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Safe But Sometimes Irritating

Traveling Zimbabwe

Gill Staden, eTN  Mar 19, 2010

These days, many people are giving Zimbabwe a wide berth. They do this for a couple of reasons: firstly, "Is it safe?" and secondly, "Why put money into the Zimbabwe coffers?"

I travel around Zimbabwe from time to time, so I think I can answer those questions. It is safe, but it can be irritating. There are road blocks along all major routes. Generally the police are friendly, but they can be otherwise. When being otherwise, they are appeased with all the right documentation. Why put money into Zimbabwe coffers? Well, Zimbabwe is not just Robert Mugabe and his pals. Zimbabwe is a lot more than that. It is a country of friendly people and great places to see. I know that I cannot change what is going on in Zimbabwe; whether I go or not means nothing.

I recently traveled to Bulawayo and then on to Harare. Driving to Harare, I was alone, but I wasn’t worried. The infrastructure is slowly falling apart – a few potholes here and there, the traffic lights rarely work, the signboards are falling down. The police were generally pleasant until I got caught in one of their speed traps. At first one of the young policemen wanted me to go to the police station followed by a court appearance. Finally, though, he gave me a fine of US$20, and I was on my way again. It seems that Zimbabwe has money to buy speed traps - there were plenty of them - but somehow they can’t seem to feed their people.

On the way back to Livingstone from Harare, having picked up a friend, Josh, we stopped off at Hwange Safari Lodge. I absolutely love Hwange Safari Lodge: it is location, location, location. The lodge is outside Hwange National Park in a private estate. The view from the lodge is a depression, edged by a teak forest; the depression has a water hole, which is kept pumped with water and is floodlit at night.

I have spent hours sitting and watching that waterhole, never wanting to leave. Josh, an architect, describes the attraction as "threat and sanctuary." Sitting and watching the waterhole is completely safe within the lodge grounds, but at the water hole, wildlife provides the threat. One of the waiters did actually tell us that a few months ago, a lion wandered into the hotel grounds, up to the reception, and then round the bedroom block. I can imagine that would have been fun.

Hwange Safari Lodge has 100 rooms and used to be very busy. Now, though, it is not visited much; we were the only people staying that night. It is looking tired and needs attention here and there. That, however, does not matter. The price of US$120 for two people, bed and breakfast, is an excellent value. The food and service are good - some of the members of the staff have been there for years.

Hwange Safari Lodge is 180 km from the Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls Town, of course, is still busy and popular. It is only a short hop from there to this magical setting. Definitely recommended.

Traveling Zimbabwe
The water hole / Photo by Gill Staden, eTN

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