10/10 Ride to Bulawayo
After another good night's sleep in the tent, we used up the last of our wifi credit over our breakfast of peanut butter and crackers and apples. Since the only ingredient in the peanut butter was peanuts, we were unsure how it would survive unrefrigerated. Re offered the third of a jar to her fellow chef from last evening and he responded with a “God bless you.” The tourism industry has dried up in Zimbabwe over the past few years and this has compounded the difficulties for the local people. After striking camp and looking over the bikes, we began our long ride to Bulawayo.
Today's ride was boring, dry, and dusty. We fueled up in Vic Falls before leaving town but were looking for fuel by the time we reached Hwanke. There was no petrol at the first two fuel stations in town, but I was directed to another fuel station a few kilometers farther. The taxi drivers laughed when they pointed me to this station, and when I arrived, I could see why. It was a very dodgy looking place, and I silently hoped that the gasoline being dispensed into our bikes didn't have any “extra” additives. Back out on the main road, our bikes didn't seem to enjoy this load of fuel much at all, but they kept running. Once past Hwanke, there were no towns of any size before Bulawayo.
Since it was a long, hot ride, we were both longing for a cold drink. We eventually spied the Coca Cola logo on the side of a building at a dusty, wide spot in the road. We wheeled in past the surprised faces of the local villagers, who were sitting around, watching the world go by. We walked into the store, found the ice chest (there was no electricity) and selected our beverages. We sat on the front porch and drank our Cokes under the solemn, watchful gazes of the shopkeeper's three young sons. About 10 miles shy of Bulawayo, we were stopped at another police checkpoint. After pleasantries were exchanged, we were on our way again. Being a police officer in Zimbabwe must be a good job, as they were universally the friendliest and happiest people we met in Zimbabwe. After we cleared the checkpoint, the land turned green almost instantly.
Once into Bulawayo, we searched in vain for any road signs and finally asked for street names when we stopped for a much needed splash of fuel. We eventually found our guesthouse, as recommended by Lonely Planet, and were (again) disappointed. The price had doubled, there was no camping, and of course, the internet didn't work, and the woman at reception was unpleasant. Since the sun had set and we had no other options, we reluctantly decided to stay. As Bulawayo is not safe to walk around at night, we went next door to the Bulawayo Athletic Club for dinner. I opted for the fish and chips, and Re enjoyed a local meal of sadza (mealie pap) and beef, accompanied by the thumping soundtrack of African hiphop videos. A strange day indeed.
294 miles in about 9 hours. The bikes were a little unhappy, maybe the fuel, maybe the altitude.