2008 SAFARI – Zimbabwe: Bulawayo & Botswana
Our trip was a long one: UK to Abu Dhabi, ADH to Johannesburg (where we spent a few days with friends shopping for supplies to send to Zim) then we got a Greyhound to Harare where we had left our truck at the Meikles Hotel:
This is how we found the Bundubasher at Meikles.
As you can see – the only visible problem was a OSR flat. I jacked the vehicle and swopped out the tyre; checked oil and water and dropped in a new starter battery. The vehicle turned over and started up first time, hoorah!
We drove from Harare to Bulawayo and pulled-in in the early hours. The next day I changed the oil, all the filters and drained and refilled the radiator. We then spent the next two weeks running around Bulawayo spending time with friends and family. We squeezed in a quick trip to Botswana where we picked up some more supplies and then, with our holiday soon ending, we decided to have a bit of “us” time in Victoria Falls.
It was only a quick road trip so I packed 4 jerricans of diesel but didn’t bother with the recovery gear (big mistake!). As usual we set off rather late (5pm) and set off for the Falls. It’s 452km and so that’s about 5 hours taking it easy. Anyway, we were going steady as I kept stopping to photograph scotch-carts so then the light dropped and I decided to put foot. So we’re bombing along trying to catch up and we’ve just passed the 93k peg just north of Hwange when suddenly all the lights flash up on the dash and the engine dies!
I pull over and switch off but by now its dark and I get out the 12v lights to check the engine bay. The first thing I check is the rad – it’s dry – so I refill it but water poors out onto the ground near my feet so I get down to investigate the radiator. From the top I can see a bolt nestling between the cross member and the front of the rad. Behind the bolt I can see where the it has gouged a large hole in the radiator and where the water was pissing out in a long stream.
I knew that the radiator was buggered and so was the engine potentially so the vehicle would have to be towed to the Falls.
Standing in the pitch black African night we started to waive down any passing vehicles big enough to tow us which was not many! Eventually we flagged down a horse and they agreed to tow us...for a price...60 USD to be exact. Only problem was that they had no tow cable (and ridiculously, nor did I) so I took a bit of nylon lashing and a steel cable I use to secure the jerricans to the roofrack and made a plan. However this combo kept snapping and so I ended up jury rigging a tow bar using a couple of bow shackles and my two sand ladders!
Getting towed by a big horse was a bit of a nightmare – I had to ride the brakes alot especially on the decent into the Falls. We pulled into the hotel at about 3am, unhitched the Bundubasher (BB) and collapsed into our beds swearing we’d sort the damage out tomorrow.
The next day we got up and expected our new lodgings: the 5 star Victoria Falls Hotel.
You can just see the bridge in the mist.
Afternoon tea at the Vic Falls Hotel – very posh!
Vic Falls doesn’t seem to be effected too much by the economic disaster currently being experienced by Zimbabwe. To put it bluntly the VFH was magnificent – the fittings and furnishings were of the highest quality and the staff were matchless. There were no shortages of food and drink at the hotel nor was there any problem with electricity or water. The constant sound of helicopters was a bit annoying although the Falls themselves were a bit quiet.
Nice braai stand and clever storage plan.
We ended up staying at the VFH 5 nights which was REALLY nice but this was spoiled a little by our efforts to fix the car. We had to source a head gasket from Kasane and so decided to team it up with a safari to Chobe and a cruise on the river. We were alittle late in the day to see alot of game but we did enjoy the river cruise.
Thebe Safaris game viewing vehicle.
Chobe wasn’t bad but we got there in the middle of the day – either the animals such as the Lion were laying up for the day or it was too early for the big herds of Ele.
I must say the Kazangula border post is one of the easiest I have ever been through and we poped across a couple of times just to do some shopping in the very basic town of Kasane on the banks of the Zambezi/Chobe River.
We had no joy getting a head gasket in Kasane and so we sent the mechanic to Livingstone where he was more successful. Anyway, after fitting and testing we found the engine was still spitting coolant and so we arranged for our vehicle to be taken back to Bulawayo on the back of a truck.
In Bulawayo we had started getting our home re-thatched:
We bought our thatch from this lady in the Matobo National Park.
Nyati and Steve plus appi.
Nyati is the old guy who thatched our home originally – however nowadays he is more of a problem than a solution: all he wants to do is eat! He rocks up early in the morning and then hangs around awaiting breakfast – he doesn’t start work he just stands around waiting. Then, if he’s still around, he’ll knock off at lunchtime and again he waits to be served lunch! Anyway, he was obviously delusional so Thoko took him to one side and cured him of this problem.
The world bank.
So apart from Vic Falls and Chobe, the only time we travelled out of Zimbabwe was a short shopping trip to Francistown. For this you need Pula – either you get it out of the ATM using a foreign bank account or sometimes you can get a better exchange rate from the Fort street "mapostori" better known as “S'phatheleni” which means “what do you have for me today?” in sindebele. Exchanging forex like this was illegal although the government has now made it legal to purchase goods using forex over the counter.
Our visit to Zimbabwe came when the Zimbabwean economy was hitting a real rough patch: money is counted in billions and trillions! Just after we arrived a Coke cost 200,000,000,000 ZWD, computers and adding machines just could not cope with all the figures and so the government struck 10 zeroes off the currency so that same Coke would now cost 20 ZWD.
An “old” 100,000,000,000 billion dollar note.
Anyway, we spent the majority of our time shuttling between Bulawayo and Intabazinduna. As a reward for being a “good husband” my wife bought me a beautiful knife from Induna Crafts, handmade by Ishmael Ngwenya with an old ivory handle and elephant skin sheath.
We’ll be back again soon...
Enzo & Thoko, MMIX
Self-Drive Safaris in East and Southern Africa
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