20.01.2009 - 20.01.2009 22 °C
After 24 hours of travelling and the final leg on a 36 seater plane that was so small I had to duck in the main cabin, I arrive in Bulawayo, the second largest town in Zimbabwe. As we come into land, the landscape is lush and green and appears very sparsely populated.
Johannesburg and Bulawayo are notoriously bad for keeping track of luggage so I am both surprised and relieved to see my backpack carried effortlessly across the tarmac. The airport is a very small 2 roomed building with a small wooden hatch through which to obtain the necessary visa and I lose sight of my passport for the first time this trip. I am unable to get a Multi-entry visa and they have run out of Double-entry visas too so I make do with a Single that is suitably defaced to reflect my requirements. I am expecting an overnight stay in Bulawayo but when I phone on a very bad line from Jo'burg, the B&B owners are unaware of my booking! Fortunately due to some confusion, Arun and Jackson from Antelope Park in Gweru (my home for the next month) are waiting for me.
Bulawayo, worryingly meaning 'Killing Place', is a small town built on a grid system. Fourth Avenue is dominated by a disused power station right in the centre of town. Many shops are closed and those that are open contain very little. Everything is priced in 'Forex' ie South African Rand, Botswana Pula, Dollars or Sterling and all the windows and doors are covered in bars. There are many nice vehicles on the road, a lot driven by white people and, as we pass a fairly well stocked fruit and veg market, I notice that many people appear well dressed. It is hot, very very quiet and I am paid no attention.
After Arun and Jackson have 'conducted their business' in Bulawayo we set off for the 2 hour drive to the Midlands. The road is good once we get out of town and the landscape is predominately farmland used for livestock grazing and except a few periodic clusters of small thatched buildings I see very little in terms of both animal and human life.
The sky suddenly gets angry and I witness my first downpour as evidence of the current rainy season. The 3 of us are squeezed into the cab of a small pickup truck while my backpack endures the storm in the open trailer behind. Fortunately it is still covered in the clingfilm giftwrap from Heathrow so I hope I wont be arriving with a bag full of saturated clothes.