Joined: Jul 2007
Location: Back in PDX again!
10/12 Ride to Harare
Since we'd already spent more time in Bulawayo than anyone really should, we were anxious to get on the road early today. Re and I had initially planned to go to Great Zimbabwe, an archaeological site near Masvingo, but decided instead, to make a beeline for Malawi and, hopefully, for greener pastures. The shortest route to Malawi took us through Harare, so that was our goal for the day. The ride to Harare looked like it would be around 300 miles, so we wanted to be on the road by 8:00 am.
Around 7:30, I walked out to check on the bikes and soon found that Re's rear tire was flat. This was the tube that was wrinkled and had already been patched once. When I installed the new rear tires in Vic Falls, I opted to reuse the old tubes. Since the easiest way to remove the rear tire is with two people, I went in search of Re. I found her getting out of the shower and while she greeted me wearing nothing but a smile, it soon disappeared. So much for our early start. Out to the parking lot, off with the wheel and tire, and I soon discovered another hole where one of the wrinkles had been. I pulled out one of our new tubes and we very carefully (no wrinkles this time!) installed it. Since the tools were out and we were dirty, we decided it would be a good time to adjust both chains and check some fasteners. Back to the showers to get cleaned up.
We finally hit the road around 9:00 am and settles in for another long, boring, dry, dusty ride. While we did encounter some headwind today, at least it was a comfortable temperature all day. One feature of Zimbabwe is the large number of police checkpoints and frequent tollbooths. One good thing about being on a motorbike in Zimbabwe is that you pay no tolls. Another good thing is that the police don't seem to bother you. So by the end of the day, we copied the locals and blew through the tollbooths and checkpoints. Shortly after midday we reached the town of Gweru and stopped for fuel and groceries. While Re was in the grocery store, I sat and waited with the bikes. I enjoy people watching and was interested to note that we were apparently the only white faces in town. Zimbabwe is different from the rest of Africa in this respect, as usually, there are at least tourists in town. While I was watching people do what they do, a man came up and introduced himself. He had noted our American license plates, knew of Oregon, and we had a nice chat for about 5 minutes. He was interested in how Zimbabwe compared to the rest of Africa and to the US.
For the rest of the ride to Harare, fuel availability was spotty, and again, the bikes seemed to hesitate at partial throttle but were fine WFO. We neared the outskirts of Harare around 5:00 pm, and once again, the landscape changed from dry and dusty to green and interesting. We rode through a section of large, granite boulders, some of them balanced precariously on top of each other, and then encountered Harare rush hour. Harare seems to be powered by crazy shared minibus taxis that, without rhyme, reason, or signaling, pull off the shoulder of the road. Dodging taxis the entire way, we made it into the center of Harare and again found very few road signs. Navigating from the tiny Lonely Planet map wasn't working out well for us as I was sure we passed our turn. Sitting at a light, I noticed the occupants of the vehicle to our right looking at our bikes and talking to each other and then saw the police chaplain sticker on their door. I motioned for them to roll down the window and asked for directions. They were able to direct us to the right neighborhood, but we cruised around for more than 20 minutes but could not find our destination. Sun nearly down, we pulled into the parking lot of the local grocery store, thinking that we would ask for directions. On a whim, I typed the address of the guesthouse into my GPS and it told me we were 0.4 miles away. We followed the directions to the gate. Originally, I wasn't going to bring a GPS on this trip and was going to rely on paper maps. I can't count the number of times I've been glad I changed my mind. We beeped the horn at the front gate and waited to be disappointed once again. The guard unlocked the gate and we rode into what must be the nicest guesthouse in Zimbabwe. And, they had a room! And internet! And a clean pool! And a lovely restaurant serving good, cheap food! We unloaded the bikes, schlepped our stuff to the room, and ordered a delicious dinner. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and chatting with other travelers.
302 miles in about 8 hours. Bikes were hesitating - maybe altitude, maybe fuel.