All the way to Zimbabwe
Country: Zimbabwe by Lisette
Going to Zimbabwe by bus and train is cheap and very long. We knew this beforehand, but have since learned a few new things. Marlowe, Chris, Tim and I took the Intercape bus from Maputo to Johannesburg in South Africa. Ten hours of trying to fall asleep, reading Game of Thrones, making jokes and stretching the legs eagerly during breaks.
In other words, after the initial feeling of excitement about our trip, we got a little bored.. We arrived an hour late in Jo’burg and had to check in immediately for the next part of the trip: to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe! Quickly we bought some food to tie us over and sat down in the sleeper bus. Via Pretoria we left South Africa and entered Zimbabwe through Beitbridge.
Now that’s a story to tell… Alert to all over-land travelers in Africa – do NOT enter Zimbabwe through Beitbridge! Avoid it at all costs, the border crossing is so inefficiently organized that we spent 4 hours waiting to just get in. Yawn, did I mention yet that it was 2am in the morning when we got there?
There were a lot of buses, something we had not expected in the middle of the night. And so the line did barely get any shorter during the long hours we had to wait. At times I sat down beside the line and almost fell asleep with the fumes from a bus tickling my nostrils. I didn’t care. I just wanted sleep.
When the line finally started moving round 5am, life seemed doable again. It was so anti-climatic to get a stamp in my passport in an army tent; it took no more than a minute! At least I was awake enough to smile back to the government official.
When we found the bus again, we quietly entered Zimbabwe. I felt like cheering! Only then did I remember we were still not going to get any sleep as we now had to go to the Zimbabwean government official to get yet another stamp in our passport. (They are fond of stamps in Southern Africa; you get one when you leave the country and one when you enter the neighbouring country.)
We applied and received our visas relatively fast; it took 2 hours in total. Once the government official found the accountant, our precious dollars were accepted. Meticulously our personal details were written on our self-adhesive visas and placed in our passports. Woohoo, Victoria Falls here we come!
Without much effort we slept most of the way to central Bulawayo, which felt like a small industrial town yet turned out to be the second largest city in Zimbabwe after the capital Harare. Quickly we cabbed our way to the train station to get some food and tickets for the next leg of our trip.
We spent the couple of hours waiting in and around the train station where Marlowe and I started recollecting fond memories of our train travels in India while grabbing a beer to recover from Beitbridge. Too bad we did not have time to check out any of the museums or walk around the city centre before the sleeper train left at 7pm. Nope, we were stuck in the not-so-great part of town.
Several card games later we turned in early, impatient to stretch out on our bunk beds. I slept like a baby! This train was also delayed but it gave us opportunity watching baboons play and discovering small villages with traditional roundavels (round thatched mud huts).
Just before noon we finally arrived at our destination: Victoria Falls! After 30 hours of travel, we couldn’t wait to have a proper meal, a shower, and just being in one place for at least 54 hours. My next blog post will be about the Zambezi River and its hippos.