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Graham Williams & Louise Jones Travel Blog This is our journal logging our trip through Central and Latin America from July 2005 to the present date. We update it and add new pictures every two to three weeks. At the moment Will is travelling in South Africa, while Lou is living in Buenos Aires.For more background reading on our travels go to - http://journals.worldnomads.com/will/

Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE | Monday, 27 November 2006 | Views [1620]

Hawange, Zebras in the morning light.

Hawange, Zebras in the morning light.

The final destination of my overland truck was Victoria Falls, which is on the borders of three countries, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, and our truck spent the weekend on the Zimbabwe side.

Zimbabwe has a reputation as being one of the basket cases of Africa, run into the ground after twenty-five years of mismanagement. Certainly the exchange rate for the US Dollar shows how the black economy of the country has almost taken over from the real one. The ‘official’ rate for one US dollar is 250 Zimbabwe dollars; the black market rate is 1500! There are lots of young men hanging around on street corners wanting to change money, the penalties for which are in theory quite server. In reality you ask at the hostel you are staying at and they always know a ‘man’ who will do the deal. If you were dumb enough to change the money at the official rate, staying here would be incredibly expensive.

The Falls themselves are one of the world’s great wonders, though it’s not the best time of year to see them as it’s the start of the rainy season and there is little flow on the Zambian side of the falls. They are at their best in March at the end of the rains; but even now, at one point you are bathed in spray from the falling water and the spray can be seen clearly from the centre of the town. A constant feature of Victoria Falls is the constant whine of sightseeing Helicopters which starts early in the morning and continues all day, often with three in the air at the same time. As you walk down to the falls young men try to sell you woodcarvings at ridiculous prices, some of the ‘sculptures’ being so ugly their only value is as firewood. 

From Victoria Falls I went on a safari to Hwange National Park which was an add on to my overland tour. This park is the size of Belgium and little visited due to the situation in the country. On the way there our group stopped at the coal-mining town of Hwange to get petrol. The petrol stations in Zimbabwe don’t have prices; they just have signs that say NO! On the outskirts of Hwange the queues stretched out along the road and they looked like they’d been there for some time. Our guides went off to buy petrol on the black market and they managed after a couple of hours to fuel the vehicles and get a couple of spare jerry cans. Driving along the cars have that distinctive smell of very low grade petrol.

 The National Park itself was outstanding. We went on four game drives in the early mornings and late evenings and saw lots of animals around the waterholes. On the first evening we saw a group of Giraffes drinking, which is quite a sight as they have to ‘do the splits’ with their front legs in order to get their necks down to water level. They are very vulnerable to attack by Lions when they do this and are very nervous. The Park is also home to lots of birds and I saw some spectacular ones like the Southern Ground Hornbill, a large Turkey type bird as well as the rare Chanting Dark Goshawk.

 The camp we were staying presented me with a unique problem, bats in the room. The roof was very high and made of thatch, a good place for bats to ‘hang out’; I saw one crawling under the door to get in! They were quite small, about 15 cm and for some reason used to fall off the wall with a ‘plop’ onto the floor. I got a broom and managed to shoo the ones I could see out of the room. Lying in bed later I felt the whoosh of wings going past my ear, so I had to get up and evict another one.

 From Hwange I went back to Victoria Falls and from there crossed over to Livingstone on the Zambian side. Zambia seemed like the land of plenty after Zimbabwe.

Tags: On the Road

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