The Malawian people made our time in their country extremely enjoyable (the great riding roads helped as well). Although Malawi is among the poorest in the world, they have a richness in both culture and humanity that we could all learn from. It has been a great experience. But it’s time to move forward on our journey.
From Malawi we rode into Tete in Mozambique, which is situated on the mighty Zambezi River. We were just passing through Mozambique on transit to Zimbabwe, so we didn’t really get a good chance to experience the country, but we will see the Zambezi again when we reach Victoria Falls in about a week.
With all that we’ve heard about Zimbabwe over the years, we were pretty keen to check out the country for ourselves, albeit with slight trepidation. The country has a history of political unrest and violence. Our first greeting with the Zimbabwean Police force was just metres into the country, license and carnet checks, all-fine. Our next encounter with the police was about 10kms later, license and carnet checks again still all ok. The next check point was about 20km later – this is getting a bit over the top. The police are friendly enough, but the constant police check points were ridiculous.
One of the guys asked a police officer about the never-ending checkpoints. The officer was friendly and courteous when he replied with “Get used to it”. Never a truer statement was spoken. Over our time in Zimbabwe we’ve lost count how many times we’ve been stopped. Some of us have paid fines (bribes?) for what seemed trivial offenses (made up?). But like the police officer said, we’ve “gotten used to it” Our first impressions of riding into Harare was quite good. It’s a big city and seems orderly and safe. Maybe the multiple police check points are actually having an affect?
Harare also gave us the opportunity to do some serious bike maintenance. Again poor old Bayne was kept busy with tyre changes, chains, sprockets, bearings and general bike care. We even had a chance to air out the tents, sleeping rolls and camping gear. It was funny to see all of our gear spread out on the lawn of the palatial hotel we stayed out. So palatial in fact, that later that afternoon, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stayed there.
Some of us decided to track down some old Zimbabwean money. After some detective work on the streets of Harare, we managed to locate some old bank notes, which were printed during the height of their inflation a few years ago. For a few US$ we purchased notes ranging in value from 10 billion to 100 Trillion Zimbabwean dollars. We are all now officially “Zimillionairs”. Although, in 2012, before they changed to US$, this would have only bought anything from a can of coke to a loaf of bread. From Harare we rode to Masvingo, where we explored the ancient Zimbabwean ruins, built by King Solomon, in the 8th Century. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. Later that night we heard news about the Paris terrorist attacks. One of the group lives in France. It was a sober reminder of the fragility of life as we reflected on our journey so far.
We left early the following day for a 300 km ride to Gweru, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk alongside the king of the jungle the African lion. Africa never ceases to amaze! After a short “safety training session” on feline behavior and how to avoid getting hurt, we were led (with sticks in hand) to meet our walking companions, Arusha and Mafussa. Two of the biggest “juvenile’ lions we’ve ever seen. Together we walked through the African savannah as they bumped into us, rubbed against us and played like overgrown pussycats around us. They even posed with us for photographs. It was another experience we won’t forget in a hurry.
Today we are Victoria Falls. It’s everything we’ve read about. Majestic, awesome and inspiring. The falls are the widest in the world and to see one of nature’s most amazing creations up close is nothing short of breathtaking. A few of the group wanted to push the envelope a bit further with the adrenalin rush of bungy jumping and white water rafting. Justin, one of the Compass crew and former Hollywood stuntman was in his element leaping from the 110 meter bridge and swinging across the gorge on a cable. He hasn’t stopped smiling since!
Tomorrow we ride into Botswana, but tonight we need to decide whether to have high tea at the Victoria Falls lodge, Tapas in town, or enjoy Kudu steak at our hotel. Tough decisions, but I’m sure we’ll be up to the task!