Leaving Zimbabwe we had two choices to get to Malawi: north through Zambia with bad roads and a $50 visa fee or east through Mozambique with slightly better roads, a shorter distance, and a $30 visa fee. We opted for the cheaper, faster, easier route and headed to Harare for one last hurrah in Zimbabwe.
Coming from a great couch-surf in Bulawayo we opted to try for a second with Harare. We had some time to spare before meeting our host nd enjoyed a quick taste of the posh life at the fancy hotel (the bus’ drop-off point) before hailing a cab to head into town. Our taxi-driver, Forbes, took us not only to our final destination, but also to a safe and working ATM, the first we’d seen in the country, where we could take out dollars. Knowing we’d be there for a few days he also gave us his cell phone number for later…the first taxi-driver on this entire trip to do that….smart man!
With our bus ticket to Malawi in hand we had only a couple of things we wanted to do in Harare: get a couple of visas…which we did for lots of money, buy more Zim dollars, and check out some more of the handicrafts. We went to a small craft market and within a few minutes of me asking for Zim dollars did a man come up to me with a fist full of $50 billion notes. We’d learned that a wad of ten of these had an unofficial street value of 50 cents and were used for change and for payment on the city’s minibuses, since smaller currency was hard to come by. We purchased 6 wads for $5. Then more and more appeared and soon I’d acquired quite a collection for an additional ten dollars, making sure to buy all of them up in front of me so as not to offend any salesmen.
Next came the sculpture. Zimbabweans are known for their carving abilities, both wood and stone, and we were in a stone market. We wanted to buy everything there as it was just insanely beautiful and cheap but the fact that it was solid stone made doing so very difficult. We’d already purchased a few smaller pieces on our trip to Great Zimbabwe but wanted bigger and pretty soon we’d purchased two large pieces, just short enough to fit in our backpacks, for $15 and $20 respectively. Combined they weighed about 20 lbs but we managed, feeling stupid only when we’d realized our fancy chicken lunch cost $15 as well. Normally we don’t write about our purchases but we feel safe in sharing with our readers the HUGE VALUE of stone art here in case anyone is interested in taking a trip sometime soon.
When we entered Zimbabwe we didn’t know what to expect. Leaving though, we know certainly that we will miss it. We had a great time here and very unique experiences. We did manage to get those souvenirs to help us remember it but it somehow doesn’t seem like enough. Our final night we accompanied our CS host to a music show to see bongolovemusic.com, perhaps we’ll manage to catch them and say hello on their next tour into the USA.