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Published: June 13th 2006
First class northbound to Mocambique. Everyone aboard.
Well I haven't done an update since Zambia so I thought first and foremost I need to explain to all my loyal fans the excitement of travelling through Zimbabwe. Ryan did a wonderful update so I'll just try to fill in some of the gaps at this piont. We left Livingstone early last week and for those who don't know this, both Livingstone and Victoria Falls are only about 10km appart, seperated by both the border and the river (essentially the same thing). We took one of the most broken down vehicles I have ever ridden in for the 6km to the border where we stamped out of Zambia and cross the barbed wire mesh to what is seemingly a "neutral zone" and over to Zimbabwe. The helpful sign halfway across the Zambezi indicates you are now in Zimbabwe. From the bridge you walk about 1km to the border post where the guards happily indicated it would cost Ryan and I $65 USD for a VISA into Zimbabwe. I couldn't believe this, I had asked the Zambian guards only days before and they said it would be $30 USD, apparently they "raised" the cost on March 1st and now as a
Yippy Skippy, ten people sit on me.
Canadian you pay the most out of any other country in the world. I made some playful jests with the immigration officials in a really sad attempt to reduce the price but they just laughed at me and pointed to the really scary picture of Mugabe on the wall, so I shut up.
Ryan made the excellent statement, I think at almost this exact point that there will be no talking of politics in Zimbabwe, I thank him now for creating that "rule" and stand by it. We continued onward through Victoria Falls (the town) and a few blocks inwards we came upon our Hostal that was reccomended by the weird Irish/South African guy in Windhoek (he's a bit off after getting malaria 9 times). We had no Zim dollars and understood that it's against the law to exchange foreign currency for local currency anywhere but a bank or a registered change house. Shady street toughs were offering 320,000 zim dollars for $1USD in the markets and parking lots on the Zambian side of the border, but we decided to wait and see what we could get in Zimbabwe. It turns out that was probably a good idea because
Fear, fear the thiefs and murderers are near.
it's really, really illegal (and bad) to get caught with the money at the borders.
When we got to the hostal and asked how much it would cost, the guy said $9 USD. I asked him how much that would be in Zim dollars and he cringed and said he would talk to the manager. Funny I thought, why don't they have a price in local currency? The guy came back and said it would be exchanged at bank rate (approx 100,000 zim to $1 USD) so, 900,000 zim. Perfect, we go change on the black market and end up paying roughly $3. The shady "cook" at the hostal said he would exchange us at 240,000. We found a tour operator in town that did 250,000 and eventually some trustworthy locals for 280,000. At this point everyone was just really confused, the prices in the grocery store change daily, inflation is out of control, any foreign currencies are changed on the black market (unless you're retarded) and all in all your regular daily routines of buying groceries, internet or whatever else are just seriously complicated.
I came back to the hostal one day to find Ryan in bed
Evan & Newphew
Their kind and warm hospitality was a pleasure to endure!
(big suprise there haha) and this Japanese guy sitting on his bed (he had checked in earlier that day) almost in tears recounting to us in his broken english about how these guys in town had just totally ripped him off. We check and sure enough he has a huge wad of 500 zim bills with one 50,000 zim bill wrapped around it. The 500 bills are worth roughly 0.002 cents USD. They're basically joke of all bills I've ever seen, apparently they outlawed their destruction and use as toilette paper because the bill itself is worth far less than one square of toilette paper and thus people were getting creative. It was only a few hours later the Japanese guy in his emotional state fled back to Zambia for good. For me the fun was just starting. We kept getting better and better rates and now things are really, really cheap. You can't really rip off the hostals because they know all the tricks and claim there are "laws" that state you cannot pay in local currency... go figure. So we pay the hostals in US dollars but they give us the connections for changing money so it works
Trying to make a cool million out of $150,000. Big bidness deals for a new recording contract. B$G records sold worldwide.
out well and nobody gets in trouble. Finbar (English bloke with us) got ripped off as well with the 500 bill trick we had a good laugh at that, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise enabling us to entertain ourselves for hours palying poker with what is essentially play money. Last night we set up shop in the hostals garage where they have this huge oak table and sat for hours with copious amounts of cold hard (and totally useless) zimbabwe cash throwing bills, drinking beer and gambling away like degenerates after our World Cup celebrations came to a close.
Other highlights in the last week have been our train ride from Vic Falls to Bulawayo where my asbestos mattress made me insanely ill, in fact everyone in our compartment came down with an instant cold and Lucy even got some sort of blood poisoning but nobody knows how. This train was way cool, we were all really scared after hearing the horror stories but basically the best way to explain it is a ghost train. Not only is the train itself left over from the Rhodesia days but its totally broken down and none
If I die before I wake, it's the asbestos mattress that was my fate.
of the lights really work and everything smells like piss and is literally falling appart. I didn't even trust the car connectors and jumped because they were so rusty. The whole thing looks like a half burnt 50's diner on wheels. We got to Bulawayo and watched the England game and drank 200,000 beers all afternoon before Evans parents made us dinner and we sat around a fire in the yard with the African home brew (tastes like rotten corn in fermented water) and then had a good sleep. The next day we were off to Harare in a minubus ride fro hell. Highlights include several fist fights between needy passengers and the bus runner. In fact this was the first bus ride I've been on where upon entering a given city the bus runner would pick up a second bus runner that essentially acted as a "bouncer" for this tiny bus. I guess because of the trade embargoes and lack of gasoline, getting from one city to another is really hard and expensive, so at this one place a guy jumped on without enough money (there were no seats anyways or standing room) and refused to get off. The
Money, Money -whats yours is mine, millions of Zim dollars, one game at a time.
bus runners muscle was slapping him in the face and smashing his head into the sides of the van telling him to get off, I sat about 10cm away in horror expecting his neck to explode and blood showering me and my luggage. Thankfully that didn't happen and they just kicked him off (literally). I felt at ease until he chased after the van Terminator 2 style and latched onto my window, I was about to start kicking his fingers until he let go but thought better of it. The second bus runner just chased after the car as well finally grabbing onto the illegal passenger and yanking him off my window. Finally at this point I could get back to the task at hand which was figuring out a way to get blood into my legs and all the people off my lap. We got to Harare quite late and really exhausted, everything took way longer than we thought but we found an awesome hostal and are just sitting around all day watching football. It's been realy awesome watching the cup with guys who live soccer and know so much about it, they basically know every player on every team and it's been really awesome to take it all in. Ryan and I now have our Mozambique and Tanzania VISA's so tommorow we plan to head north!
On a final note, these computers here are really useless so I'm not sure exactly what I'll end up with, but I will now attempt to upload a picture or two.
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