Today we set out early from Bulawayo as we were looking at a full day of driving five hours from Bulawayo to Hwange. There we planned to have a lunch time break and meet up with Oliver, from our Hwange Horseback Safaris team and then another three hours until Vic Falls.
We rented a little 2 WD Toyota Axios Hybrid, which we named Cookie (tough cookie, remember?). Cookie was great. It already had 259.000 km‘s on its frame when we got here and we were putting another 1.800 kms on it during our stay. Super low fuel consumption, hybrid drive not fully functioning, but as reliable as Ford for Alaska (which is actually a Toyota Corolla, aged 23 years itself). Cokie did not disappoint. Despite us missing a small pot hole some times, and having to carry us across some dirt roads that were made for 4 WD‘s, cookie got us safely from Vic falls and all the way back without a popped tyre or a break down. We considered ourselves lucky considering that we must have passed several thousand potholes during our 1.800 km drive, some truly fearsome with us standing at a halt in front of the gaping hole and discussing how to navigate around it at all.
The worst part we knew was from Bulawayo to Hwange where we met Oliver for Lunch. Average speed was 40 km/h, alternating from 100 km/h stretches to walking speed in a matter of a minute in order to navigate the next round of potholes.
We met Oliver to give him some of our leftover USD bills. The one Dollar notes, in particular, are worth their money, considering the fate of any newly introduced Zimbabwean currency which is plagued by inflation. In 2022 the government even tried the introductions of gold coins and this year they’ve started a gold-backed crypto currency.
The Dollar remains the only stable currency in circulation. It has recently been officially recognized as a legal form of payment. Interestingly, we haven’t come across any Zimbabwean currency during our stay, except for older bills sold as souvenirs since you can become a Billionair with just one bill.
Due to the scarcity of small denominations, one Dollar notes are highly valued for daily transactions. Without smaller change available, it’s common to receive packets of goods worth one Dollar or, for instance, you buy two (large) avocados instead of just one. Occasionally, in Supermarkets South African Rand coins are given as change. However, there is one aspect we had encountered before in Myanmar already: the bills must be in pristine condition without any markings, ink spots, or cracks. In such cases, they are rejected, as happened to us with a five Dollar bill fixed with Scotch tape. On one occasion, a waiter even followed us to our room to exchange a ten Dollar bill with a minor ink stain on the edge for a different one. It seemed a bit absurd to us, considering the one Dollar bills we received in return had considerably more wear and tear. Consequently, handing Oliver 70 of our flawless one Dollar notes brought him great joy.
After a nice break up of the journey with a delicious lunch at the Hwange Safari lodge, overlooking the water hole complete with elephants and impalas, we started on the last stretch of our journey back to Vic Falls. In Hwange town we were once more shocked how the Zim government is selling off their natural resources and the money only lining a few pockets.
At Hwange very close to the national park border, the government sold the mining rights to the Chinese and let them dig up the most ugly and large coal mine of all of Zimbabwe. Open top mining means that a huge section of the land is just being dug up by large caterpillars and black coal dust is coating the entire area, not only the immediate surroundings of the mine, but also carried by wind into the national park. No animals can be seen in those polluted areas. It‘s so sad that the sellout to the Chinese happens in such large style and only benefits a few already super rich people.
Lithium mines, gold mines, coal mines, copper mines so many mining rights sold to the Chinese and once the reserves are exhausted they just leave a gaping hole in the ground and leave back machinery that is super old and not functioning anymore.
A Chinese miner told Chris that they had discovered old mines left behind by German gold prospectors. He was deeply impressed by the engineering skills demonstrated by the Germans back then.
On the way to Vic falls many ugly mines can be seen, chimneys blowing out black smoke and one wonders where this is leading Zimbabwe to.
One thing that we did notice to be very different, and a good thing, is that nowadays every man walking on the road side seems to be wearing clothing with reflector stripes. This is certainly an improvement from the last time we were in Africa.
Cookie got us safely back to Vic falls and we check into our lovely Nguni Lodge again.