Border Botswana – Bulawayo


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23rd of March – 28th of March 2024:

Directly after the border, it got hillier and since a long time, we enjoyed some downhills. The road to the Victoria falls was surrounded by forest and extremely wild. There were no signs, houses or even a junction for the next 70 kilometers.

Before we reached the town “Victoria falls”, we cycled almost two kilometers downhill until we realized that this will probably be the most touristic place for the next weeks. Everywhere, we saw expensive accommodations, western restaurants and travel agencies, which offer tours around in the region.

When we entered the campground we had in mind, we immediately met an Austrian-Brazilian couple, who was already traveling in southern Africa since around 1.5 years. Even before we installed our tent, we had intense conversations and realized quickly that we were on the same wavelength. We got recommendations for the next few weeks and valuable information about the road conditions in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In the brewery opposite of our campground, we enjoyed local beer and western food, while a local band was performing.

Finally, one of the highlights of this trip awaited us. The Victoria falls were located only about one kilometer from our campground. These are part of the UNESCO World natural heritage. The water drops about 110 meters with in a width of 1708 meters. The spray can reach up to 300 meters and can be seen from as far as 30 kilometers. The Victoria falls are the widest coherent waterfall in the World and have double the height of the Niagara falls.

The entry fee of 50 US dollars is extremely high, but at the end is this a sight which not many people visit two times in their life. The waterfall is situated in a national park and is therefore protected by external influences. Like many other tourists from all around the world, we walked the proposed trails along the roaring water masses. It was stunning to see the huge amounts of water falling down from up close. At most of the viewpoints it literally rained, due to the spray which dropped on us depending on the direction of the wind. That is why we were completely wet after only a few minutes.

Then we walked to the bridge, which separates the two countries Zimbabwe and Zambia. From the bridge we could see the Zambezi river, which flows beneath and saw part of the Vicotria falls again. Many young men tried to sell us souvenirs, but after a clear no they were still interested to chat with us for a bit.

On the way back, we ate in a small local restaurant, directly next to the road. For two dollars, we got chicken, vegetables and a portion of “Sadza”. This food staple of southern Africa we already know from Namibia and Botswana. It is made of white corn. A guide, who leads tourists to the waterfalls, was surprised that we were eating without cutlery like locals. We started talking and had a nice conversation including different topics. For example, he knew about climate change, but did not know how it was caused. He was very interested to hear about this topic and was surprised about the different sources of greenhouse gases.

In the evening, we joined a boat tour on the Zambezi river and could watch the amazing sunset. During the two-hours cruise, we saw hippos, elephants, crocodiles and many birds, while we served ourselves at the “all-inclusive” bar.

After a rest day, we said goodbye to Heidi and Paulo and left the town filled with tourists. From now on, we had no longer recommendations of Adrians parents, since they did not drive further than the falls.

From the beginning, it was hilly and had several long ascents and descents. We liked this change, since we finally had some view into the distance. We saw many school kids on their way home. All of them wore a uniform with different colors and patterns. Some of them even had bicycles to shorten the long way to school.

At a bridge across an almost dry river, a few boys tried to catch up to us. We talked to them and took a picture together, since they asked us to. It was an interesting exchange and the extrovert and self-confident boys were happy to meet us.

Before we reached Hwange, the road had more and more potholes. After a while the road disappeared completely. Around the town, which gave the nearby national park its name, we saw many coal mines and coke ovens. All these mines are operated by Chinese companies. In front of an industry zone, we spoke to a few daily workers, which waited for people to hire them. They wore work clothes including a construction helmet and security shoes. While waiting, they play card games and a few try to sell wild berries. Unfortunately, some locals told us that the Chinese bosses treat them in a inhuman way.

The quality of the road changed constantly and therefore offered some change for us. In a smaller village, we ate sadza (corn porridge) with meat sauce like the day before. Many people came by for a chat and asked us like most times where we came from and if we were paid by our government for doing this trip. Some school kids passed and tried to forget about their first vaccination while showing a face of pain. Or there was a woman who asked Fabian to marry her. Directly next to us was an almost 70 years old man, which repaired all kinds of shoes. He did his work with an extreme amount of diligence and minimal equipment, so we thought about buying him a new needle and bland. The woman who cooked our meal was lively and was happy that we ate her food, even though she did not understand why we did not want to eat meat.

At the end of the day, we managed to cycle 1000 meters uphill for the first time with a distance of 130 kilometers. Zimbabwe offers a change in many aspects, which we hoped for since a while and therefore, we were happy to finally have more people around us.

For the first time, we were awakened by the singing of a few women. It seemed that there must be a village close to our overnight spot further in the bush. During a break, we bought a watermelon from an extremely friendly man for 50 cents and ate it right there. Like many small farmers in the last weeks, he complained about the present drought. From November to March, it should be rainy season in this region.

At a fuel station, we met a young artist, which carves beautiful sculptures out of wood. For one sculpture it takes him from 1-3 days and he sells the largest pieces for only 25 US dollars.

When we reached Lupane, we found a larger restaurant, which served many different delicious menus. To the surprise of all people around us, we put together a vegetarian dish. While we had our break, several men and women asked us what we were doing in Zimbabwe with our bicycles. We had many interesting exchanges and we enjoyed the curiosity and warmness of the people. The main road was still full of potholes and we had to cycle zigzag to not hit them.

Luckily, the road had less potholes than before. However, the new problem was channels caused by the runoff water. So, the consequence was that every two meters we received a shock and were thoroughly shaken-up. The worst of this road was the toll charge, which had to be paid by all motorized vehicles. This money was thought to repair the roads, but the money got lost in the hands of the corrupt bosses. After four days and 440 kilometers, we reached the second largest city in Zimbabwe.

In a newly, steadily growing suburb of Bulawayo with more than a million inhabitants, we quickly found our host family after a short phone call. Like discussed, we could stay with the family of Mr. B, whom we met in Victoria Falls. We were warmly welcomed by the wife, the son, two other kids and a friend. We got our own room and were treated with delicious local meals. Afterwards, we strolled around the hood and were greeted friendly at all corners, like we very famous. It seemed like there are not many white visitors in this part of the city.

 

 

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