An unplanned, unnecessary excursion into Zim

Thu, 7 Mar 2002 22:54:04 +0800

For the last several days I have been essentially waiting for a tour to start. This is an Oasis 21 day tour through Botswana & Namibia ending in Cape Town, South Africa. There were a few other options but, for the most part, I was zeroed in on the one.

Wednesday morning, Sue (one of the managers at the hostel in Livingstone) tells me that Oasis is leaving tomorrow (Thursday) from Vic Falls. All the other other tours have switched to Livingstone due to the turmoil in Zimbabwe. But hey, Oasis could be judging the situation differently.

So I scramble to get my stuff together and Sue and I head over to the border. I get to Zimbabwe immigration, $50 bill in hand. I'm not sure exactly how much the visa is but I know it can't be over $50.

The visa is $30 but they have no change in US$. Ew. But they have change in Rand (South Africa). I can deal with that. No, no, we can't give change in a different currency. Against regulations. Ok, I'll get the multi-entry visa for $45. I'm probably going to be back through in a month, anyway. No. Can't do that. We must give you change. Impasse. I am literally being denied entry because I don't have exact change. Sue runs into town to get me change, returning about 20 minutes later. I finally get the visa and clear immigration.

Then, a messenger shows up to tell me that, contrary to what we had heard, Oasis is leaving from Livingstone.

That was useless. Fortunately, the driver is coming through Vic Falls so at least I have a ride back and a way for avoiding buying another Zambia visa. (In Zambia, a visa is unnecessary if you are on an organized tour)

With a day to kill, I change a little bit of money and get lunch. A short while later, my wallet is stolen. Only about US$10 worth of Zim and Zambia currency but it does waste a fair bit of time.

I head out to see the Zimbabwe side of the falls, rather later than I would have preferred. I take a bit of a wrong turn but, another tourist tells me of an alternate, and more scenic route past an enormous baobob tree.

Less than 5 minutes down the road, there is trouble. At least 3 elephants near the left side of the road. I think I will wait. Moments later, 4 elephants cross the road. The last one doesn't like my being there and starts trotting toward me. I back off and decide to go the other way. No further incident and I did make it to the falls.

Now, I am back in Zambia, soon to head off to Botswana. I would have preferred to write this message from Zimbabwe, but the phones aren't working. Suspicion is that this is Mugabe trying to control communication before the election.