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Ω2

Zimbabwe: Wonderful people, terrible politics…

   Crossing into Zimbabwe from Botswana, my first stop was at Victoria Falls! I was there almost 6 months ago but this time I had a very different glimpse of the falls. At that time I was in Zambia and it was the peak of the dry season. The waterfalls had almost been vanished and the spectacle was not impressive at all. But this time… when I first saw the 1,708 meter (5,604 ft) wide waterfalls, I was astonished! I couldn’t even see the end of the falls, since the spray that is formed when the water drops into the gorge is conquering the whole area. That’s why most people wear their raincoats there. It feels like raining constantly. I stood there staring at the huge amount of water, its extraordinary power, the rainbows that are formed and the green, lush landscape. I was mesmerized by the natural beauty…

I had seen the Victoria Falls almost 6 months ago but it was this time that the natural beauty really mesmerized me...

I had seen the Victoria Falls almost 6 months ago but it was this time that the natural beauty really mesmerized me…

   I rode south to Bulawayo, where I saw a cute, glorious city in its decay. Old colonial mansions are standing next to overgrown bicycle lanes. Zimbabwe was colonized by the British and it was known as Rhodesia. A white government was on power until 1980. Then Mugabe was elected. Initially he was a great example for many African nations. The economy was soaring, as well as the life quality of Zimbabweans. The health care system was working fine and the education made a difference that is noticeable even today.

Overgrown bicycle lanes remind a long gone glory of Zimbabwe...

Overgrown bicycle lanes remind a long gone glory of Zimbabwe…

   Unfortunately, this euphoria didn’t last long… When Mugabe started to hate his opponents, he slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians who were considered dissidents. With the turn of the millennium, he confiscated most of the farms which were belonging to white Zimbabweans or black dissidents. His pretension was a land reform programme which would supposedly benefit the poor landless people. Unfortunately, what really happened was that the high-ranking officers got the farms for themselves and the landless locals remain even poorer than before, since they lost their jobs in the farms. Most of these farms remain uncultivated. The new settlers either don’t care or cannot farm due to a lack of knowledge and money to invest.

The guy on the right was sniffing the tobacco from that nylon bag! That's usual in some countries...

The guy on the right was sniffing the tobacco from that nylon bag! That’s usual in some countries…

   This lead the economy to a crash. Until 1990 the Zimbabwe dollar had a similar value to the American dollar. In 2009, however, there was a banknote of one hundred trillion Zimbabwe dollars… which was worth almost nothing. From the end of 2007 to the end of 2008, the real rate of inflation was seven sextillion per cent! Now the Zimbabwe dollars are useless and everybody uses American dollars.

At last I became a billionaire :-P

At last I became a billionaire 😛

   It was time to visit Great Zimbabwe, the medieval site which gave its name to the whole country. It actually means “old stone houses”. The largest medieval structure in sub-Saharan Africa has been found there. The extensive stone ruins of a whole town indicate that an advanced civilization had been developed there during the 11th century. The white government of Rhodesia didn’t want to show that the indigenous tribes were able to develop such a civilization, so they put pressure on the scientists to assert that Arab traders or Phoenicians built Great Zimbabwe. Of course, now it’s proven that the black indigenous tribes were the ones who built it…

The largest medieval structure in sub-Saharan Africa has been found in Great Zimbabwe, which indicates that an advanced civilization had been developed there during the 11th century.

The largest medieval structure in sub-Saharan Africa has been found in Great Zimbabwe, which indicates that an advanced civilization had been developed there during the 11th century.

   I stayed a few days in the capital, Harare, to get visas for the next countries I wanted to visit. I was lucky enough to be there during the annual Harare International Festival of Arts. I was glad to listen to some great international musicians like Salif Keita from Mali.

Young farmer who came to the capital to sell his tobacco. That's the most important cultivation in Zimbabwe which still survives.

Young farmer who came to the capital to sell his tobacco. That’s the most important cultivation in Zimbabwe which still survives.

   I followed some dirt roads through the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The forested mountains around Nyanga were very charming but very cold too. I was there in May, which is the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere. I reached altitudes higher than 2,100 m (6,890 ft). I was wearing all my winter clothes, thermal underwear, full face, glove liners but I still got a cold there.

The Eastern Highlands are very charming but very cold too!

The Eastern Highlands are very charming but very cold too!

   Happily, I had the chance to recover in the green and peaceful town of Mutare. My motorcycle was sick too… The last days the engine was coughing, eh, sorry… I meant to say stalling, especially on low rpms. Initially I blamed it on the fuel, because I had noticed that the carburetor was flooded at some point and I checked that there was a spark at the spark plug. I took apart the carburetor, I cleaned it but I still had the same issue. When I checked the spark plug again, I realized that there was no spark this time. So, I realized it was an electric problem. I replaced the CDI unit, which I was expecting to fail since I was in Namibia, months ago. Unfortunately, the engine was still stalling. Then I thought I should clean all the cables and check their contacts. After days of tangling, I found out that the source of the problem was just a bad contact on one of the ignition coil cables! Phew, that was easy to fix but hard to diagnose…

After days of tangling, I found out that my engine was stalling just because of a bad contact on one of the ignition coil cables!

After days of tangling, I found out that my engine was stalling just because of a bad contact on one of the ignition coil cables!

   After visiting the neighbouring Bvumba mountains, I crossed the border to Mozambique. I finally enjoyed a lot Zimbabwe! Many South Africans had scared me about the corrupt policemen in this country but it seems the situation now is not as bad as it used to be a few years ago. Well, of course that doesn’t mean that the locals don’t suffer due to the corrupt authorities. After all, the Zimbabweans impressed me with their education, politeness and humor!

Zimbabwe is full of weird stone formations and balancing rocks which seem not to care about gravity!

Zimbabwe is full of weird stone formations and balancing rocks which seem not to care about gravity!

More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

 

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