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Kim’s Travel Diary

Monday, 06 Aug 2007

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

MapSorry for the break in the journal but I decided to have a weekend away from the cold and rain and I also needed to leave the country with regard to my visa - so where else to go but Zimbabwe. Over the border but still close to South Africa and I have always wanted to see the falls and cross them off the list of things to do before you die.

The flight was easy, from Cape to Jo'burg but at very silly o'clock in the morning and then just a quick transfer from the domestic terminal to international and a short flight to Zim. I am really good at airtports now and can find my way around with a certain amount of ease, still do not like flying bit though!!

The airport is small, almost like of the greek island airports and baggage is carried by hand from the plane and just put on the floor. The drive from the airport to the hotel was easy and the first impresssions were of a very dry and dusty place, people and no cars, other than hotel transfers. I stayed at the Kingdom Hotel, a beautiful place, designed and built by the same firm that built Sun City. High ceilings, open spaces and as you can imagine, water everywhere. It was so nice to have a room to myself and joy of joy's, a bath!!! This is where the fun started - Zim is a beautiful part of the world but under the present government, it is waiting to implode on itself. I decided to go out and see what was around as you do but when I reached the barrier at the front of the hotel, I was advised not to go out by myself and if that was not enough, the hoardes of people on the otherside waiting to sell you anything from a single orange to a wooden carving was enough to scare anyone. There were crowds not just single sellers and no was not a good answer. So I stayed in the complex and increased the size of my bottom by the pool.

I had met a very nice gentleman on the plane who had flown up for a weekend with his girlfriend and as she had not arrived yet from the capital city, asked if I would like to eat with him - beats reading a book. Dinner was fine once you got over what they did not have on the menu, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and so on but then once you had eaten dinner, a chit was bought over and you had to sign saying that yes, you had eaten that meal along with your passport number and how you had paid. Things just kept on getting stranger. For the first time that I have been away, I locked, bolted and chained the door. Breakfast was included in the trip and so it was with some sense of strangeness that all the fruit was tinned, nothing fresh. This is in a 4 star hotel that was full of tourists, many from Korea and Japan and yes, germans.

I decided to go to the Falls, after all that is why I wen to Zim but I first of all had to find someone to take me, an armed guard was presented and he walked me to the falls, gun and all. Within 3 minutes of leaving the hotel on a private route, the first seller appeared literally from the middle of the bush and so it carried on. At one stage I looked behind and there were 4 or 5 of these people following within 5 metres and I started to decide what I was carrying that I could lose. I even began to wander if the guard was safe to be with but we made it there without anything more than a very raised heart beat on my account.

The Falls are what you would expect, dramatic, noisy, amazing. The pictures cannot show the power of the water tumbling over the cliff edges and the plumes of spray that rise hundreds of feet into the air or the granduer of the valley with its sweeping sides and what appears to be a bottomless pit that this water desends into - the thought that someone went over this in a barrel was mindblowing. I was lucky enough to see a herd of oliphants grazing on the other side of the border. You are given a rain coat when you arrive and you need it - the water spray covers most of the path down and it is freezing. Back to the hotel with my guard again and the feeling of relative safety. Sunday was spent sitting again, it was nice to feel the warmth of the sun again.

The flight out was on Monday and whilst waiting I sat and watched the queues of people that were forming to cross the border to buy food. The queue at the bakers had started at 5.00 that morning as he had had a delivery of flour and therefore could bake. The more I watched, the more you could feel the general air of tension, a sense of despair. This country is no longer allowed to import goods, it must manage by itself but since all the white farmers have been driven out and the land handed over, they do not have the knowledge to do this. Cattle that were once bred for milk are now wandering along the roadside, crops are diseased as there is no sprays to kill pests and so the list could go on. Violence is a daily thing and for once in my life, I can believe what the papers are saying. A sense of fear that was touchable. I have not really felt scared since I started this trip but here I did and it was with a sense of relief that I left for the airport. The people that I met were all kind and helpful but all wanted to leave as soon as possible and would openly ask for help.You could not buy food without having to sign for it and generally Zim is not a place to go until things change