LPs versus MP3s

Trip Start Apr 19, 2009
Trip End Dec 20, 2009

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Wednesday, June 24, 2009


‚Huh??’ could this be? We are driving through Livingstone and here someone is shouting my name….in a German sounding voice…..I turn around just in time to see Elke and Marius getting off their bus from Lusaka! Our friends had arrived to spend the next two weeks exploring Zambia with us. A great evening of catching up and some chateaux de cherie (jerry) can followed. Whilst Marius and Elke thought they were coming to Zambia only we had made some other plans in the meantime…..

Already in Cape Town Marvin and I had been debating whether or not to visit Zimbabwe. The political and economic disaster raging in this, once so prosperous country has been filling the front pages of newspapers and debates alike. Would it be safe? Would there be enough Diesel? Would we be welcome? At our farewell party, Shingi, herself a Zimbo, promised that one day she would take MM and myself to her home and personally show us around…so we decided to wait for that day to arrive. But things turned out quite differently….

As we progressed on our travels from Cape Town up North, more and more positive reports about Zim were coming our way.

'Diesel is available again’,

‘There are plenty supplies’,

‘The roads are good’,

‘The parks are fantastic’

‘The people more than friendly and welcoming’…

‘All you need is enough FOREX... $, ZAR or Pula’.

Should we venture into the unknown? Would we be supporting Mugabe and his old regime? Or would this be a great chance to visit a country that has been spoken about with so much love and sadness, joy and pain, remembrance and loss? This was the time to find out and so the next morning the four of us set off Hwange National Park….we were not disappointed.

We arrived at Main Camp in the afternoon and entered the reception area to book in for the night. From what we could tell there were no other people present in the park. A very smartly dressed lady in park ranger uniform greeted us and after checking in some rather imposing books, filling in a couple of forms and double checking that there was enough space on the massive camp (did I mention that we were the only visitors….?) we were allowed to proceed.

How should one describe the atmosphere at Hwange? It felt a bit like listening to a favourite LP on your grandfather’s gramophone. The music quality is not quite that of a CD, the efficiency of turning over the record after only 7 songs does not compare with a 200 song play list on MP3 but the songs are still just as good, the scratching of the needle brings back good old memories and the music remains totally pleasing. This was what we found at Hwange.

Warm water, as is the case often in these camps, is made by stoking a donkey. As soon as we arrived the gentleman in charge of keeping the grounds in order jumped into action and stoked two huge fires for our hot water. He then came over, greeted us and deposited another mountain of firewood for our braai, no charge. The bathrooms for the ladies had no showers but instead two huge bathtubs…so, forced into this luxury, I had a candlelight bath to the sound of howling hyenas. Not bad for a start. Things proceeded to get better and in total we spent four nights in the park, camping at secluded waterholes, watching wild dogs from a hide and generally having the park practically to ourselves….and all of this for a fraction (10% to be exact) of the price in the Zambian game parks. A great and very rewarding experience. Everybody we met was exceptionally friendly and equally knowledgeable about the camp and the game, some of them having worked and lived here for 40 odd years. One can only hope that as Zim finds its feet again these national parks will once again be supported and guarded as the national treasures they are.

So after this great de-tour to Zim we came back to Zambia and got ready for our great river adventure on the Zambezi.
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