Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Great Zimbabwe

I had no idea what to expect when we ventured into Zimbabwe. I'm not exactly well versed on my African politics from 1980 to present, meaning the end of colonialism and each country's own civil was and how it is currently. But I knew Zimbabwe had had it rough, like most countries I guess. I had just finished reading Paul Theroux's "Dark Star Safari" where he travels Cairo to Cape Town overland. He came through Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, in the height of the farm invasions and the economic crisis. (If you don't know the President basically told the war veterans that they should take the white farmers farms, and so they did, many times violently.) The currency was horribly inflated at the time and as we all know it eventually got much worse. But that was the time period everyone seemed to be referring to when they said to stay away from Zim. I was interested, and a little anxious to see what it was like now.
We went from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo on the night train, celebrating my "birthday" with some gin and tonics. (i'm the only one without a birthday on this trip, so we made one up) We got to Bulawayo in the morning and after some hassle finding an ATM that would take our foreign cards, we hopped on a khumbi to Masvingo, and arrived in the late afternoon before jumping into a shared taxi to the Great Zimbabwe National Monument 25K outside of town. The public transport system is interesting here. There are a few khumbis for longer distances, hours or so, and taxis for short distances, but for middle, and even short distances, there are shared taxis, which are just 8 passenger mini vans that they cram as many people into as possible. We had 16 people in ours on the way to our campsite. But we made it and walked the kilometer in as the sun was setting. The next morning we rose early, as usual, and set off to explore the Great Zimbabwe. It was an extremely interesting morning, wandering around the ancient ruins of an 11th century city. Archeologists spent 100 years trying to attribute this city to anyone and everyone except the african people, but in the end it has been proven that a great civilization lived in this area far before people had realized. The most awesome part was the city slash fort they built on top of a hill of rock. It was full of so many little passageways and nooks we couldn't help but think how fun it would be to play capture the flag or other random games in it.
We wandered around for a few hours before we hitched a ride back into town on a school bus full of the politest 6th graders in the world on a school trip. They had some sports tournaments in some random towns and were getting in some learning in between their games.
After a stop for some take away of chicken and sadza (lipalishi), we got into a khumbi to the capital, Harare.
We got in at night and have spent the last few days trying to figure out busses and visas to get to Malawi. We'll have to go through the Tete corridor of Mozambique to get to Malawi from here, a grand total of 6 hours maybe, that will cost us $85, four times as expensive as our Mozambican visas for our vacations in Swaziland... "it's called reciprocity" they said with a 'tude. But we were successful in our Tanzanian visas, but not without griping about the $110 it cost to get it.
But tomorrow morning we'll leave Zimbabwe for Malawi, so I guess the question is, how was Zimbabwe? It's hard to say after only a week. The people are the nicest I've met since Swaziland, so friendly and smiling. The only trouble we have encountered are police officers giving absurd tickets to khumbi drivers, to the point where they are losing money on trips with bribes and silly tickets. It's been weird being in an African country and using US dollars. In 2009, the Zimbabwaen dollar had inflated so much, it was practically worthless (i an currently in possession of a 25 billion Zim Dollar note) and so they switched to the dollar. It's weird being on a khumbi in the middle of nowhere and some random grandma from some random town pulls out USD to pay. They don't use American coins though. I had some random quarters I tried to pay with when my total came to $1.50, and the lady said "we don't take that, we only take Rand coins." What?! How can a country use one currency for bills and one for coins and neither are their own? And they usually don't even have coins. Today I got change for my $3.30 in 7 suckers.
But all in all, Zim has been good to us, I've enjoyed my time here. But it's time to move on... Lake Malawi is calling. ;)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Victoria Falls -- Zimbabwe

Yesterday, after dragging ourselves out of bed (some earlier than others) after a night of booze cruising on the Zambezi, we walked back over the bridge we jumped off of 2 days earlier and into Zimbabwe. But before we crossed, we made sure to watch Eric as he jumped. It was so funny to watch someone else do it, having done it yourself, knowing how FREAKED they are. And just laughing. Ha. But finally, we wandered over the rest of the bridge, and into the Zimbabwean side. This is the actual town of Victoria Falls, made for tourists. There's nice shops and a few restaurants. People make it out to seem like a real touristy place, but it still has that African town feel too.

Today we took in the Falls from this side. AMAZING! We were a little disappointed with the Zambian side. They haven't gotten a lot of rain this year and it is dry season anyway, so the falls were almost dry from that side.... Not so from this side! About 1/2 of the falls are in Zambia and 1/2 in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean side is lower so the water there is generally at a constant level all year while the Zambian side dries up this time of year. So today we were treated with the full effects of the falls - meaning we got SOAKED! But it's so hot, you were dry in a few minutes once you got out from they spray of the Falls. We sat and watched as people went into "Devil's Pool" at the top of the Falls in Zambia and were SO THANKFUL that we didn't do it!! I would rather have bungee jumped again. Devil's Pool is RIGHT at the top of the falls and I almost peed my pants watching other people do it, I couldn't imagine swimming to the edge of the falls!! I'm a pretty clumsy person on dry land, I would definitely be one of the 5 people a year that falls off the Falls.

But anyway, it's been a good trip to Victoria Falls. It makes me really want to get over to Niagara Falls. I mean if I've been to this one, how have I not been to that one. I'm even itching to get to Angel Falls in South America now so I can hit the big three. It's interesting that in terms of height, these three waterfalls wouldn't even crack the top 800 waterfalls in the world. Niagara is actually not high at all - 51 meters if I'm not mistaken. But they are all SO wide and so full (especially Niagara with a huge volume of water going over it) that they're considered the biggest in the world.

We're headed to Bulawayo tomorrow night on an overnight train from like 1910. After bungee jumping off a bridge built in 1905, I'm not too worried. Ha. We're off to "The Great Zimbabwe National Monument." If you haven't heard of it, Google it. If you're too lazy to do that, I'll post some info on it in my next update.

Until then... Cheers!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Victoria Falls - - Zambia

Well I'm feeling pretty good at the moment. It's a sort of "I just cheated death" sort of feeling. This morning, Anna Mae and I successfully bungee jumped off the Victoria Falls bridge!! It was insane! So scary, so awesome!!

We've been talking about this jump for, well, years. Literally. But it's always been so far away. "yeah i'm gonna jump... whenever i get to zambia.." Well we're here, AND WE DID IT! Neither of us slept well last night, and one of us had to slug a few beers in order to get any sleep at all. This morning we boarded the shuttle around 10am and we both sat in silence the whole time, occasionally bursting into fits of hysterical laughter, because that was the only thing we could do. We got off the shuttle and walked along the road towards the Zambia/Zimbabwe boarder (the bridge is in between the two countries). We both remarked how this is what it must feel like to be walking towards your death: the heat, the empty road, the numbness and acceptance that there's nothing you can do about it anymore. It took about 5 minutes to walk to the boarder, and 5 minutes at reception before we walked out onto the bridge. As soon as we walked out there, the guy held out a harness for me and I stepped onto the platform. No time to think about it; just how I like it. Within a minute I was looking over edge and saying the typical American line of "HOLY SHIT!" No sooner had I said it that the man put out my arms and said "5..4..3..2..1..BUNGEE!!" I jumped. Not as far as I thought, but at least it wasn't like the girl after Anna Mae who had to be thrown off. It was a weird feeling. The first 3 seconds you get that stomach in your throat feeling. The next few seconds your like "shit, i'm STILL FALLING!!" then you twist around a bit as the bungee kicks in and all of a sudden you're coming back up. The WORST part of the whole thing was not the jumping, not the falling, but the bouncing. The weightless feeling you got at the top of your bungee, just before you fell again, with no control of it this time. It happened at least 6 times and my legs and arms visibly shook each time. Finally, I stopped bouncing and was reeled up to the bridge safely to watch Anna Mae repeat everything I had just done.

It was an awesome experience I will probably never do again. Ha.

We then wandered around the Falls for a while, trying not to be a little disappointed in the lack of water rushing down the Falls. Apparently there's been way less rain than usual (and it's technically the dry season anyway) so the Falls were still cool, but not as epic as they can be. Thank you Global Warming for that.

Tomorrow we're heading out for a sunset booze cruise on the Zambezi before we head out to the Zimbabwe side of the Falls on Tuesday. Should be awesome! : )

I'm trying to upload bungee pictures now, but hold tight for more, the Internet sucks...

Friday, September 7, 2012


With just a little battery power, a little airtime left, and a weekend ahead with no Internet, I just wanted to put up a quick update. Namibia was fabulous. We were shown around the townships of Windhoek by the owner of Camelthorn Brewery. It was a fun time, wandering into shebeens and chatting with random people. We spent the next four days on the coast in Swakopmund - a town known for being "more German than Germany." We had a fabulous time climbing up and sandboarding down various sand dunes. But we mostly enjoyed renting movies and catching up on sleep in the sleepy little town. We're on our way out of Namibia at the moment and on to Livingstone, Zambia... or as most people know it - Victoria Falls! We are very excited, and absolutely terrified as we'll be bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls bridge. Think of us on Sunday when we'll hopefully be jumping! :/ Victoria Falls is on the boarder of Zambia and Zimbabwe, so we'll spend a few days on the Zambian side (at the top) before heading over to the Zimbabwean side (the bottom) for a few days as well. Should be an awesome time! I've been posting pictures on Facebook as we get free Internet, so keep checking there for some sweet pics. ;)