August 19, 1998

Zimbabwe: Barclays Bank, 1st Street, Harare

Waiting for the forex teller, maiming time.

Ack. Thpbbt. I've really let this journal slip. Fortunately, it's been a fairly memorable ten days.

Fade out fade in: a Harare cybercafe, checking mail, waiting on long delays. Changed money at Manica Travel, the Amex reps, instead of Barclays.

Old Rhodesian society, as recently witnessed, is...strange. Rachael's comment about the seaweed tossed up by the highest wave is fitting. A mixture of 18th century aristocracy (estates, servants, rigid class structure), 19th century colonialism (surprise) (hunting trophies, tales of wild travel, "natives" comments) and 20th century angst (they are the last of a dying breed, their world is slipping away, and they know it).

Decorative tusks and an elephant-foot stool. Tales of Mozambican motorcycles towing bicycles and of the arms dealer next door. High rollers at the Leopard Rock Casino. A ride on a berry-towing tractor. Vast hardwood stands and lush green hills. Overgrown stairs, stage, & pool at Eagle School. Collapsed weathervane atop Mt. Binga.

Last Saturday, met the Fords, chatted with them at their near-bush estate in the lamplight (power outage), and went out for food & drink with Hallam, second-cousin/British paratrooper, n' his buddy Manuel. Excellent food - "Fishmonger's" and a pub on the outskirts of town where we met Chawa (sic?) a South African-educated Zimbabwean ex-schoolmate of Hallam's who plans to form a lobby group en route to political power.

Sunday, to a braai with Sue & David, old colonials commiserating about the good-old-days and the bad-now, unconscious racism; a few younger families, but Zim's white population is fading & graying. Not necessarily a bad thing...

Monday, a day off in Harare, doing very little.

Tuesday, helped George & Amalia move out to the ranch, then to the all-but-deserted night train to Mutare.

Wednesday, after some confusion and a long pack-carrying walk through nice-but-forgettable Mutare, hitched up to the Vumba and the Ndundu Lodge (nee Cloud Castle), and exceedingly comfortable and friendly place, where I could easily have stuck a week (but didn't). Wandered up Leopard Rock and through the pretty-and-pleasant Vumba Gardens, listened to some of Ndundu's impressive music selection.

Thursday, went on an epic - 35-40K - walk, along the Vumba road past once-Eagle School (didn't know it) and a "Drive-In Hyper-Kiosk", past Cloudlands, down Essex Valley Rd., through the Wattle Company's vast timber plantations and the terraced emerald-green farms of Essex Valley, to the Mozambican border for a couple of well-deserved Cokes, and partway back through the timber, before catching lifts back to Ndundu. Thick dark rainforests, rolling sculpted hills, high shoulders of tree-barnacled stone ridges, sparkling blue dam pools. Ate (great food) back at Ndundu and set off to the Leopard Rock Casino with other inhabitants - mainly archaeology students, strangely enough - and spent a few hours playing blackjack (broke even) and kibitzing.

Friday, travel day: ride down to Mutare, changed money, taxied to bus station, caught v. crowded bus for longer-than-necessary ride to Chimanimani and peacock-patrolled Heaven Lodge, crash and party pad, major milestone on the backpacker trail.

Saturday, off to wildly rugged and beautiful Chimanimani National Park, stiff rocky climb for 2 hrs. to mountain hut, stunning views over vast grassy plain surrounded by jagged mountains, dark clear mountain rivers burbling down the slopes and across the plain, forests of huge standing stones worn by wind and water to shapes more like coral than rock, fields & ridges of cracked jagged granite. Climbed up Mt. Binga, over fields of steep stone, drinking from clear cold mountain streams, somewhere crossing the border to Mozambique en route to the spire-laden view from the top, dark rippling layers of hills, down in all directions. Back to the hut just before dusk, met nice Dutch-Aussie couple, rolled out sleeping bag next to (too-pricey) hut, slept 'til dawn and its dew & drizzle.

Sunday - 16th - went walkabout for a few hours on the Chimanimani plateau, went up Skeleton Pass, returned, finished mountain food (rolls, tinned gunk, crackers & fresh sweet Chimanimani honey), climbed down with Thaddeus-from-Singapore, got ride back with Gary-the-local who's planning a weeklong foray to the even-less-touristy parts, sat in on guitar circle at Heaven for a couple hours (a Brixton-based guy there played amazing Robert Johnson versions), ate, drank, crashed early because...

Monday, got up at 3:30 AM to get first bus to Mutare to meet George & Amalia there at 8:30. Met, drove up to Vumba for brief tour of Eagle School, to Penhalonga and the gold mine gran-pere (once had an aka - "Pendrift" - in the WWI Navy) and gran-mere's father worked at, along scenic route to Nyanga, stopping at Mtarazi Falls, Honde View, and Pungwe View; seeing absolutely nothing because of the thing Nyanga mist, but otherwise I liked the mist, made everything seem a little magical. Stopped for night at Mare Dam, wandered 'round dam with George, ate, slept.

Tuesday - yesterday - drove up to meet Peter & Jane Storrer, exceedingly wealthy second cousins, at their exquisitely appointed farmhouse on the edge of the country. Then back to Harare via grandparents' grave in Marondera. A couple familially-historically-important buildings in Harare - 21 North and 36 Argyle - and back to Possum.

Today, administrivia: money-changing, email, gift-shopping, etc. Dinner w/George & Amalia and tonight's train for Bulawayo & Vic Falls.



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