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

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