We moved on the next day to an area called the Vumba Mountains around 250 kilometres to the north. This small area of high country also borders Mozambique and is much more green and lush than Chimanimani. In fact it’s reminiscent of the Dandenong ranges near Melbourne with its eucalypts, rhododendron and tree ferns. We booked into the Ndunda Lodge, an inexpensive thatched lodge nestled amongst the trees and surrounded by manicured lawns and bushy gardens that housed a multitude of bird life. The Botanical gardens are the big attraction in the Vumba. They overlook the Bvumba valley and the surrounding mountains and are expertly manicured outside of the thick rainforests. The forests themselves have lots of trails that allow closer contact with nature. As we strolled around we had the distinct feeling that we were being watched.
The Samango Monkey is as elusive as they are rare. They are unique to the Eastern Highlands and have this birdlike call and it was these little buggers that kept a watchful eye on our movements. No doubt it wasn’t just us that attracted our attention, we had a four-legged companion. Gypsy was the lodge sheepdog and for some reason known only to herself, wanted to lead us through the gardens stopping occasionally to look around as if to say “hurry up I haven’t got all day, you know”
But without doubt the best attraction in the area is Tony’s Coffee Shoppe. It serves nothing but coffee and cakes. I don’t know why but I expected Tony to be white. Maybe its because the concept is mainly a western rather than an African indulgence or maybe it’s the name Tony. Either way Tony and his waiters were dressed in bow ties and long white aprons and served each table as if it were in a fine dining restaurant. The cakes were absolutely terrible! Rich, gooey and laced with alcohol we pigged out and washed it down with coffee spiked with chocolate. Is that gross or what!
Another long drive took us to Harare, capital of Zimbabwe and the drop off point for the hire car that had somehow managed to get us there without further problems and despite all the extra weight we were carrying from our indulgence at Tony’s.
As far as historians can tell the Shona were the first inhabitants of this area and called it Ne-Harawa after one of their chiefs. It actually means “The One Who Does Not Sleep” which is quite an apt name for a now bustling metropolis. The poms arrived in the late nineteenth century and as is their way decided to settle here and construct a few buildings and called it Fort Salisbury again after one of their chiefs the British prime minister of the time Robert Cecil the Marquis of Salisbury. What Ho!
At independence in 1980 it was renamed Harare a sort of anglised variation on the original. Now of course it is like most other Southern Africa cities a mix of western and African culture. High rise office buildings, shopping centres and colonial buildings dominate the landscape with two large African markets offering the usual bargains and rip off’s.
We have a general aversion to most cities but Harare wasn’t so bad. Mind you we had been there before. At that time we had an overnight in the Sheraton courtesy of our travel agent. What I remember most about that stay was the power cut to the whole city fifteen minutes after we landed and at the same time as the bags were being wheeled out on a two large flat baggage trolleys (no automatic carousel here). With the aid of a fellow Aussie traveler’s torch we managed too locate our bags before anyone else decided to add to their collection of bags.
This time our arrival was by road and relatively uneventful until we dropped off the hire car. The attendant there had our credit card imprint and whilst we were there, phoned for authorisation only to be denied. We left it with him and went on to our accommodation. We rang him some time later and he had still no luck. In the end he sent his offsider to us with the existing credit card docket and a new one for a different card which I signed and all was well.
We didn’t think anything of it. In a place like Africa the lines of communication are often interrupted and mistakes are frequent.
However we did attempt to use the original card another time and came across the same problem. We were now down to our backup visa and we didn’t know why! It wasn’t until we reached England some 4 weeks later that we realised why. Two items appeared on our statement that we knew nothing about. The first was an additional transaction from the service station in Bulawayo that we had used on our way to Masvingo, the second was for A$1629.11 paid to the Amabhantu Safari Coy in Bulawayo. This last one was a worry we had never heard of the company; never bought anything for that amount and had not been anywhere in Bulawayo at the time of the transaction. Obviously these transactions had taken us over our credit limit and hence the authorisation rejections.
To the Commonwealth banks credit they acted quickly and cancelled both amounts and referred it to their fraud department and that was the last we heard of it.
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