lima, peru
How I almost missed out on my Zimbabwean adventure
May 20, 2015
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Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. Leonardo DaVinci

Wtf… I was so done with Zimbabwe before I even visited the Victoria Falls. Shortly after I arrived from Botswana on a Friday morning, I decided to run the usual i-just-crossed-the-border errands. Take out money in the local currency (US dollars), purchase a simcard/cut it to nano format/activate the data bundle, stock up at the supermarket (preferebly non refrigerated groceries). I had barely reached the main road in Victoria Falls, when the Zimbabwean shit show started. The ATM wouldn´t accept my Spanish debit card. A 5$ data bundle would only get me 80MB, so 5 times less data than in the previous Southern African countries. And the prices at the supermarket were at European level.

Worst of all, I wasn´t prepared for all the hassling in Victoria Falls.

Special price! Free sunset cruise (just purchase the 300$ activity package)!
Take me with you to Australia! A-u-s-t-r-i-a? That´s great too!
I like your body! I like the way you dress!

Sure, why was I wearing a Spanish style skirt as if I was still wandering around in Cape Town? Hello! It was early morning and 30º C already. And the most touristy spot in Southern Africa didn´t exactly strike me as the heart of Africa, where women get accosted about bare shoulders. What was I doing in Zimbabwe anyways, except for the mandatory stop at one of the seven natural wonders of the world? Maybe visit Mana Pools National Park like my Zimbabwean bus buddy Tawika, who I met on the way to Namibia, had recommended. But how? Impossible without a car.

Barely a few hours in Zimbabwe and ready to leave again, but then the solo traveler magic happened

I escaped into the next store, wishing my girlfriends were here.

Me: I am looking for a long skirt!
Salesman: You look like a real African woman now!

Shopping in Victoria Falls
I bought a knee-length jeans skirt

By Mother´s Day I had paid a visit to the beautiful waterfalls from both sides, gotten myself a $2US wedding ring in Livingstone, recovered from an improvised bar crawl – and finally started to relax.

Marco (German soon-to-be student): I just arrived from Great Zimbabwe! Amazing!
Me: Great what..?! Okay, one more stop so that the Visa pays off.

Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Good bye Victoria Falls! Hello Zimbabwe!

It is not a truly Zimbabwean bus ride unless the driver blasts the party music at full volume non-stop. Even on the night bus. I felt very tired when I walked past the entrance of Great Zimbabwe the next day. Luckily the campsite was located right near the ruined city.

Me (exhausted): I could camp, but I think I will spoil myself today…
Moreblessings (smiley manager): You have the dorm to yourself!

 

Ruins of Great Zimbabwe
Except for the monkeys that played on top of the ruins, it felt like I had the entire UNESCO world heritage site to myself.

And of course for the women, who carried construction material past the largest ruins in sub-saharian Africa.

Women working in Great Zimbabwe
At the foot of the king’s hill, they had built an artificial village.

Soon local artists should entertain the visitors there, and hopefully attract the tourist crowds in the future. I only put my backpack down to take pictures and to talk to the blind old man, who played the guitar in front of the huts.

James (smiling): Tourism declined since everything became so expensive with the inflation & the US dollar.

Village in Great Zimbabwe
Nobody actually lived in the village

Next stop: Harare. In Botswana my how-to-bribe-your-way-across-african-borders coach Q had told me to stay away from the cities in Zimbabwe (“tent lady, they see you with all your bags & you will get robbed!”). But nobody seemed too interested in my belongings, and a few people actually greeted me politely on the streets of the capital city of Zimbabwe.

Thursday evening at the hostel. Time to relive the past days and start a blog post.

Inge (Dutch manager of a women´s training center in Kongo): We should go out!
Juanita (regular hostel guest): Tonight the Roki concert is the place to be!

Juanita gave us a lift and pointed out to the doorman that there was really no reason why we should have to pay to get in. He only complained a little when we walked straight into the party tent.

Zimbabwean concert in Harare
Being the only 2 white ladies at the venue, Inge and I didn´t understand a word of the Shona lyrics.

But aren´t all songs about love? We made up our own lyrics and ended up dancing in the front rows.

After the concert Juanita took us to her favorite bar for drinks, where Inge raved about her stay at the Warthog Bush Camp in Kariba (“Elephants walking by my tent!”). She had just arrived from Kariba that same Thursday, where she had been the only camper (“impossible to catch a ride to nearby Mana Pools National Park”). We realized we were the only non hookers at the dodgy bar and called it an early night. While falling asleep in my upper bunk bed, I decided to stop in Kariba for one night before finally crossing over to Zambia.


Arrival at the campsite in Kariba on Friday before sunset

On Saturday morning I sat down at the Warthog bush camp´s restaurant. I positioned myself so that I could watch the elephants that were bathing in Lake Kariba and meant to start blogging about Zimbabwe.

Tracy (manager): We are gonna head to the flat plains for a couple hours. Wanna join?
Me: Alright! (putting on my new jeans skirt)
Tracy:  It´s only the ladies, you can wear shorts! And take off your wedding ring!

Zimbabwean braai on the flat plains at Lake Kariba
Zimbabwean braai & beers at the flat plains

Me (heading for the bush): I will be right back!
Tracy: Andrea, stop! Wild animals, you know? Stay here, you can pee behind the car!

Hippo footprints everywhere around Lake Kariba
“Andrea, not too close to shore! The crocodiles could snatch you!” Hippo footprint
Sunset at Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe
Sunset at Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe

Saturday night back at the campsite. The ladies had called it a day and I was about to walk back to my tent when I started a conversation with Laura and Elmer, two Skandinavian campers who had just arrived.

Shawn (friendly local who loves Jägermeister, like all white Zimbabweans): Are you guys up for a night game drive?
Us: Alright!! (squashing in the front of Shawn´s Toyota)

Game drive at night in Kariba
Elephant crossing

We couldn´t hope for a more authentic Zimbabwean experience! Every time Shawn stopped the Toyota on the way to Kariba Heights we had to push start the car. We came across plenty of elephants before we reached the top of and enjoyed the view of the Kariba Dam.

Back at the campsite after midnight.

Me (ready for my sleeping bag): That was fun! Tomorrow Zambia, just too bad I didn´t get to go to Mana Pools!
Jolie (local hunter who “lives life to the fullest”): I haven´t been in a while.. Let´s go?!

Taking down my tent in the middle of the night (easy-peasy after two months of camping) and off we go.

Brunch in Mana Pools National Park
Hello Mana Pools National Park!!! Brunch next to the Zambezi river

 

Elephant skull in Mana Pools National Park
Too early for selfies, but how often do I find an elephant skull?

Elephants around the campsite during the day. One hippo marching out of the Zambezi and passing by our braai on Sunday after sunset. Woooowwww!!

Hippos in the Zambezi River in Mana Pools
One last game drive in Mana Pools. Hippos in the Zambezi River.

Monday evening back at the Warthog campsite. I finished my last food, that had been waiting for me in the fridge since before the ladies braai, and switched on my laptop.

Finally time to blog.

Brian, John, David & his dad Toni (at the next table): OMG! So many cables?!
Me: Just backing up my photos before traveling to Zambia tomorrow!
David: But you CANNOT leave Kariba without having been on the lake!!

One more day in Kariba.

Breakfast in Kariba
Selfie time after breakfast. They had never seen a selfie stick before!
Fishing on Lake Kariba
Fishing on Lake Kariba. Buffaloes in the backround.

Tuesday evening, returning from the boat cruise on Lake Kariba. The hippos were getting hungry.

Hippo yawning in Lake Kariba
So was I.

On our fishing trip I had only caught a tiny grey fish that went directly back into Lake Kariba.

David: Hold on! Just hide behind the car and watch the hippos to leave the lake to feed on the campsite!
Me: Really?! Alright!!

The day after I finally left for Lusaka. I had spent almost 2 weeks in Zimbabwe 🙂