Zimbabwe

23rd of March – 16 of April 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.

During our rest day, we were spoiled again and again with different meals. We had interesting conversations and exchanged about different topics with Tabo and his family. In the afternoon, the oldest son Xolani came for a visit and wanted to show us the hood. First, we searched someone who could cut Adrians hair. This was easy, since there was a street full of small hairdresser shops. The hairdresser of Tabos choice cut non-African hair for the first time and had moments were he was not sure what to do exactly. The result was not perfect, but for one US dollar and a toy scissor as a tool, Adrian could not complain.

Then we bought some local beer made of sorghum and corn called Chibuku Super. We drank this beer in the back of a small truck in a larger place where many men were gathering to celebrate easter with some beers. We were introduced to many friends of Tabo and Xolani and learned a lot about the neighborhood and Zimbabwe. For example, we learned that regularly there is no electricity and water for several days without any warning.

When it got dark, Xolani wanted to show us another place. So, we drove with a small van to another part of the neighborhood and were able to play snooker. Of course, we lost against the local guys, since they were playing a lot in their free time. It was a special experience to play outdoors while seeing the stars and talking to many interested locals. At the end, we drove to a large bar at another suburb to drink more beer. There were more than 300 young party people present and when we walked to the bar, we were in the center of attention immediately. From all sides people greeted us and wanted to know why and how we ended up exactly in this place. This was an unique experience. A bit later, we drove back to the hose, since the women were already waiting for us and hoped nothing happened to us men. Before we went to bed, we were again treated with another delicious meal.

After we were spoilt again by the two women with a double breakfast, we packed our bags and got ready to leave. When we wanted to, the kitchen was busy again and we found out, that this was our lunch in the pots. Like that we even had the luxury of filling our food containers with the menu, to enjoy it later on. We said goodbye to the lovely family and are sure that we will think back to this stay many times in the future.

The road through the large city was calm and even later on, the traffic did not increase significantly. This was probably due to the easter weekend. First, we gained altitude, before we lost several hundreds of meter in altitude again. After we left the main road to South Africa, we saw many smooth, huge boulders.

After the coldest night so far, the sky was already covered with clouds in the morning and it was much cooler than the last few weeks. When we started cycling, Adrian realized that he had a puncture on his rear wheel. This was probably due a thorn, which punctured the tire the evening before when we were looking for our wild camp spot.

After a few kilometers, it started to rain lightly and therefore our period of no rain while cycling was officially finished. And all of this in the rainy season! The shower did not last long and we were dry again soon after.

In the city Zvishavane, we bought dinner and breakfast in a large supermarket and continued cycling for a while, until we found a suitable spot not far off the road.

Due to the strong headwinds and the many kilometers we cycled in the past days without any rest day, we realized that we needed a break. In addition, the landscape was hillier again and the meters we cycled uphill in Zimbabwe accumulated more and more.

In the larger town Masvingo, we wanted to eat something and buy groceries. Even after a longer search for a restaurant we did not succeed to find one which served something else than the cornmeal “sadza” with meat. Finally, we found burgers with side dishes in a huge supermarket. Unfortunately, the procedure for the take-away buffet was very complicated and we had to wait for a long time until we could pay, so our food was cold and we almost lost our nerves.

A bit alter, we reached one of the highlights of Zimbabwe. Great Zimbabwe are ruins of a town which was populated between the 11th and 15th centuries. Directly next to this UNESCO World Heritage site, we found a campground.

Unfortunately, the campground was run down during the last years. Therefore, there was no electricity and internet connection and we had only cold water available. For these amenities, they asked 7 US-dollars per person, which is a lot. The alternative was with 15 US dollars even more expensive.

At the more expensive campground, we used the internet from time to time and treated ourselves with a cold drink. Additionally, Adrian used the pool to find a hole in his air mattress and Fabian shaved his beard using the mirror, which was missing at our campground.

The surroundings of the campground was green and from time to time groups of baboons and vervet monkeys walked passed our tent. Of course, the primates tried to find leftovers in the rubbish bins, since they were not closed.

After a rest day, we visited the ruins on the hill and the impressive 11 meters high and up to 6 meters thick wall. In addition, there were traditional houses and a museum to visit. In the houses, there were locals sitting and making a fire. One woman offered us some groundnuts and another woman wood to chew on, which should have a similar effect like Viagra.

Great-Zimbabwe is one of the oldest and largest rock settlement built before colonialization south of the Sahara. The ruins and a bird made of stone, which was found here as well, make up todays flag of Zimbabwe.

Since there was no option to eat, except the expensive restaurant of a lodge, we had to cycle around four kilometers to a village to organize food. The locals there, including the woman who cooked food, were surprised that we eat the local dish. In the many grocery stores, we bought beans in a can, bread, porridge and local milk drinks.

During the third rest day we planned, not even the water worked anymore on the campground. So, we decided to continue. We had another campground in mind, which was around 50 kilometers away.

Soon, we reached Lake Mutirikwe, a reservoir. The lake has a size of 90 km2 and was primarily built for the irrigation of the surrounding agricultural land. When we arrived at the dam, we saw that they were building an installation to use the hydropower. Directly before the dam, we saw well preserved rock paintings.

The narrow, tarred road led us up and down. Therefore, we saw the beautiful lake, the smooth rock surfaces, the surrounding hills and the authentic houses from where kids waved at us again and again.

On the search for a restaurant, we got acquainted with Jeff, a 23-years old farmer with a bicycle. He guided us to a village with a restaurant and small shops. We would have never found the village without him. In the village, everyone was surprised and extremely happy to see us. Immediately, we were surrounded by several women, kids and a drunk man. We were asked many questions and could pose for several pictures. A woman roasted some peanuts for us and her friend offered us two avocados.

After this amazing interaction in the small village, we continued further around the lake. Jeff was still cycling with us. His bicycle had only one complete pedal, the breaks and the gear shifting system did no work anymore. From time to time he stopped to manually change the gear. Jeff was curious and accompanied us as far as the campground directly on the lakeshore. After a while, he cycled the 20 kilometers back to his village.

In the morning, we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of the campground and the view onto the lake. Additionally, we used the internet connection for phone calls. Adrian had a flat tire again and searched the tire for a spiky object at the location of the puncture. Indeed, after searching the tire several times, he found a piece of metal which went through the plastic. Hopefully, this was the reason for all the punctures.

After a few kilometers, we left the gravel road and therefore the lake again. On the tarred road, we found our daily portion of “Sadza” and after a toll gate, we turned left and made good progress thanks to strong tailwind, despite lots of hills. The landscape with small settlements surrounded by corn plantations and the countless granite boulders in the background was stunning.

Gutu was a larger town and we wanted to buy breakfast and eat dinner efficiently due to the quick disappearance of daylight. Surprisingly, the people of the town were not used to the visit of (white) tourists and from all sides the locals shouted, whistled and waved at us. Due to the many questions, we did not have time to eat in a restaurant and bought some food to bring with us. For greetings, saying goodbye or just as a reaction to any words, people in this region always say “sharp”. In the beginning, this was rather amusing and unusual. Finally, we found a spot to pitch our tent on a meadow, before it got dark.

Late in the evening, Walter, the owner of the land and his father visited us. They wanted to check who was camping in the middle of their patch of land. In the beginning, the two men were a bit tense, but after we told them our story, they were welcoming and relaxed. In the next morning, we said goodbye and Walter told us that a few days ago, someone tried to break into their house. This was the reason for their insecurity.

After a few kilometers, the tarred road changed into a gravel road. Already a few days ago, we started to ask people about the road quality of this section. We assumed that it would not be great, but we did not expect lots of sand. We fought through the sandy sections, even though we had to push our bicycles from time to time. The reduction of the tire pressure helped enormously and we progressed much better afterwards. After around 50 kilometers, we reached a tarred main road again.

Shortly after, Adrian realized that he could not switch between the three front gears anymore. It turned out to be same problem Fabian encountered in Botswana. The hose of the gear shifting cable was broken. Together with a mechanic, we could replace the hose, so that all gears were working again. Every day we are glad that people in Zimbabwe speak English, besides the more than ten local languages. Before the colonialization through the United Kingdom, this region was called Rhodesia.

For the first time, we found a stream with water and therefore could wash our dusty and sweaty bodies after this strenuous day.

In the night, an intense storm passed our spot, but despite some wind, we were spared. However, in the morning, the sky was full of clouds and while we ate breakfast, there was some rain. A little later the rain stopped and in the afternoon, the sun appeared.

Everywhere, we saw men, women and kids walking to the nearest church wearing their fanciest outfits. Religion is important in Zimbabwe and we saw many masses. Men who did not visit the church or were already back, drank lots of beer in one of the many bars in the villages. Many times, the drunk men approach us, since they are brave enough.

Unfortunately, sometimes the road looked like a chess board due to all the reparations. For us this was rather unpractical, since we felt all the bumps. The landscape got greener and hillier. We steadily gained in altitude and definitively reached the highlands. For dinner, a young woman prepared two fresh portions of French fries for us, even though she did not plan to cook on this day.

We continuously gained in altitude and had a stunning view on the surroundings, since the road is located on a ridge. After every turn, we saw new hills, rock formations and forest in close proximity.

During a break, we ate something at a small kiosk. While we ate, a 11-years old boy asked us where we came from, what our name is and many other questions. He was extremely self-confident, curious and smart. It was impressive to see how the boy was interested in the exchange with two complete strangers from another continent.

Shortly before our daily goal at almost 2’000 meters above sea level, we cycled through a sort of avenue with flat top acacia, which cast a shadow over the complete road. At a farm shop with a restaurant, we met a family from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Patrick und Tracy spend two weeks of their vacation in the cool mountain region in the east of the country. After a short conversation, the couple invited us to a holiday house in which they stayed.

So, we cycled the remaining six kilometers on a hilly gravel road until we reached the house in a beautiful forest next to a small stream. The air was fresh and smelled like the eucalyptus trees in the area.

From the beginning, we were integrated into the four-person family and spoiled with delicious food. We enjoyed a hot shower and even got our own room in a small, separated hut.

As during dinner the evening before, we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the interesting exchange with the two teachers again during breakfast. Despite family time with the baby and the 4-years old son Elijah, Patrick and Tracy took the time to visit the Mutarazi waterfall with us. The drive took more than an hour, since part of the road led us across hills and a gravel road. To cycle this roads would have demanded all our strength and possibly damaged the bicycles. Therefore, we appreciated the gesture even more. After the drive through the large puddles and a dense rainforest, we reached a trail, which led us to the 762 meters high waterfall. We paid the entrance fee for the national park and walked along the beautiful trail. During the past years, a skywalk and a zip line were built above the second largest waterfall in Africa and the sixth largest in the World. Both these adrenaline options were too expensive for us, but from the start of the bridge, we saw the complete waterfall directly from the edge. While we walked to the view point, from where one can see the complete waterfall and the Honde-valley below, fog rolled in and we could not see more than 50 meters. Despite waiting there for a while, the fog stayed and we walked back to the car. Luckily, we saw the waterfall in the beginning from above and took a glimpse of the valley.

On the way back, we stopped for a drink at a restaurant with a trout farm. We decided to try to hike to the highest mountain of Zimbabwe on the same day. This endeavor was timewise rather risky, but at least we wanted to give it a go. The reason was that if we would do it the next day with the bicycles and the luggage, it would have been more complicated to get to the starting point. So, we lifted our thumb and tried to catch a lift to the entrance of the national park about 30 km away. A few minutes later, a minibus with a trailer had two free seats for us. Even with a long stop and slow speed uphill, we reached the destination relatively fast.

At the entrance of the national park, we asked if there were many cars going up to the start of the trail (13 km away). Unfortunately, the friendly lady said that during the week there were not many tourists driving up. In addition, we needed a guide for the short hike (3.5 km & 350 m ascent) up to the summit. The guide is mandatory due to dense fog and tourists got lost before. There are even some mystic stories about the mountain. Even a visit at the office of the chief of the national park did not result in a inexpensive transportation option. Therefore, we decided not to climb this mountain, since it was too complicated and expensive.

On the way back to the main road, we cooled down in an amazing natural pool. Then we got two lifts back to the junction. From there, we walked 6 km, partly in the dark, back to the holiday house. There, the family waited already with dinner for us. We enjoyed the great conversations again and even got to know the father of Patrick and his wife.

During breakfast, Gael, the wife of Patrick’s dad Nick, realized that we could reach her brother his wife about 100 km from here. They agreed quickly to have us as guests and like that we had our target for the day, which motivated us of course. We said goodbye and thanks to everyone for the amazing hospitality and cycled back to the tarred road. Patrick, the mountain bike enthusiast, accompanied us for a bit.

Most of the day, we could cycle downhill and enjoy the long descents. Whereas, we admired the hilly and rocky landscape. Unfortunately, a lot of forest was already cut down and one can only hope that this does not continue. Otherwise, the micro climate in the highlands could change permanently.

Besides timber industry in this region, there are tea, coffee and even tobacco plantations, thanks to the unique climate. Zimbabwe was once the third largest tobacco exporter worldwide.

Inside the passing cars, we saw more and more white locals in this region, which seek the comfortable climate as a change to the loud and dusty streets of the cities.

Since a few days, we left the planned route and cycled a detour in the northern parts of the highlands. This detour is about 415 km more than planned. Since we were motivated and ahead of the time plan, we accepted the additional ascents and distance.

Despite the almost 2’000 meters we cycled downhill, the ascents added up to more than 1’000 meters too. After another pass, we reached Mutare, the third largest city directly at the border with Mozambique. We fought our way through the chaotic town and only a few kilometers later we reached the property of Gaels brother and his wife.

We were warmly welcomed by the older couple and given a room instantly. We enjoyed a warm shower, despite the broken water supply system due to a heavy storm the day before. A lighting hit the motor of the pump in the borehole and destroyed it. We even got a bed each and were treated with a delicious chicken-curry and a tropical fruit salad from their own garden.

We enjoyed the two rest days partly on the beautiful veranda with a view on the forest and the gardens. Exactly the break like this was needed after many intensive days in the saddle. Both of  our hosts do not want to appear in the internet. That is why we did not publish any pictures from them or the house.

For the first time since our arrival in Namibia, we could wash our clothes using a washing machine. Again and again, we realize how lucky we are in Switzerland. Almost every apartment or every house for sure has a washing machine. In Africa this is a luxury object and due to the missing electricity even the basis is non-existent.

We did not like to leave our hosts again. We enjoyed the rest days, the good food and the interesting conversations extremely. We are sure that we will think back to this stay and the hospitality many times.

The sky was still covered with clouds and from time to time there was drizzle. During the first 60 km, it was mostly downhill and we made good progress. Then we ate a meal in a small restaurant, before we turned at a junction leading into the mountains.

The road did not have much traffic and led us along a valley. Everywhere, we saw people working the fields. Most people waved at us and screamed some words in our direction. After a pass, we followed a small river. We liked this region, since we saw more and more mountains. At the end, there was a steep ascent during several kilometers. Finally, we managed to cycle 120 km and almost 2’000 meters uphill, which was a new Cape2Cape record!

The day was still not finished, since we left the bicycles at a small shop and took only one back and a backpack each. Shortly after, a car brought us to Chimanimani. The plan was to hike to the highest mountain of Mozambique the next day. In the mountain village, we ate dinner, which was prepared for us in Mutare and bought snacks for the following hiking day. We asked the shop owner if we could sleep in his supermarket. He said that would not be a problem, but it is better to sleep in his house. So, we drove with him and his wife to their house and even got our own room. Unbelievable how much hospitality we were allowed to experience in the last few days.

The alarm rang at 6.30 AM and we got ready for our hiking day. Timothe wanted to open his shop at 7 AM and so we could drive with him part of the way. Of course, everything took longer, since he had to get ready for church and had to pump one of the tires of the car. Then we left part of our luggage at the shop and searched for a car which could bring us to the national park. Quickly we found Paul, who brought us there and bring us back for 20 US dollars. Before we started, Paul had to get 10 liters of fuel with the money we gave him. The first part of the road was tarred, but then the road got smaller, steeper and even led us through a stream.

At the destination, we started walking towards the park entrance. There, we paid the entrance fee and for a mandatory guide. Simba, the manager, was surprised that we wanted to climb Mount Binga (2435m) in one day. Normally, people climb the mountain in two days from where we started. After a short discussion, we found a guide who seemed to be fit enough to hike 1500 meters and 10 km up and then down again. Gift (yes, that really is his name), was our guide and only brought his Kalashnikov (AK-47) for the hike. The reason for the weapon are the migrants from Mozambique and illegal gold diggers.

Due to our challenging plan, Gift started with hiking fast and we reached the hut after only one hour. The weather got better and we saw the beautiful plateau, different rock formations and crystal clear streams. Doing just short breaks, we progressed quickly. From time to time, Gift was not convinced if we could reach the summit. We tried to motivate him, since he told us after half of the way that he never climbed the summit in one day.

Shortly before the summit, Gift decreased his speed and said that we should go first and wait for him on the summit. So, we walked alone until the top and reached it around 2 PM. Unfortunately, the view was bad and we did not see anything on the Mozambique side. Gift did not manage to climb the summit and we started the descent. Since he did not carry any food, we gave him some cookies. The clouds disappeared and suddenly, we had an amazing view on both sides of the border.

After almost 8 hours, we reached the park entrance again and soon after calling our driver, he arrived. He did not manage to drive all the way up, since his car had problems on the difficult gravel road. He got stuck and we had to push him out and drove back to Chimanimani. There we met Timothe again and were allowed to sleep again at his place. The long day ended with a mutual dinner and tea. Soon, we were tired and went to bed.

After a tea with fresh lemon juice and the farewell to Timothe and his wife, we quickly found a shared taxi, which brought us to the junction where we left the bicycles. Our material was still in the small shop and our gut feeling that we could trust people in Zimbabwe 100% was once more confirmed. We have never been fooled or treated differently to locals.

After we packed everything in our bags, we continued cycling southwards. First, we had to cycle uphill for a few kilometers, before we could enjoy long descents. Thanks to the sunny weather, we could marvel at the green, mostly still forested hills and small settlement in the steep slopes. In this region many banana trees grow and people sold avocados and sweet potatoes in many places next to the road.

Thanks to the exhausting cycling day and the challenging hike from the day before, we felt our tired legs. Due to the different muscles we used, we even had sore muscles.

In Chipinge, the last town before the border in 40 km, we wanted to buy lunch in a large supermarket. Unfortunately, the device for paying by credit card did not work and we did not want to spend our last US dollars, which we imported from Switzerland for this purchase. We were a bit worried if the dollars will last until the border crossing and then until the first ATM in Mozambique. Since a while we knew that Swiss citizens and other nationalities no longer need a visa since 2024. Now, we can get a visa on arrival directly at the border. Unfortunately, we did not find any information about the price, since this rule was fairly new. At the end, we ate «sadza» again in a small restaurant for the fraction of the money we would have paid in the supermarket.

Shortly before we left town, we met “Jeans”, a canadian cyclist, who travelled through West Africa and southern Africa as well. We exchanged stories until we had to continue, since the sun already disappeared behind the horizon. Suddenly, the qualitatively good tar road disappeared and a red, much narrower gravel road followed. Shortly after, we could pitch our tent between a restaurant and a small shop.

After the first night in the tent since a week, the morning after there was a lot going on around us. Thanks to the fire of the restaurant and the shop next to our camp spot, we could even prepare scrambled eggs for breakfast. When we paid, we involuntarily had to buy sweets, since the sum was not a whole dollar. US dollars is the official currency, but the 1-dollar bill is the smallest unit and coins are not available in Zimbabwe. The good thing is that one can return the sweets again, once the sum is a bit more than a full dollar. Before we started cycling, we did a photoshoot with everyone present and we realized again that meeting white people was very special in Zimbabwe. In total, only a few thousand live in this country and there is a minority.

Every car passing us and swirled dust, so were properly breaded. Before the border, the road got slimmer and after the last ascent, suddenly we were surrounded by rainforest. At the end, the tar disappeared completely and we had to fight ourselves through the mud like in the rainy season in Liberia. Leaving Zimbabwe was uncomplicated and efficient.

Here is some historical information and background on the problem with the local currency:

The land acquisitions started in the early 2000’s for the distribution of the land, which was divided unevenly between white and black population during the colonial era. Back then, 4400 whites took 51% of the fertile land and 4.3 million black people got 42% dry and unproductive land. Through this violent redistribution of the farmland lots of essential knowledge was lost, since white farmers were removed from the land. Zimbabwe ended up being an importer of agricultural products instead of an exporting country. Since then many people are in need of international food supplies. The one advantage of this reform introduced by Robert Mugabe was the social and economic improvements for some of the non-white population

Robert Mugabe was the president of Zimbabwe between 1987-2017. In the beginning of his political career, he was a Marxist Leninist and afterwards a socialist. Mugabe was born into a poor family and surprised many during his many years as a president containing violence, greed and suppression. He therefore got entries into the history books as a dictator and tyrant. Unfortunately, since he is no longer president, not much has changed. At least the violence is gone and there is relative peace.

One of the consequences of the various economic and political choices was rampant inflation. Here is an example of how the hyperinflation affected people in 2008. A woman called a vendor in at the market if there is still cabbage available. She was told that one cabbage is 1 US dollar. So, the woman takes the next bus into town. After 30 minutes, she arrives at the market and wants to buy the cabbage. Unfortunately, the cabbage cost already 10 dollars. The woman buys the cabbage and wants to go back home. However, when she wants to enter the bus, she realizes that the bus ride costs already 10 times more and she can no longer afford it. Like this, the hyperinflation affected people in Zimbabwe and their savings were worthless in a few hours.

The record month-to-month inflation reached an estimated 80 billion %. This means that during the one year bills between 10 Zimbabwe dollars and 100 billion dollars were printed. The highest bill printed was 100 000 000 000 (trillion) Zimbabwe dollar. In total the government printed four times new bills, but again and again an extreme devaluation followed. Subsequently in 2009 almost 10 different foreign currencies were accepted the main currency being the US dollar. Later the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar saw inflation return. Recently, in an attempt to control the rising inflation the government has introduced a new currency, which as yet does not physically exist – (cash notes should be available by 30th April). This currency is linked to the gold standard in an attempt to curb inflation. At the end, the elite profits from every new currency which is introduced and the general population loses their savings.

When leaving Zimbabwe, we left a country with extrovert, friendly and helpful people. Thanks to the countless conversations and interactions, travelling through this diverse country was very easy and Zimbabwe is definitely one of the most interesting countries on our journey.

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