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Published: January 31st 2013
I was up at 4 a.m. to get a lift off Niall, Kirk and Kirsty into Zimbabwe. They were going all the way back to Harare from Vilankulos and wanted to get there before dark, so it was anearly start. The road north out of Vilankulos towards Inhassoro was fairly horrendous, but improved after a couple of hours. I nodded in and out of sleep for most of the journey. We reached the Zimbabwean border at about 12. The Zimbabwean border officials can be very difficult, but we got through without too many problems.
Over the border, we made the short journey towards Mutare, my first stop in Zimbabwe. Kirk's aunt Ingird, lived here and he suggested that I could stay with her. He couldn't get in touch with her and I was a bit reluctant to just show up at a random woman's house, looking for a place to stay. But Kirk assured me that his aunt was extremely hospitable and there would be no problem. We arrived at the house just after lunchtime and Kirk went in to find Ingrid, who showed me into her house.
Ingrid's generosity and hospitality knew no bounds and she acted as
both hostess and tour guide. The afternoon we arrived, we went to meet her friends Felix and Jenny, who had recently had a baby. Felix had recently bought some land in one of the suburbs and wanted to show Ingrid. This was right out of town and we had to take a dirt track up to it. The area is still quite poor and underdeveloped, but there seems to be a lot of people buying up the land and building on it.
The next day, after Ingrid made me some breakfast, Bvumba region. This is a beautiful mountainous region, where we stopped at one stage to see into Mozambique. We also could see where Ingrid's old farm had been. We continued up the mountain's until we stopped at Tony's Coffee Shop. This is a small cottage in an idyllic setting, where aside from the most unique and creative coffee's and cakes available, there were some outrageous items of clothing for sale. We later met Tony, the owner, who made Graham Norton look like a moralistic conservative.
Afterwards, we went to visit Leopard's Rock Hotel & Golf Course. This place is a real throwback to the colonial times. The
hotel is a magnificent pink building where various members of the British royal family have stayed down through the years. The Golf Course is a PGA Championship course, although there had not been much rain when I was there so it looked a bit brown. Even still, it was a beautiful course and we took a walk around. There is even a chapel in the middle of it, which is sometimes used for weddings.
On the way back, we picked up one of the workers at the hotel and his wife, who were looking for a lift back into town. As we passed back through the winding mountainous roads, we came across a local minibus stopped, with the people spilling out and making their way to the edge of the road, looking down the moutain. We stopped to find out what was going on and saw an overturned truck about 50 m don the embankment. It looked as if the whole carriage had been crushed and it dawned on us that anyone travelling in the back, would surely be dead. However, after a few minutes we discovered that the driver was alone and aside from a bad gash to
his head was uninjured. Apparently, he had passed out the minibus on a tight bend then lost control. It struck me, that after 8 months or so in Africa, this was the first time I had come across an accident, despite all the manic driving I had witnessed.
Back in Mutare, we went back to Ingrid's house. There is not a whole lot to do or see in Mutare itself, but it is an interesting insight into modern day Zimbabwe. Daily life seems to be a lot easier now since the goverrnment abandoned the ZImbabwean Dollar. The U.S. Dollar is now the national currency and is what you withdraw from ATMs. A few years back, in the days of hyperinflation, Ingrid told me that you would need a backpack to carry money to the shop to buy a few groceries, if they were on the shelves. There is still quite a lot of poverty though and unemployment is high. In the couple of days I had spent there I had been from one extreme, where Felix had bought his property in an extremely poor area with little or no amenities to the decadence of the Bvumba region, in particular
I can't finish writing about Mutare without mentioning a couple of people Ingrid had working for her. One of her main guys names was TalkNice, who was married to a lady called Lionness. They had a daughter called Anyway. Another one of her guys was called DoIt. The next morning, Ingird dropped me to the bus station and in one last gesture of her never ending generosity, she provided me with a packed lunch for the journey. I had been told that Zimbabweans were amongst the friendliest in Africa and so far this was certainly ringing true.
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