Monday – 06/05/2013

I arrived at Harare International airport on Thursday evening not knowing what to expect, but expecting the hassle of other African airports. To my surprise it was a painless affair. Traveling on a South African passport meant there was no need for a visa or to stand in the payment queue, one of the few benefits of having the little green books. My bag was ready and waiting form me when I got through passport control so I could breath a sigh of relief that I was not going to have to answer the question on the Barclays adverts lining the customs hall: How long do you wait until you accept your bags are lost?

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Stepping out terminal building I expected to be hit with muggy air and the hostile barrage of taxi drivers trying to secure my business. Neither occurred, the air was cool and refreshing, the evening light making it welcoming and the few taxi drivers around appeared content to wait for business to come to them. It had been arranged that a friend of a friend would pick me up at the airport, though I had not spoken to her since we agreed this and that was a week and a bit ago, so when half an hour had passed I concluded that it had taken too long to get through customs and she had left already. I turned on my UK phone to attempt to call her, but nothing, apparently 3 does not work in Zim. Popping back into the terminal building I found a prepaid cellphone counter and the friendly lady there quickly had me set up with a SIM and mobile internet to boot.

That is when lesson one of Africa travel came in and I realised just how westernised I am. I had the number for my lift in a Facebook message though when trying to access it I discovered just how flaky mobile internet here is and there was no getting the number. Later this would also prove a problem when trying to access the pin codes for my travel money cards. So lesson one is : Don’t rely on technology, it will fail you, use a pen and paper.

Shortly after my failed attempts at contacting her, my lift arrived and my bags were thrown into the back of her car as we zoomed off leaving the airport and my 13 hour flight a pleasant memory. Our zooming lasted all of 10 minutes which is when I experienced Harare’s drivers reactions to traffic lights being out. It can be likened to driving in India only with about 100x less people. Despite our hold up, it could not have been more than 35min between leaving the airport and having my first beer in my hand. My welcome to Harare was to be the HIFI festival, which entailed music performed by D list artists from around the world and copious amounts of drink. The rest of my stay in Harare followed suit and saw me at various bars and clubs culminating in some bar on Saturday night where a glance around revealed that the average age of the patrons could not have been above 16. Despite the whiskey in hand, sobriety came fast at the realisation that all those around me where half my age. It was time to move on and make my way to Victoria Falls.

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The whiskey from Saturday night dictated that I missed the bus to the Falls on Sunday and instead spent it lazing about my host’s house, which to be fair wasn’t the worst place I could be and I got to make a dent in Stanley’s – How I Found Livingstone, which I thought appropriate considering the next leg of my trip.
 On Monday morning it was up early to the bus stop to sort out the journey to the Falls. The bus I needed turned out to be two busses and was going to cost me more than I had anticipated,  luckily one of the guys spending the night in the house was heading to Bulawayo which was half the way there, so I hitched a lift with him. The journey was pleasant and entailed much conversation about Zimbabwe and down south (South Africa).  We arrived in Bulawayo that evening and decided to check when the train was going to the Falls, as it happened the next train was in a couple hours. I jumped at the chance and got the second last ticket in sleeper class. Sheepishly I had to ask my lift to spot me a dollar as the drinking in Harare had seen me use up all my dollars and I was having trouble getting hold of more, it didn’t matter, I had a ticket to the Falls and would be leaving in a couple hours.