No, not leaving Bulawayo just yet, but have completed some exhaustive research on where on earth to go next.
Bulawayo is at a crossroads on the route to Namibia and the African west coast, there being at least three different ways ahead. All three traverse pretty remote and empty country, require at least some planning and provisioning, and are all equally highly recommended by guide books and other travellers.
The possibilities are:
- North west to the Victoria Falls, the Caprivi Strip, and round the north of the Okavango Delta to Windhoek.
- West to Nata, Maun on the south of the Okavango Delta, across a corner of the Kalahari and thence to Windhoek, or
- South west to Gabaronne (Botswana), and across, more or less, the Kalahari to Windhoek.
One of my considerations is the distance. I've travelled 16,000 miles now since Whyteleafe (how, I don't know - must be all that zigzagging - arriving here from Cairo on the Cape Town road for instance). And I don't want to suddenly find myself not wanting to go much further before Cape Town is in the bag. The shortest route onwards is the western one, so I've been studying that on the internet to check there are no distances of space-travel proportions without food, water or petrol. And it all looks OK.
The south west route is too long and requires almost a complete diagonal crossing of the Kalahari that I didn't even bother to check up on.
For the north west option, I've visited Victoria Falls before, and more than one other traveller has now told me that the Caprivi Strip is "just boring."
So all being well the next bit should be via Francistown (Botswana), Nata, Maun, Ghanzi, Gobabis (Namibia) and Windhoek.
And the thing that really called out to me from my maps, was that this route goes through that well-known bit of Namibia called 'Khomas'. So I couldn't miss out on that!
A couple of days ago I visited the Khami ruins to the west of the city. It's a smaller version of Great Zimbabwe, reaching its peak of influence about a hundred years later.
('Zimbabwe', by the way, literally means 'stone houses')
And some other bits from Zimbabwe.
In Masvingo someone was giving me directions to a hotel.
"There are only two robots in town, so it's easy. Turn left at the first, then right at the second, and it's a couple of kilometres on from there."
Luckily I had overheard someone a day or so before talking about 'robots' and realised he was talking about traffic lights. In Zimbabwe they're 'robots'.
And the cash limit from ATMs has disappeared, the limit previously being eighty pounds or less in Mozambique and Malawi.
Here, the first 'quick menu' that pops up on the ATM screen is for:
That's US dollars. From the sublime to the ridiculous.........
If you dare to enter "$200", the counting machine inside goes "click-click" and out pop two one-hundred dollar bills, that you can't spend anywhere.
Certainly not for fifty cents worth of bananas on the street.
And "cents" are an interesting concept here. There are none.
The only coins in circulation are South African Rands. So if you're due fifty US cents in change, you get about four or five rands, depending on what exchange rate the shopkeeper is sticking to. Anything between five rands to ten rands per US dollar is the norm, also decided by what particular coins the shopkeeper may have at that time. Or, you get sweets to the value of the change if no coins are to hand......
As in Malawi, most of the traffic here sticks to the speed limits. And in Bulawayo, radar speed traps are not uncommon. Someone was telling me that on a straight stretch of road (no attempt is made to hide the tripod-mounted device) the range is as much as a kilometre. I thought it a little strange at first that of the three or so I've seen in town, no one (including me) was ever stopped and receiving a ticket. (Then I realised, the traffic goes quite slowly).
"Ah!" said my informant. "That happened to me once. I was waved down and decided I'd ask to see the calibration certificate. They never have it, you see. But before I could say anything the policeman told me their shift had finished, and could I give them a lift back to their station? I seemed to be going in the right direction they said!"
"Once they were in my car they said they were in a hurry, could I go faster? I was already almost over the speed limit!"
That explained something that had puzzled me for a while. At just about every roadside police check in Africa, and all the radar speed checks, there's never a police car in attendance. Even on the most remote bits of road.
"How on earth do they return back to their base?" I thought.
Now I know.
Sorry, will try again to find some motorbikes to photograph........
Posted by Ken Thomas at September 03, 2010 11:25 AM GMT
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