Into Zimbabwe

It is early morning when we fold up our tent. I’m standing on the roof and I can feel that the day is slowly starting to warm up. I swing the cover over the packed down tent. My head is still hurting a bit, it is too early and I celebrated my 33rd birthday yesterday. An empty bar, filled with several wobbly bar stools. You really have to keep your head together while sitting on them. The bar itself is made from nailed together railway tracks. It is so wide that it is impossible to shake hands with the bartender, a coloured man with long straightened blond hair and gleaming bracelets. As a surprise for my birthday, he pushes two shot glasses of tequila our way, while keeping one for himself. He clearly takes every opportunity to have a drink himself. One of the cheap plastic shot glasses gets stuck in the deep lines of the wooden bar and the tequila finds its way quickly down the bar onto the floor. His hands dive under the bar and come up with an old rag of a tea towel with indistinguishable colours. He wipes the bar quickly before pouring new tequila, while we half expected him to wring the tequila-soaked tea towel over the glass. He firmly grabs hold of the small glass and says: “Cheers, to your birthday! You will have to imagine the salt and lemon, because I don’t have any!” Helga, who is not a fan of alcohol and who really tries to make my birthday a memorable one, takes her cue and says: “but we do!” before running to the car and coming back with the salt grinder and a lemon. An elderly man, trying to mount one of the wobble barstools says: “ you guys did bring everything with you on this trip, didn’t you?”. He kind of reminds me of a drunken cowboy trying to get on his horse. The three of us quickly grab our shots from the bar and drown them with the salt and lemon. The people around me haven’t known me for longer than a few hours. One year ago I celebrated my birthday on Bali, the year before that in Perth, Western Australia with new friends. I climb down the roof rack, fasten the ladder on the side of the car and sit down in the driver’s seat. Everything is covered in dust from the past few weeks. I get the map out, which colours have clearly faded and is covered in notes and tears. I unfold it and trace our proposed route. We are on our way to the border with Zimbabwe. I scan the possible route on the map and set the Garmin to our final destination of the day.We reach the border just when the sun is past its highest point. In front us is a large bus filled with passengers and emitting a lot of black smoke. The driver clearly knows where to go and drops his passengers in front of the customs office. We park our car next to him, walk inside and also get in line. 45 Minuets later and we’re stamped out of Botswana and are on our way to the Zimbabwean border: Plumtree. 

We’re being send from desk to desk, but eventually we acquire all the stamps needed to drive into Zimbabwe. We decide to drive on until the last light and find a camp right before Bulawayo. When we drive up we find out that the gate to the campsite is locked and there is no one around. We wait for a little while and honk our horn, but eventually decide to pitch up the tent along side the fence of the campground, 18 Augustus, 2016The next day we meet the caretaker of the campground, Vincent, a very friendly Zimbabwean. Full of pride he shows us around the campsite and he is so disappointed that he missed us the evening before that we decide to stay another day. We make a small fire where we bake our bread and make dinner. The sun sets while the full moon rises from behind the rolling hills. It lights up the campground the entire night.

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