Arrived at Harare 5 pm 4 December, the total trip time was 20 hours. There were lots of men offering to carry bags at the bus station. However I took my bags to the front of the bus station by myself. There I started screwing my bicycle together. Much to the interest of people in the vicinity. I left the empty bicycle box at the bus station. Rode my bicycle to a Backpackers lodge called Small Word backpackers. It was not a good ride as the chain was catching and I was not used to the extra baggage weight. Not to mention I also rode with my hiking boots on my cleat pedals.
Set my tent up in the lodge garden as this is the low budget plan. How refreshing it was to have a good shower and shave. Worked on my bicycle and got it a little better but was not sure it was right to enter the blue yonder of Africa. After all Harare the capital of Zimbabwe was the last big town on my trip. People at the lodge informed me there was a bicycle shop in town and that it opened at 8 am. This would put me on the road later than I had planned. However I had no choice but to wait.
As normal at backpacker’s lodges I met travellers that had different experiences in Africa. It is always good to get a feeling for what is going on from an outsiders view. There was one that said she had a friend that walked the boarder around Zimbabwe. Others were teachers, teaching in rural schools and had been in the country for some time. They were all amazed at the adventure I had set out for myself. Even I was wandering if this was a big bite to chew.
Next morning went down to the bicycle shop in rush hour traffic. Shop was run by Indians and the black mechanic said he would have a look. The only bicycles in the shop were thick wheel bicycles that you see in the whole of Africa. Later I found out there was another shop in town that specialized in sports bicycles. I gave Jimmy back in Nylstroom South Africa a telephone call as he had just serviced my bicycle. His best advice was to oil the chain. The mechanic took my bicycle for a ride and came back and showed me the front cog had worn and had burs sticking out. These were catching on the new chain that was not as worn as the old gear. He cleaned off the burs and put some grease on the cog (not right as dust and dirt sticks to it). I then took the bicycle for a spin down town.
Bicycle felt fine and thought to return to the shop to load luggage and pay for the work done. On route back a traffic light turned red and I made a decision to cross like a pedestrian. However this was not wise as I was going to slow for the turn. My cleats been new and little tight did not click out to put my foot out to stop. So I fell on the tar in front of a taxi. I gashed a 4 cm hole in my knee. Blood running down my leg I re-entered the shop. Patched my leg up and packed luggage onto the bicycle. I asked to pay for their kindness and help. The Indian lady said it was no problem and nice to help. They did not use any spares so they would not charge me. There are really good people out there in this world.
The night before I had looked at my map and thought to take a shorter route and not spend a day at Hippo pools, as the rain had come. I was worried that the rain would make the river come down at the Mukumbura border post. The rain might make it so that I would not be able to get across the river. That would result in a detour of about 300 km. With this in mind I decided to alter the planned route.
So I started down the road to Domboshawa to Bindura. This was a very nice tar road with lots of short ups and downs through the scenic hills. It was a very playful ride.
Just before lunch time there was a very steep hill to the mine just before Bindura, where I got off and pushed. At Bindura I sat on the side walk and had some lunch. Here one or two people talked with me. This is a very small mine and agricultural town with a college in it. I saw there was a type of motel but chose to ride on as Mt Darwin looked about 60 km away. It was about one thirty in the afternoon. Thinking that the ride went so well and feeling like I had a lot more in me. It should take me about four hours. Little did I know that there were some long hills up front. Just out of town there was an irrigation farm where I stopped to fill up water bottles at the staff compound.
As the day went on I got more and more tied and started to feel the bicycle getting to me. The temperature had risen to 36 degrees and the hills were grinding me to a slower and slower pace. The people along the road got friendlier the further I got from Harare. Along the road were lots of school children coming from school in school uniforms. They would start to wave and cry ‘’how are you, how are you’’. Not stopping until I responded.
By sunset I was about 25 km from Mt Darwin. Where I stopped at a village and asked a subsistence farmer for some water from his windmill. I then asked him if he knew a place where I could sleep. He responded that there was a police station not too far away. Later thought about this and my experience at the police station. I realized that they are afraid to put you up for the night as somebody may think they were harbouring an anti-government person or a person investigating the situation in Zimbabwe.
I arrived at the police station in the dark. The policeman on duty took me to the officer in charge. He listened to my story and told me to wait. He will talk to his superior. A little later the superior arrived in plain clothes. I was called into the office where they proceeded to question me as to where did I come from and where I was going. What was the purpose of my trip? They took my passport and checked my papers to bring my bicycle through the boarder. Then they asked me to go out. They talked about me then phoned other people to see if it is ok. They then called me back and another man asked me the same questions again as if to catch me in my story.
Finally by nine thirty or ten pm they said I could stay. I asked where I can put my tent up. Where upon they said no I cannot. They will let me sleep in a room off the Duty room. Not wanting to cook as all eyes were on me. I eat some muesli. One off duty police man kept asking me for some. I said to him it is all I have and do not know the road ahead. I may not be able to get more food. Then he comes with the story. In his culture, if a white man comes to you he must give you a gift. I just acted stupid and said I do not know where my next meal will be.
About 11 pm put down camping mattress to sleep. The light in the room remained on all night with the windows open and mosquitoes flying in and out. Then there was a superior teaching a trainee policeman in the next room, for his test the next day. It sounded like it was on how he should handle difficult situations and help people emotionally with problems they may have. Then every once in a while the door would open and they took something out of the safe. The safe was near the door in the room I was trying to sleep in.
By 4 am I could not sleep anymore, or should I say, I could not try to sleep anymore, so got up and packed my things. I was waiting for the sun to come up so that I could start ridding. As I did not bring any lights on the bicycle. I only had a small head lamp. The policeman said I must wait for the superior to come and give me my passport. He came at about 5:30 am. I said to the superior if I had known they were going to handle me like a criminal I would not have stopped for help at the police station. His response was the same as the night before. He was sorry if I was feeling threatened in any way but it was to protect me as a tourist / guest in their country. He said he would let the police ahead know I am on my way so that they will look after me.
I asked him about the road ahead and the hills. He pointed to the hill on the horizon. He said that is the last big hill the rest is small up and down to the border post. That is the hill in the distance in the photo. So I set out on my ride.
He was right I had to push my bicycle over that hill it was very steep. Vehicles had to use lowest gear to go over. From there it was a nice downhill to Mt Darwin.
About 5 km on the other side of Mt Darwin I stopped for breakfast of two minute noodles and lots of water. Had a good rest, of about half an hour and was back on the road. Uphill and downhill all the way, passing village after village. The villages all had rondavel houses which they fire their own red clay bricks to build. The rondavel houses are thatched with a rough finish. Every home kraal (group of houses) has a cook house that they use for cooking and smoking things with a little rondavel house which serves as a mini silo for the family grain.
Every village has a well that is covered for clean water. If the water is too deep the government or charity groups put a hand pump on it so that there is clean water for all. Stopping at one of these wells to get water the village people came to talk to me. They had been thatching some houses nearby. There was one in the group that was out of work at the moment and was a GPS specialist that worked with GPS technology in agriculture. As normal the prospect of work in South Africa came up. I said we do not hire anybody without South African identity document. I recommended they should rather look at tourism in the beautiful area they stay. All the communities in the area should come together and work out how they can put all their resources together and market the tradition and rural way of life to tourists.
I asked them about the drought and if they could not get a crop of maize, because the rain was so late. They then just said no problem the government will come and drop off some meal for them to eat until the next season. Well it is nice to make the people self-sufficient and then look like a hero when things are tough. This is a much cheaper way to do it than the welfare system in South Africa. It also brings votes at election time.
Not too far down the road the rain came in. It was a welcomes relief from the heat. However it rained so hard that I could hardly see the road and the wind was against me for a short distance. At this point the tar came to an end and real Africa started. After a short time the rain slowed to a drizzle. Using this to my advantage I followed the shallow rivulets to get a little harder surface to ride on. Then the road got really bad for about 10 km only 4X4 vehicles would have made it under these conditions. The none 4X4 vehicles waited until the sun came out for a bit to dry the dirt road out. Then none 4 X 4 vehicles start moving and negotiate the ditches in the road at a slow pace. Well there were lots of steep up and down stretches on the road but it was more up than down. At last there was one nice long down from the last mountain to the flood plain on which the Mukumbura town is situated. The downhill was very corrugated. I said to myself I have worked for this, so I will free wheel it. Reached a speed of 65 km/h, just tipping the tops of the bumps. My shock absorbers started to squeak after this.
After that the road got flat with corrugations that could not be avoided. This slowed me down a lot and made the muscles very stiff and tired. The scenery turned into big Baobabs with small bushes and no grass. There were some deep dongas (ditches) where the water carves its way across the flat ground during thunderstorms. Otherwise the water courses were dry.
The rain had not fallen here yet. There were goats with nothing to eat. Plenty of villages on the flood plan. Do not know how they live out here with no water or crops. Now I started getting overtaken by third world busses transporting people to the boarder. There were also a number of transport small trucks going to the boarder. Also a few taxis transporting people. This is really rural Africa. Cut off from the outside world by bad roads and hills.
Just before town a transport driver stopped me. He was amazed to see me here, as he had seen me just outside Mt Darwin. He then said he would come and see me that night if I was going to stay in town.
Here are a few more photos: