Harare and Mutare
After leaving Bulawayo, Claire and I jumped on another sleeper train. This one was almost identical to the one we used a few days previous, and got us into Harare by midday the next day. Harare is the capital city of Zimbabwe and is rather hectic and dirty, especially when you compare it to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. However, we did only spend one day in Harare, so perhaps we just happened to miss then nicer parts. We spent one day in the city, visiting a brilliant art gallery and watching some kids performing some kind of ballet dance, before settling in for the night. We were getting a bus – our first in Zimbabwe – to Mutare in the morning so needed to get an early night.
The backpackers we were staying in had dormitories that were separated by gender, something we’d not come across before. So, Claire and I said goodnight to each other and went our separate ways. The male dormitory was made up for around ten bunk beds in a long line. It was empty apart from myself and two local men, who I gathered were in Harare on business. I came into the room to get settled and glanced over. One of them was in bed, in a top bunk, and was on the phone to someone. The other man was stood about to get into bed himself when I noticed what he had on. He was wearing a set of matching pale blue pyjamas with yellow spots. A middle aged man in matching PJs. It was so sweet, I just wanted to give him a cuddle. It was the first set of matching pyjamas I had seen in years. I was praying he’d have a matching sleeping hat too, like the one Scrooge wears in A Christmas Carrol.
After messaging Claire to tell her that there was a man in jammies in my dorm I turned over and went to bed. Though throughout the night the man in the top bunk, the one who was on the phone when I came in, kept farting. He was a big guy, and he was letting off long deep booming farts that always had an upwards, high pitched inflection on the end. They sounded like an Australian person talking and lasted a good five seconds. I couldn’t help but laugh. I am an adult, in my mid twenties, but people unknowingly farting in their sleep, especially in a dormitory with other people, is always funny. I defy anyone to argue the opposite.
The next morning we jumped in a taxi and made our way to the bus station. Whenever you arrive in the bus station, in most of the countries we’d visited on this trip, you get attacked by about five or six guys all working for different bus companies. They all come running over shouting at you, trying to get you to get on their bus. You get out of the taxi, and are trying to thank the driver, whilst paying him what you owe, and all the while you’ve got a massive group around you trying to get your bags off you to put them on their bus. However, we have it much easier than the local women. The local women get grabbed, shoved and pushed. They are walking past the bus and these men literally stand in their way, not letting them past. They shout in their faces, aggressively gesturing in the direction of the bus. It is quite hard to watch sometimes as you want to get off the bus and tell them to leave them alone, but the women don’t seem to be too phased by it as I guess it’s the norm. One woman was grabbed and wrestled herself free. As she was walking away the guy whacked her bag with his hand, she stopped and spat on the floor before walking off, showing him what she thought of his tactics. He looked slightly taken aback, but carried on with his heavy handed methods mere seconds later when the next lady came past.
Claire and I arrived in Mutare, in the East of Zimbabwe near the border with Mozambique, in the mid afternoon and were faced with another common occurrence from this trip. This is the ill-informed yet overtly confident taxi driver. We jumped off the bus and were surrounded by taxi drivers, again this is something we were totally used to and it is in fact rather handy as you know there is always going to be a bunch waiting for you at each bus station. So we said to one of them the name of the place we were heading, he said yes, quoted us a price and we set off. Then, around ten minutes in to the trip he took us to the wrong place. Then when we showed him on the map where we were heading he added more money to his price and tried to make us pay more. This happens often. In order to get you in the cab they tell you that they know where you need to go. Then they take a stab at it, get it wrong, and you have to explain where your destination is. Then, when they realise that it’s further than they thought, they add to the cost. After this guy did this in Mutare, Claire and I have been extra careful in making sure that taxi drivers know exactly where it is we need to go before we set off. It feels like, in a number of situations, many people would rather tell you ‘yes’ and have a stab at giving you something similar to what you want, than simply telling you ‘no’. It all adds to the fun though, as you often never know quite what you’re going to get!
Claire and I stayed the night in this lovely quaint little house that belonged to Anne Bruce, an elderly Zimbabwean woman who was delightful. It was like spending a night at someone’s grandma’s house. She gave us some suggestions for where to head next and told us of a nice café in town where we could get some dinner. Her staff were lovely, and she also had two guard dogs, one of which bit Claire slightly. Though not too hard so I won’t go into it too much, poor Anne was devastated. But our stay in Mutare, despite being brief, was lovely and the next day we were off to Chimanimani a village up in the mountains.