Day 288: One Hundred Trillion Dollars!

Tue. 28th May 2013

Just what Dr Evil would ask for!Today is a day for catching our breath and for working on our plans for the rest of our itinerary. There’s only Liz from our Nomad group still in Vic Falls and we have no major sites to visit or bonkers (or otherwise) activities to partake in. For the first time in what seems a long time our focus is going to be on the days ahead and not on today. So, today’s photos are a rather random set taken during our walks around town and the hotel’s grounds.

More of the 'smoke that thunders'Step one was to write out the remaining days until the boys (and Lucy) fly out to meet us at the beginning of July, one line per date. Shockingly, it all fits onto two sheets of the small notepad left by the hotel. Then we can fill in where we have booked tours or accommodation – for example, we need to be in Livingston (Zambia) on June 13th to meet up with the Acacia tour that is going to take us up to Dar Es Salam; and we need to be in Arusha (Tanzania) on 3rd July to meet up with Stephen and the start of our Kilimanjaro climb on the 4th. Now we just need to fill in the blanks. Even if we want a few days in Livingston, it looks like we have a week or 10 days to explore Zimbabwe.

Even the railway carriages are being repurposedNow we have an idea of our time frame it is how best to go about filling it. Zenzo recommended that we visit Bulawayo (second city of Zimbabwe) and also Hwange National Park is between Vic Falls and Bulawayo so they sound like good candidates. As we have to go into town anyway (as the shuttle is free and we want to show Liz the view from Vic Falls hotel during the day) we head for the Backpacker’s Bazaar, as recommended by our Lonely Planet guide. Here, we meet our new best friend in the world ever, Joy, who confirms these are good things to do and gives lots of good practical advice including contacting some car hire firms for us. We still haven’t worked out what she got out of it – there was nothing she booked for us and so she got no commission – but she was so, so helpful.

Impala by the golf clubhouseThe more we read about Hwange, the more enthusiastic we become about going there (and not just because of the old name). After following up Joy’s advice with a bit of internet research it looks like we need to  hire a car and then stay in a lodge or a camp that looks even posher than Moremi Crossing in Okavango. On the basis of ‘if you don’t ask…’ I drop the camp an email to say that we would very much like to stay but it looks a little beyond our budget (this is a fib only in that it is a lot beyond our budget). Ten minutes later, I get a phone call from the owner offering to cut a little off the rates; include all our game drives; and book us on the bus from Vic Falls and collect us from the park entrance so we don’t need to hire a car. It is still a lot of money but as we are ‘proper’ camping in a couple of weeks time, we think we deserve a little luxury. Sorted! I think that does say a  lot about the state of the tourist industry in Zimbabwe, though.

Waterbuck - wandering around our hotel's groundsI also want to get a local SIM for my phone. In other countries these have been really useful for keeping up to date with email and general internet access but here, as we are travelling independently we may also want to make some phone calls. The procedure varies a little from country to country but has usually been simple and only involved one shop. Not here! Even with Joy pointing me in the right direction it took the best part of a day and many steps. In summary:

  • Go to mobile phone shop, find the right queue to buy a SIM and pay $1 for SIM;
  • Go to the security counter (in the shop) for them to open the SIM package and tear out (and accidentally tear up) the form that you need to fill in and return to the SIM counter so you can be registered on the system;
  • Whilst waiting for SIM to be activated, take SIM to dodgy second hand phone shop and negotiate with them to cut the SIM so it is in the micro-SIM format needed by my phone ($3);
  • Go back to first phone shop and ask to buy a data bundle only to be told that although the SIM is activated it hasn’t been registered for data. Please go away and wait again;
  • Have lunch with Liz in the Vic Falls Hotel (other ways of waiting are available);
  • Return to phone shop and part with $20 for 500MB of data. Huzzah! The good news is that in the towns and cities they do have 3.5G (HSPA or H+) access so the speed is quite good.

Our hotel with the falls in the distanceWhilst we have been travelling we have been collecting fridge magnets as mementos of each country (we have no idea what we are going to do with them as our fridge door isn’t big enough for them all). However, for Zimbabwe I wanted another souvenir – one of the bank notes from the time of hyper-inflation (before they switched to using the US dollar). I had heard that the bank had printed (but not issued) notes with a face value of 0ne hundred trillion dollars (fourteen zeros! Raise little finger to mouth and practice Dr Evil voice!) and had previously talked about them and the touts selling old banknotes with Liz. At lunch she handed me a little present of a 100,000,000,000,000 note. In Indonesia, I made Janet a millionaire after one trip to a money machine. But this is so much better!

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4 Responses to Day 288: One Hundred Trillion Dollars!

  1. Did you say that with your little finger in your mouth??!

  2. Joy says:

    Lovely write up and thank you for making me look good.xx

    • Dave says:

      Hi Joy,

      I don’t know how you found our blog but thank you for your comment. We are now back in the UK where it is dark and cold and wet but we have such good memories of our time in Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls was great, Hwange was a fantastic experience, Bullawayo (and particularly the railway museum) was fascinating and Great Zimbabwe so interesting.

      Thank you for spending the time with us, helping us to find our feet. I hope you are well and staying busy.

      Dave and Janet

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