It’s the 30th of December 2016.
All along our plan was to ride from Jozi through the Groblersdaal Border into Botswana, passing through both Palapye and then quickly onto Francistown where we would eat lunch, then head onto the border between Zimbabwe and Botswana. This would lead us into Bulawayo, the capital of Zimbabwe with enough daylight for us to make it still pass through into Vic Falls town by night fall. As soon as we hit the Kazungula border between Zim and Bots we knew that our plans were dashed. It took about an hour to get out of Botswana and another three hours to get into Zim. We still had to head for Harare from the border, it was already 4pm by now. The amazing thing about African border gates is how much they will humble you. You can kick, scream, fight and throw tantrums, but the amount of time it will take you to get through the border gate is the amount of time it will take you to get through the border gate. So you learn patience, you learn to enjoy people watching, you speak to your travel companion, you plan the next leg of the journey, you dream about your future plans and then you come back to reality and see you have only advanced about four people out of the 800 people in front of you. Then you wish you had never bothered to leave home.
The thing about travel, especially with your life partner is how with each trip you reveal layers about yourself, truthful, honest layers. There comes a time when you travel long distances together where you don’t care to pretend to be nice, where you don’t care to use pleasantries anymore. Where hunger brings out the worst in you and you speak only in hand signals and facial expressions. The challenges of the road will have you forgetting that when you left home you spoke to each other in the language of love; with respect, with a certain sensitivity, humility and care. Those very fundamentals all come into question when you have been standing for four hours, when your last meal was a cold take away breakfast from your hotel washed down with warm water from a dusty road side kiosk.
As we stand in that immigration queue I’m also quickly reminded about how with each travel and each honest introspective travel moment one faces on the road, you see a change in yourself. You see a change in how you relate to others and see a change in how you and your travel partner see each other. For us it has always, in the end, brought us closer together.
With this in mind, we finally hit the front of the line and zip into Zim. It’s around 4pm and we are greeted by beautifully laid tarmac with glorious lush vegetation on either side of the road. The sunset lighting is epic, the road new to us, and the weather is outstanding! We enjoy the rush of the wind, the howl of the exhaust and each other’s company as we chat about the frustrations of the past border but excitedly chat about what the road ahead holds for us as we enter Harare. We are best friends again.
We drive into Harare at sunset, we have no place to stay as we should have been 500 odd kilometers ahead of where we find ourselves, but since day one we have been chasing an unattainable schedule, we are slowly realizing that we had a massively unrealistic plan. To be honest, throughout our entire relationship we have planned our travels around unrealistic ideas, and so here goes another!
As much as the trip so far has been a shock to the system, Harare is another shock on its own. Most places were not taking debit cards, almost all ATMS’s were out of service, we have no Zim Bond notes, nor do we have Dollars. Instead the one and only ATM working in the entire CBD area has a limit of 60 dollars per day. We see so much of the economic ruin of Harare in that one day and remember thinking Zim cannot last much longer with such conditions especially in the capital.
As I write this piece, I reflect on how eventually the inevitable came to pass with the removal of longstanding President Mugabe. I now can’t wait to go back to visit Zim under the new dispensation and all the promise of renewal. We eventually find a place to shelter for the night and get some beers in the system before yet another early morning wake up call.