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Beitbridge

This morning I managed to sleep in until 8am before the office started harassing me about the truck. After firing back another email telling them what they expected me to do in a day usually takes three, I went back to bed for a bit. I got up and went to have a look at the truck. JB, the driver was already putting up the tents and inspecting them.

I did a quick inventory on the medical kit and made some notes and then returned the keys back to JB. I then went out to get some airtime as the dreaded bus didn't leave until 7pm that night. While at the shopping centre I decided to have a look at what was on at the movies. I was delighted to find that The Hobbit is finally out in Africa. I bought a ticket and went and had an amazing sandwich at the Woolworths café.

I watched the movie which was amazing and walked back to the backpackers. I fixed up my accounts and gave my phone a last minute charge before my taxi arrived to take me to the bus terminal.

I arrived at said terminal and as predicted it was chaos. There was no line for my particular bus company, which had the last ticket available (I wonder why?) just a bunch of about a hundred people with bags on their heads all pushing and shoving and the bus hadn't even turned up yet! After about an hour I managed to push and shove my way to the front and get my bag weighed. I went to get on what I thought was my bus only the be told there were two buses going to Bulowayo and I was on the second one.

I went over to the other platform cursing the office for this fiasco and proceeded to wait a further two hours for the bus to turn up. As I was now running two hours late and I know the border is chaos, I texted the office to let them know I was probably going to miss my connection to Vic Falls, the buses only had 4 hours between them.

The Intercity bus when it did arrive was much nicer than the Greyhound Citihopper I had gotten last time, and mercifully there were only two seats on either side of the aisle instead of three in the same space. Although unfortunately for me, the spare seat next to me was taken by a fat old lady who couldn't help but basically sit on my lap. Oh how I miss my personal space.

I actually managed to get some sleep on this bus and we arrived at the border at 5am. Even the South African side was balmy this time around. The queue for passport control was easily five hundred meters long. I stood there again fuming at the office and knowing that the Zimbabwe side was a hundred times worse than this.

We got back on the bus and then proceeded to go through the exponential amount of bullshit on the Zimbabwe side. I lined up to get my visa stamped only to be told to go to the visa counter after standing in my first very long queue. I pushed my way to the front of the visa queue, and got my passport stamped, refusing to line up again. Next all the luggage had to be pulled off the bus and inspected to make sure no one was dodging their taxes. I had hidden my laptop under my seat as even though I purchased it in the Czech Republic, every time I come into Zimbabwe at this border they will want me to pay duty on it. I also had to hide roughly $2000 USD in South African Rand down my pants as this would certainly have been confiscated by the corrupt border officials. Gotta love a company who uses its staff as money mules.

Border sign Zimbabwe

Most people had filled out blue customs forms, which were nowhere to be seen last time I crossed this border so I didn't fill one out having nothing to declare. This time unfortunately they did want me to fill one out. When the idiot came around the bus to collect the forms I just stood there with my backpack open so he could inspect it and said, I already gave you mine, don't you remember? He just gave me a confused look and said, Oh yes, I do remember. Bullshit it king in Africa.

After the Soviet style inspection we all had to go and wait at the other side of the border for the bus, which eventually turned up. We got on the bus and they started passing back the blue forms, the silly old bat next to me started to point out to the officials (who were still on the bus) that I didn't have one. I grabbed her arm and said, Don't be stupid, if they catch me it will delay the whole bus even more. Don't you want to get where you are going? With that, she stopped right there.

The rest of the trip was largely uneventful, and the driver actually managed to make up some time, so much so that thought I may only just make my connection. We arrived in Bulowayo at 1:30pm, just enough time to get a cab across town to the other bus company. Of course I was mistaken, we all started to get up to try to get off the bus, and the people running it made us all sit down and pray for our safe arrival. When I finally got off the bus, the idiot driver had parked so close to the bus next to us, that only one person at a time could get their luggage.

By this time, I had resigned myself to the fact that I had missed my connection and was now stuck in Bulowayo for the night….not a totally unpleasant situation if I'm honest. I didn't really want to get on another bus for six hours after the twenty hour bus ride from hell.

I got in a cab and had him take me first to get food as I hadn't eaten at all today and then to Berks Paradise backpackers, the driver had no idea where it was and I called Berks three times to have them explain it to him. Finally, we came across one of Ian Harmers African Wanderer guys at a service station and I pointed to the truck and said, ask him I do business with his company. The guy let us follow him to Berks. I got out and paid and said hello to Adam and Christine, who were very welcoming as always, but surprised to see me again without a group. I told them I needed a room for the night and was given a room up the back in the garden, all to myself no questions asked.

I ate my food and then went for a swim in their pool, which was heaven after my ordeal with the bus and the border. I had a shower and sat around watching TV on my laptop until it got dark and the power failed. After that I sat on my porch and looked at the stars, thinking with all the chaos and bullshit over the last three weeks, I hadn't really stopped to appreciate Africa in a while. So I sat there, not fiddling with any technology for once and appreciated the bush.

It was only about 8pm and I wasn't ready for bed yet, and I was sitting in my room wondering what to do with myself. I was sitting on the bed when I heard a rustling in one of my plastic bags. Just then a tiny Africa shrew, with a cute little turf of fur on his tail crawled up onto my bed. I sat perfectly still, observing the small critter. I don't think he realized that I, myself was alive as he proceeded to crawl up my leg and investigate the new fixture in his habitat. I drew the line when he attempted to scamper up my shorts, I think I gave him quite a freight as I didn't see him for the rest of the night.

When I awoke the next morning I came to the blissful realization that I didn't have to get up. So I went straight back to bed in my cosy little cabin and got up at about 10m and then proceeded to relax and watch movies on my laptop until it was time to get the most decent bus of the trip to Vic Falls.

Adam, the owner drove me down to the bus terminal and I boadered the bus, and sat in the exact same seat as last time. It was a fairly uneventful journey although they did have the crappy B grade movie they were playing up so loud even my heavy metal music couldn't drown it out. Six hours later I arrived at the Kingdom Hotel and Vic Falls, walked to Shoestrings, getting hassled by touts all the way. I actually gave one a right telling of, look mate if you think I'm actually interested in buying anything from you at this time of night, after I've just gotten off a six hour bus journey and am carrying all this shit (pointing at my back front and just about every appendage I had a bag hanging from) you must be mad!

I finally got to Shoestrings and checked into my own room, went out for pizza and then came straight back and went to bed. Tomorrow I walk across the border into Zambia and do the rest of the journey on the truck with Dixon….mercifully.

Beitbridge


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