Sunday, 25 October 2009

Money, laundering & Zimbabwe

Greetings from sunny Zimbabwe. Yes, that's right, the country where
hyper-inflation used to be King, there are more elephants here than
white people and about as many tourists as there are rhinos.

Yes Zimbabwe has a bit of a bad reputation in the west, and in part
rightly so. That said we're not the type of people to judge without
seeing. That and with Libya, Syria, Sudan and Rwanda all stamped in
our passports we seem to specialise in politically incorrect tourism.

We had planned to take the Zambesi Express train from Lusaka to
Livingstone (Victoria Falls), both in Zambia, however when it seemed
to be less than an express service and prone to serious delays we
considered our options over beer in a hostel.

The beauty of the type of travel we are doing is the ability to change
plans. Buses to Harare were cheap and frequent so it seemed like a
good idea. That and we were running short of US dollars and as it is
now the official currency in Zim we could restock there.

So off we went. First stop was Harare. We arrived after dark which
is always a bad idea. We were however picked up by three guys from
the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. We initially took them to be
plonkers, or worse a taxi, but they showed us their cards, and all the
material from a trade fair which satisfied us they were genuine. They
took us around showing us various Lodges before we eventually settled
on the least frightfully expensive one of the lot. It did however have
a very clean bathroom which we then made very dirty by laundering -
yes there is a boring side to travel, it's not all Nile trips and
elephants in the camp.

Harare was a real surprise, clean, tidy and architecture straight from
the early eighties.

We planned to go to a wee town called Masvingo to visit the Great
Zimbabwe ruins. They are the largest ruins in Africa outside of Egypt
apparently yet somehow they have become a minor feature on our Zim

First night in Mas-vegas, as the locals call it we met a man called
Austen in the bar and he introduced us to a first class cricketer who
was about to play in a four day game in town. So the next day we
watch the end of the day's play. The locals could not have been
friendlier, the beer was flowing and there was general disgust that we
planned to leave the next day.

We were taken in by the couple running the catering at the club, they
fed and watered us, had their cleaner do (more of) our laundry and
took us to a game park the next day. All the locals tried to convince
us to move to Vegas too.

The caterers then called a mate in the next town we were visiting,
where we are now. It's been a great couple of days in Bulawayo
hanging out by the pool and watching more cricket.

Tonight we catch a sleeper train to Vic Falls. Apparently it's the
thing to see here in Zim, but for me nothing can beat the locals we've

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Still wandering round Africa

"I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy" Ernest Hemingway

In case you were starting to wonder what had happened to us in the past month, we are both alive and well and loving every minute of our African adventure (except for the 240 minutes we spent waiting for a bus yesterday).

We left Arusha and after a night in the hills made it to a wee place between Tanga and Pangani.  We could happily still be at the Peponi Beach Resort with our campsite right on the beach, fresh fish, a cute village and friendly locals.  But the oh so great owner manged to organise us a dhow (hand made wooden boat) over to Zanzibar, where we arrived after four hours on the crystal white sand.  Coming from NZ I'm not one to rave about beaches but this was just lovely - about the colour and texture of milk powder and made the clear waters so bright.

We stayed on Zanzibar a few days, diving in the north and eating in the south.  As we really are still novice divers we chose to do a couple of dives towards our Advanced Open Water and chose the two closest dives to falling off a boat and looking at fish - being "Boat Diving" and "Fish ID".

Back on the mainland we explored Dar es Salam doing the one main sight of the museum and the lesser known site of the fish markets.  We also had one of the best curries outside of India at the Badminton Association, watching the cricket on the big screen and enjoying the hospitality of the marketing director of Serengeti Breweries.

We then headed south into Malawi.  Malawi was great.  Being alongside the lake for so long I felt the cleanest I've felt in months, although sadly some of the tan washed away... We went to a national park which is technically rather accessable on public transport, although this did mean three different rides in the back of three rather full pickups.  It was quite a treat for us to be able to camp within the park and to sort our own cooking.  We also had a guardian elephant which was really cool.  We had a spot of diving in the lake one day which meant we got to see some of the hundreds cichlids which have populated the lake. In Malawi we were also adopted by the lovely Graham and Colleen who we hope to catch up with in Cape Town (especially as they are currently transporting all of our heavy things!).

Which brings us now to Zambia.  We made the trek up to South Luanga National Park thanks to some lovely Danes who gave us a ride in their truck.  I knew we were going to get on just fine when their matching t-shirts said "Danish Coffee Tour 2009".  The park was amazing, so many different animals in such a small space.  We saw lions eating a buffalo for breakfast, loads of basking crocs, hippos grazing and my personal favourite camp-dwelling-elephants.

We always knew that we would make it as far as Tanzania and being able to make it further south has been a real bonus.