The next day was one of those days. Our early morning game drive yielded very little wildlife. It was our last opportunity to see wildlife in Hwange as we then commenced the 630 kilometre journey to Masvingo in the southeast. On the way out we flagged down by a ranger who asked us to drop off a couple of youngsters at the main road. No problem we thought. Except when we got to the main road they didn’t have a clue as to where they were. We obviously couldn’t leave them there and drive away with a clear conscience, so we ended up taking them into the actual town of Hwange 10 kilometres in the opposite direction, where they lived. This must have distracted me because it wasn’t until we had traveled a fair distance towards Bulawayo that we realised that we did not have as much fuel as I had thought. We found much to our dismay that there was not a single open petrol station between Hwange and Bulawayo. We were now sweating on whether we would have enough to reach Bulawayo. We did of course but as soon as I turned the key to drive off after gratefully refueling, you’ve guessed it, nothing happened. The battery lead had again come adrift. After again some basic repairs we were back on the road still sweating but these time about the battery lead. Worse still it was now getting late and that meant driving in the dark.
So what, you say!……………… Well, driving in the dark in somewhere like Zimbabwe is a challenge. Firstly, once out of the cities and major towns there is very little street lighting. Secondly, there are lots of pedestrians on the road who are not easily visible as they mostly wear dark clothing and are obviously black skinned. Lastly, the other vehicles on the road had at best, blinding headlights and at worst none at all but most seemed to have only one headlight working which meant that it was impossible to tell whether the vehicle coming in the opposite direction was either a motorbike or a car on the wrong side of the road!
Our intention had been to book a night at a place called Clovelly Lodge in Masvingo on our way. Do you think we could find a pay phone that worked? No! It wasn’t until we reached Masvingo itself that we managed to ring them, find out if they still had a room free and get directions. Needless to say we got there somewhat stressed and it didn’t help that we were immediately pushed into the dining room where dinner was now being served up (it was full board).
Clovelly was run by Bruce and Iris an elderly English couple who basically felt that the current situation in Zimbabwe was becoming intolerable for any whites to stay. At the same time they were trapped. Their assets and money were now worth very little outside of the country and that made it very hard for them to leave. Now of course with all the recent publicity of white farms being hijacked by black war veterans, I often think of people like Bruce and Iris and wonder of they ever found a way out.
By this time we had verbally booked a Canoe safari on the Zambezi to start in a few days time, so it was with great interest that we listened to a couple of German guys who were also staying there. They had just finished that same trip and had cut short their stay in Africa to fly home on account of one of them being badly bruised down one side of his body. Apparently they had been sleeping in their tent when a hippo trampled right over the top of the tent and poor old Klaus. Peter on the other hand slept through the whole thing and didn’t realise what had happened until the next morning when he awoke to see his mate writhing in pain and the tent collapsed and torn down one side. “What the fuck were you doing last night?” he had asked.
We later found out that hippos have their own paths from land to water and if by chance you happen to be between a hippo and water on one of these trails then he (or she) is not going to politely side step around you. That is apparently what happened to these guys. Fortunately for us they had used a different safari company so we could hopefully presume that there was little chance of that happening to us.
Now there was a reason we were in Masvingo. The town itself is just one of those typical small towns that can be found almost anywhere else with wide streets crisscrossing in the style of towns and cities established in the late nineteenth century. Its only real claim to fame is the general consensus that it was the first white settlement in Zimbabwe but that is not, in today’s political climate, much of a tourist attraction. What we were there for was not actually in Masvingo but 25 kilometres south. The Great Zimbabwe National Monument is one of Southern Africa’s greatest historical ruins.
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