Overland Day 56: Zimbabwe

I’ve been attempting to upload this blog post for the past three days but due to being busy and/or too lethargic to do anything due to the heat, not to mention crappy internet, it has taken me ages. No photos either I’m afraid but hopefully I can put up a few of the highlights from the past few weeks soon.

Leaving Zimbabwe for Botswana tomorrow and there are currently only 19 days left on the trip 🙁

Days 41 and 42

Still stuck in Lilongwe (not the worst place to be stuck to be fair) … Really itching to move on though. Received news that our visas definitely won’t be ready until at least Monday. Spent two days lying by the pool, taking walks into town and playing cards. Also managed to find out about a ‘rave in a forest’ on one of the nights; turned out to be quite a small affair but was still good fun.

Day 43

On the road again! Alun returned from the embassy about 1.30pm, with our passports but still no visas. He had been given a letter which would hopefully get us the visas at the border and so we all scrambled around to get on the truck as quickly as possible and finally make our way to Mozambique. No problems at the border – whew! Two days behind at this point so it was time to make up for it – we stopped for dinner at the side of the road, watching the moon rise and then hopped back on to the truck.

Mozambique offers some stunning scenery and is a place I would love to come back and spend some time in. Drove until about 10pm, our latest drive yet, then pulled off to set up our very first bush camp. Some of the girls weren’t particularly impressed when they came across a Masai blanket and a machete stashed behind a tree but we all made it through the night 😉

Day 44

Border crossing into Zimbabwe today – longest one we’ve had yet. Coming into Harare was a bit surreal: massive houses, swimming pools in almost every garden (quite a few empty ones, though), actual streets! It was almost like a reverse culture shock. We were over it by the time we pulled up in the shopping centre car park and rushed in to stock up on ‘real’ food. Alun would probably have my head for saying that but sometimes a sausage roll hits the spot far better than a plate of chicken stew and ugali…

I was on cook group tonight and we managed to pull off steak and veggies for everyone. We all decided to have our Halloween party a day early and caused a bit of mayhem in Bird Park. I was so impressed that despite being in the middle of Africa with no more than a backpack to our name, most of us were able to put together a decent costume and get into the spirit of it.

Day 45

Had a quick tour of bird park before leaving this morning. We were introduced to all the birds they house there and even got to hold an owl 🙂 Quite a long drive day into the mountains to a place called Chimanimani. The mist in the hills reminded me a little of Rwanda; coupled with a full moon, it was the perfect spot for Halloween. It was so cold that most of us took the lazy route and upgraded to a warm room inside Heaven Lodge. The lodge was a little run down – its owner was kicked out of the country back in 2005 and had only just returned this April to find the place in shambles – but its roaring fire and pots of tea sold it to me immediately. Had a meal in the village then it was straight to bed.

Day 46

Time for  walk in the hills! After so many days of doing nothing in Harare, we were all excited about the prospect of a hike. I went with the group that walked to Bridal Veil Falls in Chimanimani National Park and we spent three or four hours ambling around. Glad I didn’t choose to do the hard walk up the mountains – that group was gone the entire day!

Some of us sat round the fire in the evening and decided it would be a good idea to draw moustaches on our faces in honour of Movember. We were joined by the rest of the group later in the evening who had somehow decided it would be a good idea to draw anything and everything on their faces with a permanent marker. I suddenly felt very sober. Apologies to Heaven Lodge for the absolute chaos!

Day 47

Half day drive to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins today. Managed to leave Alun behind in the town somehow … pretty hilarious when we realised he was missing (“Are you sure it was him?” “Maybe it was some other short Welsh man.”) but he wasn’t too impressed. Went on a tour of the ruins as soon as we arrived, which meant more climbing; I’m still not enthused about anything involving heights. The ruins are where Zimbabwe got its name from and we were told interesting tales of dead kings buried in a secret underground tunnel which stretches for miles. We camped right outside the entrance to the ruins and ended the night with a cup of hot chocolate and Amarula round the campfire.

Day 48

Exciting times ahead! Today we arrived at Antelope Park in Gweru, a place where they run a 4-step programme to release lions back into the wild in Africa. The campsite is stunning and probably the fanciest one we’ve stayed at so far. We were welcomed to the camp by some of the staff playing drums and dancing (of course I joined in) and then given a quick orientation of the area. Next we got to watch a DVD of all the available activities and were given more information about Alert, what they do and why they do it. I decided to do as many of the activities as possible – sorry bank account – and one of them was scheduled for the same evening.

The night encounter involves getting in an open-top 4×4 and driving round an enclosure while some of the lions are let out to hunt. Quite nerve racking being so exposed but the lions weren’t even remotely interested in us. No kills unfortunately but it was great to see the lions in hunting mode. The sky was absolutely breathtaking and we spotted a few shooting stars 🙂

Day 49

Started the day off by spending 30 minutes ‘training’ an elephant – finally got my elephant hug! I absolutely love these animals and would gladly have spent the whole day with them. Next up was the cub feeding and lion feeding – don’t be fooled by the word ‘cub’; these guys were massive! The lion feeding involved four adult males and a big pile of disgusting innards and chopped up somethings. Most of us nearly wet ourselves when they came running towards the fence to get their food! Last activity for the day was an hour ride on an elephant. Loved this of course, and I managed to squeeze in some more elephant hugs. My elephant was named Amai and kept offering me presents (rocks, twigs, grass…) then hoped for treats in return 🙂

Quiz night tonight! I had prepared a pub quiz of sorts when we were stuck in Lilongwe and it was a great opportunity to do something fun as a group. It went really well until about 9.30pm when we were asked not to make any more noise. Hmm … posh camp sites aren’t my thing after all! It put a damper on the whole thing, unfortunately. Maybe we’ll have another attempt at a bush camp where we can make as much noise as we like. Shout out to the winning team: Cunning Stunts!

Day 51

Last day at Antelope Park. Spent some time in the morning with two lion cubs – cute! Also had a walk round the enclosures where some lions are kept for their breeding programme, and in the evening I walked with lions. Yeah, you read that properly! Spent an hour with two young lions, who tried to hunt a giraffe, some birds and a zebra along the way. Got to hold one’s tail 🙂

Day 52

Time to move on. Left quite early and drove to Bulawayo. Most of the group went on a walking safari to track some rhiino – apparently very good! I was quite ill and spent the day moping around in the TV room, then sleeping by the bathroom. Lovely.

Day 53

Still ill. Not happy! Arrived in Vic Falls early afternoon and spent a few hours learning about the activities we could do, then had dinner and a few drinks.

Day 54

Today’s the day I swam in a pool at the top of a waterfall! A small group of us crossed over into Zambia in the morning and were picked up at the Royal Livingstone Hotel ($890 a night!), taken on a boat to Livingstone Island and then allowed to clamber across to the Devil’s Pool. All I can say is it was one of the most exciting and most terrifying things I have done so far. A pretty unique perspective of Victoria Falls!

Spent the evening at a game restaurant called Boma, where I tried baby crocodile tail, eland, kudu and warthog. All tasty but the kudu was my favourite. I feel slightly guilty about the crocodile… There was some great entertainment throughout the night and we were all given a djembe to join in on a drumming session, woop!

Day 55

First main adrenalin activity today – the flying fox. It involves being strapped into a harness and attached by your back to a rope which crosses a gorge. As you can imagine, I screamed the entire way. Pretty awesome view though and I got to flap my arms and pretend I’m a bird 🙂 Spent the afternoon at the Victoria Falls Hotel, sipping Pimms on the terrace and having high tea. Pip pip, jolly good and all that. Saw some super cute teeny weeny baby warthogs on the lawn too! I hope I didn’t eat any of their relatives. In the evening Pete and I had a drumming lesson with a guy called Pardon (I think?). Great fun and as a bonus I got to sneak a little belly dance in 🙂

Day 56

Last day in Vic Falls today. Went to the national park with a few of the girls from the truck in the morning and got to see just how incredible the falls are. They’re at low water at the moment but still very impressive. I can only imagine how it looks at high water. Little fact: they’re known as ‘the smoke that thunders’. Going on a steam train (open bar, uh oh) tonight – apparently we get to watch the sunset from the main bridge crossing the falls so looking forward to that, despite feeling unwell again. Ah!

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