Transport Troubles

Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Danayi and her family had planned a trip to Lake Kariba in northern Zimbabwe, and it was time for me to get to Victoria Falls.

Since I was a small child, there were three images that consistently danced through my head when I though of Africa. One was of deep, dark jungles where trees bent towards dark rivers covered in mossy vines, and eyes peered out from the darkness while strange noises rent the night air. Another was of plains of grass, broken by stacks of jutting rocks where baboons held up lion cubs destined to be king for all of the animal kingdom to see. The last was of the massive, thundering Victoria Falls, by many standards the largest, most dramatic waterfall in the world.

But first I had to get there.

Getting into Harare had been easy due to the direct bus from Blantyre in Malawi. Getting around Harare had been easy due to Danayi's family and their vehicle. Getting out of Harare was another story.

Because of the petrol shortage, there are not as many busses running as there used to be, nor are those left running as often. This has led to a situation where all buses and trains are booked out for weeks in advance at times. Such was the situation in which I found myself. With the larger busses booked out for a week and the train for nine days I was left wondering how I would get anywhere.

In came Auntie. Auntie was the housekeeper at Danayi's family's home. She was a sweet older lady whose English was passable, but not preferred. She was originally from Bulawayo, a city to the southwest from which I hoped to catch a train or bus up to Victoria Falls. She decided the best way for me to get to Bulawayo was to get out to the Mbare bus station at 4:30 am and try to catch one of the buses that did not pre-book tickets. Ivan and Tab, two teenaged cousins of Danayi's, offered to get up early and drive me out to the bus station.

So at 4:30 in the morning, I found myself sitting in the back of a truck at the Mbare bus station. Mbare is in a rougher part of Harare, and Auntie was adamant that it was not safe, and I was to stay in the truck until she found a bus for me. So this reasonably big Canadian was forced to stay in the truck while a 60 year old little woman walked around looking for a bus for him. Moments like that go far in teaching humility.

Finally it was decided that we should jump back in the truck and try to catch up and flag down a bus that had already left. The boys zigzagged across Harare until we caught up to the bus, hauled out my backpack, and I finally dropped in a seat and was on my way.

In Bulawayo, I was met by Auntie's daughter and son-in-law. They drove me around town looking for train tickets or buses running to Victoria Falls that day. No luck. After a quick lunch, it was decided that Fortune (the son-in-law) would drive me out to the most common spot where people waited to hitch rides, and try to help flag down a vehicle heading to the falls. Did I mention how consistently wonderful people in Africa can be?

After about a 45 minute wait, a car slowed, and I and another Zimbabwean guy squeezed into the back of a car heading to the falls, paid 1.5 million dollars each to help with petrol, and were off. Next stop Victoria Falls.
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