A Travellerspoint blog

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

After the meltdown there are still dipped cones

sunny
View A Backpack, A Bicycle, And a Bonderman Grant to Travel the World on dericvito's travel map.

Even before I saw the glass towers, it was the full fledged fitness gym that let me know I was entering a new world. Malawi was a rural country, which was visually rich in agriculture (though I was told there was a food shortage) with small huts dotting the tropical plains. Zimbabwe feels urban and sophisticated. In Malawi, search of cold water I would scour for power lines riding through the countryside. In Zimbabwe dipped cones are available 24hrs a day from the Creamy Inn. I've enjoyed Zimbabwe for these and other contrasts and strangities. It is a country of big boulders, beautiful babies with big eyes buried in their mothers backs and the world's biggest reserve of U.S. two-dollar bills.

After just a morning in Harare, I caught a bus for the mountainous east to mount my bicycle. On the way a raucous group cheered and jeered the driver as he passed and was passed by other vehicles. In Zimbabwe I cruised along on well paved roads, one day in the mountains and three days moving towards South Africa. The only thing that slowed me down was the heat and the constant police road blocks, which I learned to enjoy. The easy questions were straightforward: Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you from? But the tough questions provided some challenge, here are some excepts:

ZIM POLICE: Do you know where Sean Paul and Riana live (pop musicians)
ME: NY, LA?
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ZIM POLICE: Aren't you afraid traveling alone?
ME: No... should I be?
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ZIM POLICE: You look like that swimmer, what's his name? Oh yeah, Michael Phelps.
---
ZIM POLICE: Didn't you bring something for us to remember you by, maybe five dollars?
ME: No
---
ZIM POLICE: Do you have cold water? Can I have some?
ME: OK
--
ZIM POLICE: Let's you and me go to the saloon tonight and find some ladies.
--
ZIM POLICE: What's your phone number? Will you call me when you get to America?

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Apparently the police were there in part to interrupt the diamond trade. All along the road men would hiss at me and make a diamond symbol with their fingers. The police policy to shoot poachers on site has massively cut down the trade I was later told at the empty hotel at which I arrived (which was often the case). According to the lonely and unpaid receptionist, the place was filled with diamond traders the previous year. On the road I found people in "Zim" more reserved than in Malawi. Or perhaps it's because white people are less of a novelty here. In any case they made up for it with fantastic whistling skills.

You are likely aware that Zimbabwe has been through some rough times, which hit the international news hard: an aggressive land reform policy that expropriated white farmers large land-holdings, hyper-inflation leading to empty grocery shelves (and they have so many grocery stores here!), cholera and bulldozed slums. Zimbabweans are very sensitive to this reputation and remiss about better days past. Indeed I didn't even consider coming here till I talked with some travelers. But I'm glad I did, because it's a fascinating mix of what I assume is old England and modern Africa. African women walk the streets with British wedding hats and bumbrellas, school children in flower cut dresses or khaki shorts worn high and belted tight with blue button-up shirts. Groups glad in white robes sing along the road. It's also a very pleasant place to be. The land reform issue is widely talked about, and I heard both sides, but their doesn't seem to be any active tension. The currency issue was solved by adopting three other currencies, the Botswana Pula, American Dollar, and South African Rand, all valued differently in different cities!

Sometimes the best thing after a long day of cycling is a cold bucket shower. But often in Zimbabwe the bucket was missing. As was the toilet seat. I have no idea how Zimbabweans bathe or use the toilet; I mean that literally. Most often there is a tub, but no drain stop and no bucket and no curtain. Similarly, they have western toilets, but no seat, I would think a squatter would be more effective. It's also the only tropical type country I've been to where wall to wall carpeting is common. A record temperature here is under 70 degrees, yet all the beds have a warm blanket under the comforter.

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I spent ten days traveling in Zimbabwe, most of it very independent and some way out where there was no one to ask directions and that was enough this trip. I tired a little of the evening power outages, always right when it got dark. Hot candles can be unpleasant when it's still 80 degrees. Outside of the cities, food could grow quite mundane as well. Every day the choice was the same, chicken or beef, rice or sadza (like cream of wheat, but corn), usually with either coleslaw or pumpkin leaves (quite tasty). Perhaps this routine lulled me into a daze of forgetting my Malaria pill or perhaps I did take the pill, but in any case it hit my full-on about an hour into a six hour bus ride. High fever, achy legs and general discomfort. The mini-bus let me out at the only town along the way with a hospital. I was diagnosed by "the sister" a nun I assume, and given some pills. Generally disoriented I somehow arrived at the guesthouse of the Zimbabwe Power Company, which overlooked a plant looking something like Homer Simpson's workplace. Of course even here the power went out, but I was satisfied for the comfortable bed and vanilla ice-cream. Not even the thunder and lightning which rocked the place could wake me from a twelve hour sleep. With the fever gone I traveled on and after a three day course I've 100% recovered. I'm now in South Africa making my way to Cape Town along the southern Coast.

While I couldn't manage or bother to capture Zimbabwe in photos, I will leave you with just a taste of culture from the streets of Bulawayo.

Posted by dericvito 07:07 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

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