Arriving into Harare at 4am wasn’t how it was supposed to be but that’s how it worked out. A taxi driver quietly asked would I like to head into town and we headed away through deserted streets, some with streetlights off to the hotel.
The centre of Harare involved broad streets and an assortment of colonial buildings and those from the 1960s.
In all quite clean and not what one might expect from the news stories from Zimbabwe of 7 or 8 years ago – hyperinflation, empty shops, money worthless as soon as printed all presided over by an ageing Mugabe. Mugabe is still there (at 90) but to restore economic sanity the country now officially uses the dollar.
A quick spin and breakfast around the centre of town on a sunny Sunday and we collected our rental car and were off to the Eastern highlands. Less African savannah and more pine forest and lake country with, apparently, excellent trout fishing.
Arriving late at night to our self-catering cottages by a lake we settled into what seemed like a 1950s style house, fired up the wood cooker opened a G&T and played cards in the middle of the Nyanga National Park.
The park seemed off the beaten track for foreign visitors with most being down for the weekend from Harare. Up the next day we dropped down to the Rhodes Nyanga Hotel – built from the summer home of Cecil Rhodes. The location I imagine was no accident given how Scottish/British the landscape felt.
Rhodes was an arch-imperialist, was the founder of De Beers and responsible for expanding British control over Southern Africa to such an extent that his company named two countries North and South Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe today) after him.
More well known today for the Rhodes scholarship and the controversy around his views on race and statues of him in Cape Town University (which he donated the land for) and Oxford.
Heading out to the edge of the park we got a spectacular view over eastern Zimbabwe and all the way to Mozambique climbing the highest mountain in the country. Apparently to climb one needed a guide for what was a very gently climb but after a lot of back and forth with one of the guides on the mountain Pedro managed to use their rule-bound excuses against them as the sign at the bottom said nothing of this.
Our second day started well in a tranquil breakfast by the lake but quickly went downhill on the road. Driving a city Hyundai car over what could only passably be called roads led to some hairy moments and not only for us. On an uncharted road to the 479m tall Mtazari waterfalls an 18 wheeler with lumber had taken too sharp a turn and jack-knifed on the road – a bad omen.
All the way to the waterfall was a dead-slow grind down winding dirt tracks all with Pedro shouting ‘slowly, slowly’ only after hearing the scratching underneath sound, very helpful!
The falls were worth it though, the second highest in Africa, cascading down hundreds of metres to dense forest and a valley below and all to ourselves.
Steeling ourselves for the trip back we decided to take the ‘more established’ road – meaning it was on maps – which Pedro immediately took a disliking to. In fairness there was much to dislike as portions we had to swerve and go at less than walk pace. Things were beginning to look up until fate would drop another 18 wheeler in our path – this time smack across the entire road!
After much of Pedro’s trash talking the road we managed to drive up the bank to the side of the truck, around the cab and back down to the road. No sooner had we wished the driver well and given him our leftover supplies than our ignition wouldn’t turn!
While we pondered being stuck there and asking for our biscuits back the car started and we resolved not to turn it off until Harare.
Three hours later we arrived in, exhausted, to Harare. There was only one thing for it that evening and that was a cheeky Nandos dinner to burn away the stress of the day!