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Zimbabwe - Overland Travel

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

Zmbabwe overland travel offers an endless capacity for exploration even with the occasional detour or missed waypoint. Detours and minor paths can turn into destinations with Zen qualities. Traveling North from South Africa infused my perceptions of other African Countries across the Limpopo River border areas in surprising ways. For example, watching Europeans and American travelers on holiday in Africa never failed to amuse with their constant pursuit of the wildlife. Hell, some were there to hunt and kill the wildlife. Many of these creatures can be seen in captivity in metropolitan zoos back in the United States. Zoos are depressing places of course, and many people avoid them on principle. Many travelers fly great distances to see the animals while mostly ignoring Africa’s greatest endowment, the Africans themselves. The mosaic of cultures, bloodlines and the vast richness of Africa are mostly ignored by these folks. The constant negative Western media propaganda campaign against anything African cannot be ignored.

Glamping - An Alternative Reality

I will admit that being able to afford a $1,800 per day bush camp and safari fantasy vacation must be an exceptional way to enjoy Africa, but this type of experience is, after all, ignis fatuus and a homage to the Great Hunters and Voortrekkers of old. Five star dinning in the commons, bedded tents and en-suite bathrooms with flushing toilets in the middle of the bush with wild animals and aggressive venomous reptiles nearby must surely add to the experience. After seeing a makoro canoe chomped to pieces in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, I would not recommend this type of swimming with the hippos kind of tourist outing, and many others on offer. When overlanding in the bush always seek-out local knowledge when possible. If you are on safari, that smiling young African with perfect white teeth dressed in white linen might be smiling for reasons that you do not want to know. It might be useful to strike up a conversation if only to better anticipate a black mamba or a spitting cobra slithering onto your tent deck as you tune in on the sounds of the jungle while sipping a glass of wine. Or how about assessing the likelihood of success before a night walk out to your parked Land Rover to fetch an iPod charging cord. This short stroll could become a matter of life and death. The locals will probably tell you how many people had bad encounters with wildlife last season, or if the crocs are likely to crawl inland from the edge of the river. Or they might mention the hyenas which are very smart and can crush a hot cooking pot with one bite. In all seriousness, life in the bush is hardly that dangerous. If it were, Africa would not be such a popular place to holiday. The risks are normally calculated on the side of safety.

A typical rural scene in Zimbabwe.
Gwanda Boys Transporting Goods

Our Routing

This most recent trek to Zimbabwe began by flying into the city of Bulawayo. A decent Mazda double cab 4X4 was rented. All of the gear and supplies were stowed under a fitted black tarp in the truck bed. Night stops included small road hotels, and even two fancy bush camps. Some of the rural motels were self-catering and the staff allowed us to build cooking fires. These cooking sessions were a sure way of meeting curious onlookers, and we always looked forward to sharing a drink and a few words with anyone that passed by. One night we even had someone cook us a huge pot of Ugali and a terrific sauce to go with the grilled chicken. The southeasterly route out of Bulawayo took us through Mbalabala, Filabusi, Maasvingo and Chibi. Our exit route included a southerly trip through Mwenez, Mazunga and onto Bulawayo via Gwanda. We challenged the sure-footed Mazada double cab bakkie on many off-road bush paths that took us to some truly astonishing places. With the exception of our Iridium satellite phone, we were on our own. Traveling overland through Zimbabwe in a reliable off-road vehicle is enormous fun. Every African destination has worthy features that must be explored. South Africa has too many to mention, but it has fantastic roads. Rwanda has endless mountain vistas and a matchless gorilla and primate population. Zimbabwe was a surprise in that motoring in any direction brings the traveler to yet another unique region with distinctive topography and wildlife.

Our traveling companion from Bulawayo was instrumental in our success. He was a bit disconcerted that we were traveling with largely no destinations. When he would ask, “where do you want to go?” my usual response was north, east, west or south. He ridiculed our reliance on GPS devices, but even in the untamed corners of Zimbabwe our Garmin devices and iPads never let us down. How can you be lost if you know your lat/lon coordinates and topo elevation? The photos show some of the rural areas we encountered. Shooting with a camera has to be more pleasurable than gunning down a beautiful animal you have no intention of eating, or even handling. The land, the people and the extraordinary wildlife of Africa are shared treasures despite the uninvited hubris of colonizers and would be masters that have come and gone. Images ©

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