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Trip Report Zimbabwe, Mama Africa

As promised from earlier in the day I leave Victoria Falls, Zambia with a private driver from Zimbabwe and his two guests from China who have just completed a tour with me. I am sort of getting a free local tour guide for which I am grateful.

From the official Zambia border crossing office it is about a 20-30 minute leisurely walk across no man's land to the Zimbabwe official border crossing. However, we get to walk across the bridge we saw earlier during our tour. It is a one way multipurpose bridge that crosses the gouge of Victoria Falls. Here is where you can do bungee jumping if you still need an adrenaline rush after living life on the edge at Devil's Pool. One fix a day is enough for me so I pass on the generous offers.

Nonetheless, I do appreciate the views of the falls and the river rapids from the bridge as we compete with semi trucks, cyclists and other pedestrians while making our crossing. Add a train going by on the nearby track and this could be quite an experience.

As we continue our walk to the border I get the opportunity to learn from the driver a bit about Zimbabwe and the struggles it's people face to survive. The once somewhat prosperous country is in shambles because of a corrupt government that kills those that oppose it. The country does not have it's own currency and it's economy runs on the American Dollar. With an almost 80 percent unemployment rate, given the opportunity many of it's citizens seek work in other nearby countries like South Africa.

Approaching the Zimbabwe border we are welcomed to the country by a few Goodwill Ambassadors, a warthog and her three little kids. Clearing immigration and customs, we wait a few minutes while the driver retrieves his car. It was left at the border due the red tape of import and export regulations at both the Zimbabwe and Zambia border crossing. It is much easier to just make the 20-30 minute walk between the borders or you can take a regular or bicycle taxi for a few bucks.

A less than 10 minute drive from the border and I am dropped off at Mama Africa an “Eating House” in the town of Victoria Falls. An open restaurant with a colorful decor, it is easy to take a quick liking to Mama Africa. A browse of the menu and a sip of a cold local beer and I know I have been steered in the right culinary direction.

From Pickled Fish, to Elephant Turd T-Bone, Crocodile Tail and various pot stews, Mama Africa offers a nice selection to fit most anyone's taste bud. I select the pot stew a traditional Zimbabwe dish which is served with pap (made from maize) and chomollia, “The Green Stuff” which is like spinach.

For US$14, I have a lunch with two beers that is delicious. It satisfies one of the reasons I love to travel, the joy of a belly full of local food.

A quick stroll near Mama Africa and I enjoy with nice memories a beautiful Poinciana Tree that was a playful part of my youth growing up in the Bahamas. Under the clear blue sky with a blaring sun it's flowers seem to sparkle like I remember them from many moons ago.

Although it is relatively hot, the weather is still nice enough that a walk back to the border seems in order. Leaving the town, I stand inches from a freight train as it crosses a track in front of me. No guard rails or railroad crossing signs just common sense required not to get hit by a train.

I have a little unknown company as I make my way to the border and soon we are crossing over another set of railroad tracks a part of the not so extensive Zimbabwe Railway system. I am not a big souvenirs collector and refuse offers from street vendors along the way.

However, I find two offers interesting. For US$1 I can purchase I think a $5 Million Zimbabwe Note which of course is worthless but is believed to be the highest official country denomination ever printed. Now I wish I had spent the buck.

The other offer, my pair of shoes which I am wearing for a Rain Stick. Being from South Florida, I would not have much use for a Rain Stick especially in the summer. However, I truly wished that I could have given him my shoes but I don't think I would have survived an hour barefoot walk back to the Zambia border.

Entertaining these offers I have lost pace with my unknown company who is rapidly pulling away. Pushing a huge cart full of merchandise in 90 degree weather, I admire his stamina as I guess his human spirit has found a way to combat an 80% unemployment rate.

Although my visit to Zimbabwe was short it did give me the chance to meet new people, taste new foods and experience another way of life. All good reasons why the time was well spent.

Video:
http://youtu.be/pYhKXODt_8w

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