We attempted to set off from Antelope Park this morning at 9am, however, this ended up being 10:30am as they had a problem with their card machine and George was having trouble paying the bill. Oh well, TIA.
As soon as we were underway, I fell asleep, yes I am definitely back into the swing of overlanding if I can fall asleep on that truck, which is a hundred times more bumpy that either of the Dragoman trucks I was on. At about 12:30pm we reached the limits of Bulowayo, our next stop. Kate one of the passengers on the truck is actually a Zimbabwean and this is her home town, so we stopped at the Welcome to Bulowayo sign for a group photo.
We got into the town and George and I had to go shopping, on attempting to get off the truck we were immediately accosted by both adults and children begging for money. I hadn't actually experienced that before in East and Southern Africa. Even in Malawi, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, people are still trying to sell you something to get your money.
George and I headed to the local supermarket and stocked up on supplies, when we got back to the truck with the trolley, the people followed us, including one really persistent guy, so stood basically on top of me and rambled on about giving him money. He ignored all my requests for him to leave us alone, and George actually offered him a dollar to take the trolley back, but only if he left us completely alone while we were loading up the truck. We hadn't managed to acquire everything we needed so we went into another supermarket to get mince, which was quite expensive. I have no idea how people survive in this town, even a small try of nothing but bones, was $2.50 USD.
After our second round of shopping, George and I went and loaded up the truck and then set off in search of lunch. Most of the places we had seen along the way had been closed, we did find another Chicken Inn, but it was a bit crowded and there were no tables for us to sit at. We found another place up the road and George ended up with beef stew and ugali (a kind of ricey substance that looks like play dough) I think he was pretty disappointed with it, as I think he was expecting to have some kind of chicken burger for lunch. I persisted and actually had a chicken burger and chips, it wasn't the best chicken burger ever, but the chips were awesome and they even gave me some vinegar with them
George had to go off and do a few things, so I told him to go and I would meet him back at the truck. I finished my food and went for a walk down the streets of Bulowayo, it was I have to say one of the strangest places I think I've ever been.
The architecture reminded me of America in the 1950's, the main building actually looked like the clock tower out of Back to the Future. The time warp of the of the place was so severe I think it could have passed for a small 1950's town, if it wasn't 30 degrees and full of black people. Since the expulsion of the white man by Uncle Rob, all the buildings have fallen into disrepair, the streets have pot holes, half the shops are closed and the paint is peeling. In all my years of travelling I don't think I have ever felt so alien.
I got back on the truck and we drove about ten minutes up the road to our camp, which actually turned out to be in the grounds of someone's house, a white Zimbabwean named Christine, who funnily enough Kate knew….small world. The passengers set up their tents by her swimming pool and George and I were show to our rooms in the house. The house is a lovely old colonial masterpiece, with a lawn overlooking the pool, with wooden deck chairs to sit in while one sips a rum and coke in the sun or writes ones travel journal.
Inside the house is quite dark, with lots of nick knacks scattered around the place and old, dark wood furniture. Lead light lamps and light fittings are everywhere, hardwood floors which make a noise when you walk on them and dusty old antiques and family heirlooms littered around. The room I am staying it has two lovely beds in it, a table with four wooden zebras on it, motorbike posters on the walls and an old white wardrobe, kind of like the one my nan used to have (hers was brown) on the top of it sit a stone age computer and old monitor, some boxes, a leather bag and some tacky plastic plants. I know you're probably thinking this junk totally wrecks the experience of this place, no on the contrary, it makes it. This room, is just like staying in a guest room at a friend's house and I feel more at home than I have in a long time, I can see Bulowayo is going to be another of my favourite stops on this trip.
After we had dinner tonight, our safari guide for tomorrow, a South African man named Ian came to talk to us about our trip into Matopas National Park tomorrow. As soon as this man opened his mouth, I was completely captivated, as was the rest of the group. I don't think I've ever seen someone capture an audience so totally, so quickly in my life. He is taking us rhino tracking tomorrow and to see cave paintings and to talk to us about history and prehistoric man, I cannot wait. After Ian had finished talking, I spotted a huge bug crawling along the ground, Ian identified the bug as a baby ground cricket. The baby cricket was about four inches long, and Ian said he was harmless so I picked him up for a closer look. I looked into his cute little face and said, I'm going to call you Max.
George gave me my own private introduction to Ian, still with Max on my arm. I like bugs, I said to Ian. Well I'm glad of that, he said with a laugh. I told him I was really excited to be seeing the cave paintings, and told him I had studied ancient history at uni. He said he would talk me ear off about the history of the place and I said I would look forward to it. We then got into a discussion about radio carbon dating, and he said, well it looks like it might be a two way street tomorrow! You bet it will, I said. It was clear right from the word go, that neither Ian and I could wait to get embroiled in a massive historical debate tomorrow. I only hope I can keep up.
Ian then left and I released Max back into the bush before going back to the house to catch up on some journal writing in my cosy little room.