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  • Malawi Adventure – Day 2

    “People were getting hurt. Wayne had to jam himself in the doorway to rescue a young girl before letting himself through”

    We left Lalapanzi at 3:30am with the bar lady’s farewell party still in full swing. Our plan was to get to Beit Bridge border by 5:30, miss all the busses and get through in an hour tops. How wrong we were!!! Queues were crazy long as the busses had already arrived at 3am. The South African side took us 2 hours to get through after being mobbed by crowds of people pushing to get through the customs doors. It was chaos! People were getting hurt. Wayne had to jam himself in the doorway to rescue a young girl before letting himself through. The Zimbabwean side took us 5 hours. There were 1000s of people and no form of organization with regards to standing in lines. People pushed in wherever they could and unfortunately if you caused a stink about it you got rallied to the back of the line and paying the runners put you back a lot of money and time, not to mention the fact that it had already cost us almost R700 to transit the country. After 5 hours I was eventually on my haunches trying to relieve the pain in my legs and back from standing for so long. It was HOT…dripping hot, and there was frustration and tension hanging in the air. As I stared through the broken window at the Zimbabwean flag gently blowing in the dusty heat I wondered if I would  look back on this moment  around some crackling bonfire one day and have a good laugh? I found it very difficult to bloom where I was planted for these few hours.
    So, some tips for crossing this border are, cool clothing, a sun hat, sun cream, water to drink, snacks, toilet paper and a ton of patience and smiles!
    Anyway, 7 hours later we left the border having absolutely having lost all sense of humor and an hour later were pulled over by traffic cops who we had to pay a R300 fine for “apparently” speeding but in no way were. It was originally R600 but we managed to bring it down. The traffic officer said that we could either pay it or spend the weekend in jail and bargain with a Zimbabwean judge on Monday, and it was right there that my love affair with Zimbabwe ended. Wayne’s comment as we drove off fuming mad, still rings in my head, “God left this country long ago”.
    Unfortunately there’s no anti-corruption hotlines that work here and no one would care if you called anyway. Generally you just feel very unwelcome in Zimbabwe these days…
    It was dry and desolate at that time of year…there were endless stretches of mopane trees and dust. It was quiet outside with nothing but dry heat, goats, cattle, chickens, road blocks and  a land long forgotten by all. “The revolution has eaten its children. I see a river of dreams run dry..” Johnny Clegg’s words brought a chill to me as I stared and listened. The only things that seemed to work properly there were the things that brought the government money. Everything else around had fallen to pieces. There are remnants of what old Rhodesia used to be like, but it is almost ghostly to see it today..I think one of the most frustrating things for me when traveling through Africa is my indelible need to see things ‘like they used to be’… It’s sad because I will never see it, and neither will my children…
    The road was very narrow and there were quite a few potholes in the South. Passing trucks come onto your side of the road and sometimes force you into the chiseled edge of the road which becomes hair raising at times! The busses seemed to be the fastest things on the road which had its advantages and made them easy to hide behind. You got the feeling that because of their size they would take most of the impact from any oncoming traffic playing Russian roulette over blind rises and double white lines. The other advantage is that you can save a bit of fuel by getting into their slipstream. Jubilation arose in our car every time we managed to get behind one of these speeding missiles and go from 60km/h to 120km/h.
    And just when early depression was kicking in, it happened…..at precisely 1308km we saw our first parrot, which was the start of our birding list for this trip. Meyers Parrot! Spirits lifted we agreed to put the days’ issues behind us and concentrate on the exciting adventure that lay ahead. After 10 hours of driving we stayed over at Jeni Stables who has a simple yet lovely oasis in Harare. We ran a nice hot bath, jumped in and ate the biggest pizza IN THE ENTIRE WORLD and then hopped into bed for a well-deserved rest!
    Tomorrow Mozambique’s Tete province and the great Zambezi are our destination…

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