I had a funny feeling that leaving Botswana to Zimbabwe will be dramatic and it surely didn’t disappoint. We had to change buses 3 times before we got to Zimbabwe.
The first bus broke down around Francis Town and after waiting for nearly 2 hours; we got a replacement bus that didn’t have the right documentation to cross the border from Botswana to Zimbabwe.
We had to change to another bus.
My journey was bearable because I was sitting next to a young Zimbabwean Copyright Lawyer I had met 2 days prior. She came to one of the free seminars I delivered in Botswana. What were the odds that we were going to be travelling the same day at the same time?
She was so helpful, giving me Wi-Fi access; her phone to make the occasional checking in calls and of course snacks for the road
and plenty of real and deep conversation and learning.
As a Ghanaian, I didn’t need a visa for Zimbabwe. Sweet deal. Everyone I know loves visa free travel. Who doesn’t? And yes, I had a super smooth crossing at the Zimbabwean border. The only thing was, upon entry, we were ordered to take every single luggage out of the bus and we were all required to stand by our luggage and declare what was in it.
This can take quite some time as some people did not want to pay taxes or fines and left their luggage unattended. That will have been a different story in Europe or elsewhere.
A remarkable thing also happened on my bus, when we got to the border; a young man helped people offload their luggage in exchange for cash or food. He was so grateful for anything that was offered. Very admirable.
The original plan was to go to Harare, and everyone advised it was way too busy.
So a chance meeting with Loreen at Johannesburg airport when I was heading to Mauritius made me change my plans to go to Bulawayo.
Loreen picked me up from the bus terminal and took me home. She was a fantastic hostess. I stayed with her and her beautiful family, joined her for church service the next day and loved every minute of it.
I cooked our legendary Ghanaian jollof rice and made some groundnut/peanut butter soup with fresh fish for Loreen and her family. I can vividly recall the disgusted look on Loreen’s face until she tasted and enjoyed the soup so much that, she asked for the recipe and then warned EVERYONE not to touch her soup. The beauty of travel and exchanges. Up until that point, peanut butter was only used as a spread on bread etc. in her opinion, until yours truly came along.
Spending time and staying with a locale makes a huge difference. I look forward to seeing the Zimbabwe of former days that my friends talk about.
Bulawayo is beautiful with a lot of architecture from colonial times. There was something about it that reminded me of Prague.
I have met so many people from Zimbabwe who complain about how hard life has become and how bad the economy is.
I can only imagine Zimbabwe’s glorious past;
because Bulawayo, the second biggest city looks like a very organized place, at least the parts I visited. There were many well-manicured lawns,
nice and organised schools with students as chaperones welcoming parents, guardians and their colleagues.
The roads are well connected with street names too. Some readers might think street names are the norm, not so in many parts of my own country, not even the capital. It’s a special art form to get directions sometimes. And that is a whole story for another day.
I left Bulawayo to see the almighty Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side. Mine oh mine, the Victorian Falls deserves its own blog post, because it is AMAZING.
Leaving Bulawayo was interesting in a lot of ways. First of all, I felt the bus conductors could be more organized, but they were screaming for passengers, just like I will experience at some bus stations in Ghana, although some bus stations in Ghana are organised and have a system in place. This experience of conductors or drivers talking your ear off to join their bus instead of their competitors can be stressful, especially when they are asking you questions all at once in a language you don’t understand. I just answer back or speak one Ghanaian language and that destabilizes them or makes them laugh. Either way, I win.
Just like most parts of the developing world, one always needs a bucket load of patience on the bus till either every passenger seat is occupied. Sometimes, this can be quick at other times, it can take hours, depending on; the destination, which day of the week it is or whether it’s a market day or not. Alternatively, the bus leaves half full and stops to pick passengers along the way.
I found it very interesting that I had to pay my bus fare which was $10 with 2 “currencies” a $5(US dollars) and a 5 Zimbabwean dollars/ bond note, which is only useful in Zimbabwe.
The drive to Victoria Falls was so calming. I could write a whole blog post on the elegant and beautiful trees I saw by the Zimbabwean roads.
There were a number of cornfields too. I am not surprised pap is a stable food.
I was so grateful our driver decided to drive safely because I was not amused when it felt like an overtaking game between him and the bus that left after us at the station.
I forgave him when he stopped the nonsense and started playing a number of Bob Marley’s greatest hits on the tiny TV screens on the bus. I sang along excitedly, whilst the locals had curious looks on their faces. The driver will sometimes disrupt my flow and switch it up with a Jason Derulo, a local pop or some local gospel songs whose lead singers always seem to have the obligatory 4 backup singers with coordinated movements. It felt like a music video from the 90s. It was amusing.
We finally got to Victoria Falls and heavy tropical rain, aka African rain welcomed us in grand style. The driver was nice to allow me to sit on the bus and also use his phone to call my contact.
The Zimbabweans I met in and out of Zimbabwe were really nice and smart folks. I could be generalizing, but they have a certain laid back charm about them. Definitely go to Zimbabwe when you get the chance. If not for anything, it will make you think and you will meet some pretty open-minded and resilient people too.