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Published: November 6th 2008
We were up at dawn (5.30 am) to be certain to get to the Immigration Office when they opened at 8am (we located the place yesterday). We were there early where the youngsters in the street were more than ready to find us parking slots and to look after our vehicles. While awaiting the office to open we were looking through the shop window of a gunsmith cum safari operator when he turned up himself. A very large white Zimbabwean who immediately invited us into his shop, and office beyond, more than ready to talk.
Clearly he is a high powered safari operator and his back office was crammed full of stuffed animals that he had shot over the years. A magnificent lion, huge heads of eland, greater kudu and a wonderful specimen of a buffalo amongst many smaller animals. And yes, about a dozen pairs of elephant tusks, much smaller than the specimens that could be found further north in Kenya and Tanzania. He was very kind and offered all sorts of advice on traveling in Zim. We all of us thought of Eddie, just the contact he would like to meet!
The Immigration officials, when the heard our plea for an extension of our visas, made us fill in more forms and told us to return in 2 hours time. So off we went, found an internet cafe where we managed to get our emails but were totally unable to send any, due as much as anything to the antiquity of the equipment and the lack of any speed in the service. So we abandoned that and I went to a place just outside the city where I had seen a “Gas Filling” notice. Here they put 1.7 kilos of gas into my Campingas cylinder for $7, which I thought was very reasonable.
Back to the Immigration people, Ian and I dropped off Chris and Camilla, armed with a walkie-talkie, to collect the passports while we cruised around the block rather than park amidst the hoards of boys willing to park and look after our cars. We only had to go around the block about twice before we were summoned by the walkie-talkie and we picked up the two ladies with their smiling faces - the authorities had extended our visas for two weeks without any additional cost. A gracious gesture, we felt and we were effusive in our thanks.
We topped up our tanks completely before leaving Harare and set of for Mutare
in the highlands to the South East, near the Mozambique border on the road to Beira
. We really liked Harare. It was clean and tidy and the people very friendly indeed. There are wonderful flowering trees everywhere, particularly the jacaranda and the flamboyants. Apart from our safari chap we hardly saw another white face in the 24 hours we were there. There were power and no obvious cuts around the city and the trains worked and seemed to be much in use. The “Haves” clearly live very well and there is no shortage of new cars, many Mercedes and large 4x4s and new cars in the showrooms. We cannot work our how things are paid for - we are using US$ and Rands, and cannot really expect any change from the money we proffer.
Leaving Harare behind we read from our 9 year old Zim guide of a camp site on a tobacco farm some 35 km short of Matari
which sounded most attractive. We followed the directions - it was about 15 km south of the main road - and arrived at what had obviously been a most lovely homestead on a tobacco estate. It was now completely derelict, with a few huts built on the grounds, with absolutely nothing growing there, and no signs of any work being done whatsoever. Nobody looked sadder than the locals living there. Clearly they were hungry, nobody apparently in work, and not much hopeful prospects in sight other than the scratching of a subsistence living. So much for the taking over of white farmland. We returned to the main road and, just as we were about to enter Matari we saw sign off the road to the Municipal Campsite. We dived off the road and found ourselves in a camp site, albeit rather close to the main road, but with hot showers and working loos all for a very reasonable price. We stayed there and were extremely comfortable. It had been a long day.
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