A couple of weeks ago I found out that the 20thof August would be a public holiday in Beira. Public holiday usually means long weekend and ultimately time to take a trip. I did some research to find out what would be the best option for weekend trip and after speaking to Zimbabwean friends of mine, it seemed the best option.
I told some colleagues about our plan and they in turn seemed very interested. It started off as a four person road trip, but soon the project rumour machine and radio spread news of this trip to others and in the end we were sixteen people. I was concerned… I´ve organised trips for big groups already and they aren’t always easy as sixteen people don’t always wanted to do the same thing but decided to just let things be.
Saturday morning at 5am we all gathered at a meeting point heading out of the city. Four cars… Fifteen people (One of the sixteen overslept and didn’t come along)… Four Nationalities). Off we went. I was excited as there is nothing better I like than a nice roadtrip. We had 390 Km ahead of us, but considering the state of the road on the Mozambican side it would take us roughly five hours.
It was a very misty morning which made the driving even more difficult than it already was with all the potholes in the road. An hour after we left Beira, the mist lifted and we had sunny skies and open road (literally as it was full of holes). Soon the potholes almost turned the trip into a tragic one… I was busy overtaking a long truck and the truck (not paying much attention to me) attempted to avoid a pothole and almost forced me off the road and into the the sloping ditch… Fortunately, I managed to brake and avoid the truck hitting me. Suffice to say that we were slightly shaken by the near collision but decided that a near death experience is not going to stop us!
After a good three hours on the road, we finally arrived the Machipinda Border post. Crossing out of Mozambique was quite easy. A Passport stamp, 25 Meticais (under a dollar) for temporary exportation of our cars and we were out of Mozambique and into the small no-man’s land between Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
We arrived the Zimbabwean Border, ready to cross into Zimbabwe. As soon as you stop your car, people come up to you asking if you need help (for a price of course). There were processes to complete: Getting the visas and paying taxes for taking cars across the border. I started working on the process for the cars (with the help of one of the people who to the car) while the others queued up for visas. Being South African meant that I merely needed a stamp and didn’t have to pay anything while the Brazilians and Portuguese required visas of $40.
Then came the hiccup… One of the people in the group was Venezuelan (I was unaware of this until the morning of the trip). Initially the border officials weren’t too sure what to do as this was the first Venezuelan to cross this border in a long time (if ever). Venezuelans require a visa from the embassy prior to travelling… When the border official realised this, his self confidence sky rocketed… The fate of our Venezuelan companion was in his hands and he made sure we were aware of it!
He dissappeared for almost an hour and then came back asking for a $600 bribe. Our Venezuelan companion and her friend declined to pay that and decided they would simply head back home. Thirteen people left… Three cars… Three nationalities… After three we were in Zimbabwe and back on the road.
Not far from the border we hit the city of Mutare. It was a typical provincial Southern African city. Organized but nothing to write home about. We wizzed past the town and acsended into the mountainous region of Nyanga National Park. Nyanga National Park lies in the north of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. it contains the highest land in Zimbabwe, with green hills and perennial rivers. Mutarazi Falls, Zimbabwe’s highest waterfall, is in the south of the park. The road leading to Inn on Rupurara is stunning as the road winds around the undulating mountains covered in trees. It felt very different to South Africa I’m used of Savanah bushvelds.
It was around 2pm when we arrived at our destination: Inn on Rupurara. It’s a beautiful place nestled in the mountain great views over the landscapes. With everyone famished, everyone sat down on the balcony facing the valley from. The setting was tranquil and all I wanted to do was relax, listen to some music and read a book. Alas, I was tour organiser extraordinaire, so there is no rest for the wicked!
The majority of the group wanted to do an evening safari. I on the other hand was suffering from safari fatigue… Since July I had already done two safari’s. So a colleague decided to do the horseback safari in order to do something different. This would be something new for me as I’ve never done horseriding, but the guide assured me the horses were quite “Zen”. I wanted tranquility and that’s exactly what I got.
It was an extraordinary way of doing a safari as you could really get up close to the animials in the park and add to that the absence of any engine noise, made the ride very enjoyable. After around two hours we returned to the Inn and prepared for dinner.
Dinner was an interesting experience as most people in the group spoke poor english which meant I became the official translator of the menu, which I have to say was fantastic and cheap! With that, the evening ended for myself as I was way too tired to do anything and retired to bed while the others stayed up and chatted for a while.
To be continued…