place we find happens to be perfect, traditional pub Sunday roast with 11 different veg and Yorkshire pudding, just what we've been craving, so we also have to text the truck gang to boast 😉 We follow this by a trip
to the cinema as nothing else is open, 2 films for $1.50, bargain, except that they are both dire. Rebound, never heard of but cheesy basketball film with Martin Lawrence, produced by him too. Followed by 17 again which we've all seen, we are about to leave when Zac Efron appears with his top off so we decide to stay and watch it again anyway... The cinema on the surface looks like a standard one but is basically a school projector with 2 speakers at the front, between films the focus goes and the film drops out a few times, but otherwise bearable. Town is still dead so dinner is in the same place but as it's now dark we have to get a taxi the 5minute walk to avoid being mugged, how lovely!
The next day, the girls leave for Botswana and their long journey to Mozambique through JoBurg. On my own for the first time in this trip! As my train to Harare isn't until 9pm I decide on a tour of Matopos National Park, complete rip off but there are not many ways of visiting it alone at speed. First half of the day is the game
park, second half the rock formations. Unfortunately my luck is out so I only see some baboons and a few antelope, the rhino are hiding, but I hear of all of the corruption in the tourist industry while we drive around. Apparently many guides of the park will follow the rhino very closely so that they go deeper into the bushes, then when tourists visit in a truck they see nothing, the guides then sell walks the following day getting another entry fee and a guide fee and they can take them straight to where the rhino is. Another scam which is apparently approved by the government is for the big tour companies to trap the game and tag them, they then have hidden sensor detectors in their trucks so can guarantee sightings at ludicrous game drive prices. Not sure how true any of this is, but it does all seem a bit shady while I'm there. My guide is also ashamed at the state of the park as many roads are almost 4WD only due to lack of maintenance, he claims it was not like this when 'the white people' ran it, this feeling comes out multiple times during
the day. We don't get to walk into the bush to track the rhino as it needs a park guide, and walking on your own is not only unsafe due to the large game but more because of the black mambas. They rise to two thirds of their body length so they can bite close to the heart, most people are dead within 30minutes! I am very wary of this while walking to the bushman paintings in the other side of the park too!
The other side of the park is pretty stunning scenery, this is the side that Cecil John Rhodes stole from the local tribe's king. World's View as he called it, is where he is buried as requested in his will. It is a huge boulder which was drilled into to submerge him in the top, it is surrounded by other boulders and is the highest point of the park. My favourite part is the rainbow lizards sunning themselves on the rocks. We also visit the park museum which explains how the bushmen used to live and also has replicas of the cave paintings, it is also based next to the largest bushman cave but unfortunately many
of the paintings have been destroyed by poor restoration techniques. They tried to cover the paintings in linseed oil so they looked better when the Queen visited, but this has now soaked into the rock and removed the paintings, all other caves are untouched though so still have many examples. Finally we visit the MOTH memorial, Memorable Order of Tin Hats, this is where the ashes of WWI veterans are scattered and Brits living in Zim. still have their ashes scattered here. It is viewed as being part of Britian..
The guide book says to make sure you keep your political opinions quiet with in Zim, but that is easier said than done. So far I have talked to 2 taxi drivers, 1 guide and 1 random on the train, all want to tell me how good the country used to be when the Brits ruled it and how bad it has become in the last few years due to bad governing. I just nod and smile, best to keep quiet. They mostly seem ashamed that I am seeing their country in such a poor state when it used to be so good, the 74yr old who chats to
me on the night train is nearly in tears thinking about how things were. He is mixed race, born and bred in Zim. but had his farm taken away from him. He also used to work on the trains and explains that they used to have dining cars, curtains, lampshades, very posh places to be. Now they are slow, run down and downright scummy. Business people would rather travel on the bus, and I am the only tourist!
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