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Published: November 6th 2008
Looking for a campsite in Zimbabwe
We were “discovered” at breakfast when a cheerful local man turned up with his 2 dogs and armed with a catapult. He hunted regularly thus equipped and told us that he then traded the rabbits he killed for maize flour. Nobody had any money. He looked fit and well himself and was delighted to chat with us as we packed up to go. Our first encounter with a Zimbabwean.
We then set off to drive the hundred and more miles to Harare
. The road was excellent, hardly any traffic - although it was Sunday. We passed through progressively more developed land and we surmised that this had all once been settler country. Some of it was being cultivated now, other parts were desolate. But it was hard to judge because the whole country is so dry at the moment that everything is dormant awaiting the commencement of the rains any day now.
The outskirts of Harare were just like driving through Muthaiga, lovely houses set behind secure walls and clearly occupied by the well to do. We pulled into a BP service station where we were able to buy fuel in 20 litre quantities, paying about the equivalent of 1 GBP per litre. We just topped up to near full, not wanting to be unable to put in the residue of a 20 litre “package” so to speak. So clearly fuel was available which took a great weight of our minds. Clearly things have changed since our SA friend last passed through the country.
Finding a campsite was a challenge. The official one was under restoration and clearly quite impossible so, in the end, we called in at the Mukuvisi Wildlife Park, a sort of very miniature Whipsnade where various live animals can be seen roaming reasonably free - zebra, eland, impala, giraffe and they had just been given three ostrich. We asked if we might camp near their offices, in a secluded part, and after a great charm offensive by all of us, they agreed to let us do so. What a relief! We had a lovely site under huge old jacaranda trees near the toilet block.
Instead of setting up immediately we elected to have a drive round Harare city centre first to get a feel of the place and, more importantly, to locate the Immigration Office where we would endeavour to have our visas extended once office hours opened on Monday. The city we thought was great! Big wide streets, with lovely buildings from the colonial days, still standing amongst the modern high rise towers. Most of the roads were one way, alternating with each other. We parked and walked about and I picked up off the street pavement a Bank bearer cheque, issued on 1 Jan 08 and valid till 30 Jun 08, for the sum of $10,000,000 I have never held so many dollars ever before nor am I likely to do so again, unless I remain in Zimbabwe.
A passer by who was interested to chat with us about what we were doing explained that this note was totally worthless, not even worth the paper it was printed on - let alone the cost of the ink. So much for hyper inflation!! We didn’t actively seek to quiz people about what was going on in the country but they were always more than willing to talk. The “Haves” dismissed the problems as only temporary and were far to busy enjoying the good things in life while the “Have Nots” seemed very politically aware and were desperate for a regime change. We were told many sad stories of people starving to death in the rural areas. There was never any agro towards us anywhere and we were not really hassled to any large extent. Anyway, back to the camp for a good night’s sleep.
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