October 6, 2005

Zimbabwe FlagBreakfast this morning was set for 7 to 9 am, so we were up at 7 am because Paul’s pills are supposed to be taken half an hour to an hour before meals. Paul was feeling a lot better but Rosemary was suffering from leg cramps, so she had to catch up on taking her calcium tablets. Before going to breakfast we organized the laundry that needed to be done and put the basket outside the door. Breakfast was the usual Drifters Inn selection of dry cereals, bread, jam, juices, and scrambled eggs.

After breakfast we went to the lounge area to watch a video on the optional activities, just like in Swakopmund. We came to the conclusion that we probably would not do any of them unless Paul felt better.

Today’s tour activity was a visit to the falls. About 11 am Leon drove the group down to the falls and paid our admission to the national park. It’s a small area but it surrounds Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River plunges about 100 metres into a narrow chasm. Our first view of the falls was quite spectacular even though the water level is low at this time of the year. We wandered around the edge of the chasm, taking pictures and enjoying the coolness of the spray. However the Horseshoe Falls section was basically dry so we did not get the full impact of the size of the falls. We spent a fair amount of time in the park and didn’t leave until nearly 1 pm.

Once out of the park we decided to walk to the Livingstone Bridge. Although it is between the Zimbabwe and Zambia border posts, we were allowed to get special “day tripper” passes, so we walked out onto the bridge and looked down where the bungee jumping is done. It was closed for lunch, and the bridge is only historic, nothing spectacular to look at. We were both a bit disappointed. To officially get back into Zimbabwe we had to get another pass, only this time the line-up at immigration was considerably longer.

When we were finally through, we headed up to the bank to change money. Money is very complicated in Zimbabwe: their currency is basically worthless (US$1 = Z$26,000 today) so everyone wants foreign currency. But they are required by law to give change only in “Zim” dollars, so you try not to get stuck with too many Zim dollars before you leave the country. Anyway, we had a 50-pula note left over from Botswana, so we changed that and ended up with $213,000! And most of that wasn’t even “real” money, it was cheques issued by the government.

By this time it was nearly 2 pm. Neither of was really hungry, and we couldn’t find anywhere suitable for a light lunch, so we went to the Spar supermarket and bought two buns, a can of pop, and a two-litre bottle of water for Z$92,000. Paying the casher was confusing because of all the unfamiliar bills of large denominations. We sat outside to eat the buns, and that was reasonably pleasant despite the temperature.

Now we were ready to shop. We met Christian, who was looking for a drum, so the three of us looked in the shops for a while. The Shona stone art was very impressive but not really our taste, and the curios were more or less the same everywhere, so we headed for the open-air markets. Along the way we were asked several times if we wanted a taxi ride, and we were also approached by people trying to sell us souvenirs.

The open-air market was an experience in itself. Goodness, were the vendors aggressive! At every step we were accosted by the owner of the next stall, basically selling the same wares as his neighbours. Paul managed to buy a nice stone carving of a hornbill from the first vendor we saw, but this just marked him as a bird buyer and everybody else wanted to sell him birds. The pressure from the vendors was enormous, and not only would they take money, they would trade for your hat, sunglasses, shoes, pens, everything was negotiable. Rosemary saw a small table that she liked, but the vendor wanted 150 South African rands for it. Now she was marked as a table buyer and all the vendors wanted to show her tables. At this point we became too frustrated and left the market.

Back at the Inn, we just had time for a cool shower (there was no hot water anyway) and a change of clothes. At 6:15 pm a shuttle bus (beautifully air-conditioned) picked us up and took us to the restaurant for dinner. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but once we arrived at the place on the banks of the Zambezi we were very pleased. Before the dinner there was a three-quarter-hour session of drumming in which we each had our own drum and tried to learn various rhythms. Our hands were very tired at the end. Dinner was mielie meal, beef in a peri-peri style sauce, and some spicy vegetables. Afterwards we sat and talked for quite a while, then the shuttle bus took us back to the Inn. Bed time was 11 pm.

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