HARARE TO NYAMAPANDA
We had asked the conductor to give us a heads up in the morning when the bus was due to leave for Blantyre and he kindly woke us up very early. However, as we had had a rough night’s sleep, due to the bus terminus being just outside our bedroom window, we said that we would rather take in the sights of Harare for the day and continue our journey tomorrow. He was happy to oblige as long as he made the ticket sale.
Being quite sensitive to loud noise, I noticed in Africa in general, noise is a thing. In fact the louder one is, the better, as you get more attention. The same goes visually, the more bling or colour, the better — this is a generalisation for the most part but based on my experience, colour often being associated with affluence. There is a buzz of people, buses and taxis constantly beeping their horns outside our room window.
In the communal washrooms, there is no hot water. Water trickles out of the shower head and I opt to wash in the wash basin instead. I get a lot of stares but no issues. Z and I are off into town. Harare is similar to Johannesburg in many ways but the people appear to be friendlier, more helpful and generally I feel quite safe walking about. The town centre is about a 20 min walk from where we are staying and we look for a cheap breakfast spot. We found a take-away where they had bread buns, eggs and tea. Tea is mostly black as there is no fresh milk but you may be offered powder milk on the rare occasion.
We decided to head to the park and eat in the sunshine in front of the government buildings and surprisingly, we were approached and offered Malawi Cob (weed) within minutes of sitting down. After lunch, Z and I headed to the outside markets which were an eye opener. You hear stories in the media of monkey parts and other such things and here it is, right in front of me to purchase and take away. I tried Mopane worms which were ok and not as bad as I imagined.
After the market, we made our way to the bus terminus to enquire about a bus to Blantyre which turned out to be quite costly as we did not have Mozambican transit visas. Pre-arranged visas will take an entire day to organise with the Embassy so being too late today, we decided to go drinking instead. Mr Gwatidzo took us to the local beer garden where I am positive not many white people will have visited unless they’re really on a mission to traverse off the beaten path with an edge. The council provides the venue and subsidises food and drink which is provided to patrons at a discounted price. A good choice of chicken, fish, liver, veg and soup with some other dishes I am unable to make out. We bought our 2L of chibuku and happily sipped away to the surprise of the other patrons. Mr Gwatidzo invited us back to his home for dinner where we enjoyed a meal of sadza and veg. We felt obliged to compensate him financially and he gladly accepted. It was at this point we wondered where all our money was going and if we were to make it to Malawi, we would have to tighten our belts to ensure we had at least enough to eat for the trip.
At the Mozambican Embassy in Harare we stood in line for an hour and a half. The visa will take 24 hrs to process and we’ll be able to collect it the next morning. We made our way to Harare Gardens to sit in the sun and an opportunity to fix, yet another, puncture on my bike but this time the front wheel. There are two water taps in the park, one to drink and the other, red, not to drink. I took the opportunity the day before to look for 'puncture busters' but go figure, an overland company had just rolled through the day before and bought up everything.
Making our way to the bus terminus, I soon discovered there were thieves in the area as one tried to rip my jacket from the back of my bike carrier. A melee of sounds, smells, sights and tastes assaults the senses but in contrast, I notice the streets are exceptionally clean, despite the thick smog hanging in the air, the depot itself being almost unbreathable.
With our visas collected, we are on our way to Nyamapanda. Harare said goodbye with billboard slogans like 'BORN WORRIED; DIE DISAPPOINTED', 'I LOOK POOR; BUT RICH IN MIND' and my favourite 'HARD TIMES NEVER KILL'. We had good fun and met some great people but I think we were happy to be back on the road. The speed limit is 80km but we were flying at 120km which is crazy considering the road conditions — last sign we just passed, Nyamapanda 216km.
All disputes are handled by the police no matter how petty. We had a case on the bus where a passenger sitting next to us accused the conductor of charging him more than others for the same journey. The conductor told him to shut up and sit down but the passenger’s uncle told the conductor to stop the bus when they see the first police vehicle. Police have the latest models of vehicles — Mercedes sedans and BMW motorbikes so are not hard to spot in an environment of thoroughly used vehicles. Having found one, we stopped for a half hour whilst the dispute was being heard, making for a convenient toilet/smoke break. Ultimately the passenger did get a refund of $Z4 and we were on our way again.
Finally we arrive in Nyamapanda late afternoon and are desperately trying to get a lift across the border through what is know as Tete Corridor as border posts on both sides close at 18.00. The options were, get a trick ride and stay over in Tete or find a place in Nyamapanda and try again tomorrow to cross the border. Some one did offer for us to camp at Cabora Bassa but we would have to wait 2-3 days before we can get a lift back and so declined. Also, our transit visa is only valid for one day. It was getting late so we decided to turn back and spend the night at the border town. The town was having a party that night as a roadshow was passing through. Often these roadshows were a way to advertise goods to the illiterate, playing out domestic scenes with products thrown in for example dishwasher or washing powder. But at night, being thespians, there was an after party. We went to purchase beer but ended buying a scud instead then met up with 2 chaps from the ministry of water. Their supervisor was also there but wasn’t there if you get my meaning — in spirit, totally off his head. The other two were not much better but were somewhat coherent and one kept on spitting on us when speaking. They offered for us to stay at their encampment overnight and said we would think about it but then the bus conductor offered for us to stay in the bus for safety until it was time for him to leave at 3am. We said we would think about it but then he offered dinner, so it was a done deal. Z was dancing with a 'lady of the night' and she offered to sneak us into the local motel but I think lines were crossed as we ended up sleeping in the bus and getting about an hours sleep. Thereafter we moved onto the patio of the general store, Matzudah’s General Store with all the others lined up fast asleep and stared at the stars. I have never seen so many shooting stars virtually every minute as the sky is clear and there are no lights. We didn’t really get much more sleep as the others were quite restless — a lot of grunting, groaning, some talking and some even singing in their sleep.