The vicious streets of Bulawayo

We pack up early morning when everything is still wet from the dew. It has been a long time since we had that, with Namibia and Botswana being very dry. We drive towards the main road on a dirt track and give a ride to a local carpenter. When we reach the tar road he thanks us profusely. “ That saves me about an hour walk!” He says smiling. “ Almost everyone in Zimbabwe walks from A to B and we just take that time for granted. I left at 5 o’clock this morning.” We turn onto the highway and drive the last 30km to Bulawayo.

On our way we see a few police road blocks, but they all wave us through without stopping. In the city we get a Zimbabwean simcard for our phone. We park the car opposite the company right on a busy intersection. I stay with the car for a while to check out the situation while Helga crosses the street to get the simcard. I look at the oncoming traffic: overloaded trucks, pick-ups filled with workers and very old buses packed skilfully on the top.   The traffic comes to a stop when the light changes from green to red. Cars that are in a hurry still try to squeeze through even though the green light is long gone. Luckily, traffic starts again so slowly that it doesn’t create any dangerous situations. I’m just glad there are barely any motorcycle drivers here.   The car gets some attention, but not a lot. Every once in a while people will slow down while they walk past and look at our signs on the side of the car. I’m sitting on the grass opposite the car and from the other side of the road I can see Helga returning from her sim card mission. She crosses the first street in a group of people and has to wait again for the next red light. I can see her looking at her phone that she just connected to the internet in the telephone store. The light is green again and she crosses the last street before she gets to the car. The moment she reaches the sidewalk it seems like she doesn’t see the curb. She trips and I can see one of her flip flops sailing through the air before landing on the sidewalk where she ends up herself too. Before I can even react, I see two black arms hold on to her and lift her back on her feet. When she reaches the car I can see that she has some nasty cuts on her knees and big toe. We get out our Adventure Medical Kit yet again in Africa and bandage up the wounds. “ Maybe you should wear shoes next time we are in a city,” I tell her, she nods, “and knee and shin protection”, she answers sarcastically.

A little abashed by what happened, we drive towards Matobo National Park where we have to pay a small fortune of $47 to enter and camp. While driving through the park we become even more quiet. A steep dirt road leads us over a mountain ridge to get to the dam where our campsite is. The drive is very technical and large boulders lie haphazardly over the “road” so that we need to engage low gear 4wd. A couple of times we have to drive around fallen trees. I look at Helga and say: “ I don’t think a lot of cars drive this road.” Eventually we reach the end of the road which ends in a t-junction. When we look back to the “road” we came from we see a sign (that wasn’t there when we entered from the other side) that says: Road Closed. Well, that explains that. We find our campspot, cook our meal and crawl into our tent before it’s dark.  

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