Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Thursday - on the road again

Mark and Dixie – I have repeatedly thought of you today, with your marathon 'weekend break' roadtrips. This one started at 5.15am.

Today we drove just under 900Km back from Victoria falls via Bulawayo. There is a road between Chihoyi and Vic falls, but it's 'rough' if you drive a landrover, and although it's about 200km less, the car we were in could not have made it. Mike and I took turns driving, he in particular having not slept well the previous night, and I was glad to help out. It was the exact same journey that we'd done in 2 stages before, just reversed, and going back made the countryside more interesting with the topology easier to see. When we were heading out from Harare the countryside more or less dropped away, with the ridge of hills called The Dyke providing a small bump before dropping again to the high veldt, then again after Bulawayo to the low veldt. Going back showed us that there were hills to be seen instead of the country appearing mostly flat plains with minor undulations.

There had been some changes in the vegetation too – we had been told that autumn is short and fast here – and both trees and grass seemed much more yellowed as we drove away from Vic falls. Further on the clouds appeared, temperatures dropped (21'C at the start, 19'C by the time we stopped 8 hours later for lunch in Kadoma. 

Eventually the sun did come back out, and when we arrived back about 4.15pm it was quite warm again.

I have mentioned the condition of the roads already, but not the police and army. Roadblocks were a frequent occurrence, especially near to towns where the speed limit was dropped to 80km/h (national speed limit was 120km/h) and radar speed traps caught a lot of drivers. At first sight, to a foreigner unused to this kind of police presence, the roadblocks were unsettling: one would have to approach a group of police standing in the road and giving you 'the eye' slowly, not knowing what they wanted. Usually we were waved through – a group of 4 white people in an older Mercedes was not of interest – though on one occasion we were stopped and the boot searched for 'anything dangerous'. Mostly they were pulling commercial vehicles and buses, plus shiny new cars with black drivers.

It was observed that around the 25th day of the month the number of roadblocks would increase, since that was typically payday. Drivers would likely have money, and police wages were not high. General advice was always obtain a receipt for any fines, and if in doubt then request the fining officer accompany you to the police station to pay the fine.

Tonight we sleep in 'our' bed again. Tomorrow is another day – I hope we CAN sleep, as there's a loud party in the house next door right now.

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