As a matter of principle and for the reason that I love food, I try and experience local foods whenever on holiday. Regardless of the German’s dislike of the “stranger” foods and of course he wont touch it.
On our recent road trip from South Africa, through Zimbabwe, Zambia and onto Malawi, I tried to taste some local foods. As we also live in Africa, food are not much different and very similar to other African destinations. The following were my favourite foods.
Spinach served at a truck stop in Bube Village, Zimbabwe
The best drinking yoghurt in Chirindu, Zambia, made by zambeef
Along the road towards Senga Bay, Malawi, little fried potatoes which gets made next to the road by the local villagers and served with salt and some sort of hot chilli.
Dried little fish at Salima in Malawi, with a little salt
Catfish fillet with a papaya salad at Cool Runnings in Senga Bay
Zitumbuwa – Fried banana fritters
Beef fillet with a spicey peanut sauce at Mumbo Island
I of course wanted to try the dried mice served on a kebab stick which they sell next to the road in Malawi, but the German would not let me. I might have only tasted a little toe.
Our long awaited and very carefully planned road trip from Thabazimbi RSA through to Malawi and back down to Hwange, Zimbabwe was here.
The German (other half) has packed everything very meticioulasly, (like only a German can), and away we go, early on Saturday, the 28th , making a pit stop at Lephalale for breakfast and then off the Alldays and then Musina to reach the border post of Beitbridge between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Well, and this is where the fun started. The border post was absolutely chaotic and being the main border post between the 2 countries, with millions of Zimbabweans working in South Africa, due to the economic and political problems in Zimbabwe, it is a nightmare. Thousands of mostly Zimbabweans waiting, with us maybe number 4001. Within a blink of an eye, 4 African gentlemen were upon us, with friendly smiles and “sir, let us help you to pass quicker. A very small fee”. I am not going to elaborate, as we did pay a bribe, but in the end it was a huge amount and after 40 minutes on the South African side and over to the Zimbabwean side, which took another 2 hours, with these gentlemen, who I know started to call ‘Tsotsies”> (slang for thieves and scammers), trying to extract more and more money from us, until I told them in no uncertain language (and not very ladylike), to take a flaming hike. And with no hassles after that, besides the German now in a mighty bad mood, we crossed border into Zimbabwe.
It was now getting dusk, so we decided to stay at the nearest lodge/motel/hotel or anywhere we could find. About 80km from the border we found Bubi and the Bubi Village Motel, which is basically a truck stop and after $60 dollars passed hands, we had a room, with a bath and lots of hot water. Although it is a truck stop, it was very clean and we manage to have a plain but very eatable supper of Beef Stew and Sadza (local name for porridge and which we call pap in South Africa). The road from Beitbridge to Bubi is covered with burnt out truck, busses and motor vehicles and it is not advisable to travel at night on this road further than Bubi.
We left the following morning early to reach Masvingo to visit the Ancient City (Zimbabwean Ruins). At $15 per person, it is not really cheap for us South Africans, however, it is really worth the effort as it is very interesting and if you are interested in history , it is a must see. As it was obviously to the whole Zimbabwean nation by now, myself and the German had ‘show us the money”, written on our foreheads and we picked up a guide, or he rather picked us up on top of Hilltop , the enclosure for the King , appointed himself as our guide, with this limp and walking stick and off we went after him. By choice or no choice, we were stuck with him. As by now I was fed up with forever just having to give hand outs, I refuse to pay more than what we would have paid for a registered guide at the reception office. In hindsight, we were happy he latched onto us, as at least we now understood more of the ruins. We visited the Main Enclosure as well and this is where the King’s wives as well as all the other females lived. Only his sister was allowed to live in his enclosure. It is a beautiful ruin, no less beautiful than any other ruins which one might find anywhere else in Europe. As a person who loves history more than modern day life, I loved visiting the Ancient City. And poignantly when we were in the Main Enclosure, we could hear the faint sounds of drums, like it was resonant in the stones in the walls of the City. And I would not be surprised if it could be. However on this occasion, it was merely a nearby village where they had a ceremony and were using their traditional drums.
We decided to make a quick detour and visit Lake Kyle and the little chapel at the dam wall with a very sad history.
A girl and her parents visited the chapel on the road to Mutare, which the Italian Prisoners of War built. It is quite beautiful and the girl,fell in love with this chapel. She begged her father to build her a small chapel exactly like the chapel the Italians build for her wedding day. Stone by stone and little coloured window panes, the little chapel at the dam wall took shape with seating for 12 people, in anticipation of the daughter’s wedding. Sadly she never lived to get married in her little chapel, build with so much love by her father, as in 1970, she died in a car accident. Her parents were heartbroken. But the little chapel has seen many young couples married there since, as her father left it open, so other could have the joy of the little chapel.
We left Masvingo to travel through to Harare in order to make up some lost time, spent at the by now hated Beitbridge. As the German did not want to stay in Harare, we travelled on to Chinhoy looking for accommodation close by as I wanted to see the Chinhoy caves. The Chinhoyi caves were discovered in 1887 by famous European hunter, Frederick Selous. Before that, it was thought that the caves were used by outlaw Nyamakwere who threw his victims’ bodies into the ‘Silent Pool’. He was eventually killed by Chief Chinhoyi, who lent his name to the nearby town.
Chinhoy is a bustling African town and we stayed at the Chinhoy Motel at the caves. Expensive for South Africans with African amenities. One can see the way it used to be in its hay day and one can imagine people around the pool and bar and wide stoep. But now, the rooms are all rundown with nothing changed since perhaps the 70’s. And what a disappointment that we could not see the caves, as one: they don’t accept ZAR and two: no electricity and the generator not working, so one could not go down the caves.
By now, I was slightly peed off with Zimbabwe, as not only were we ripped off financially wherever they could with inflated exchange rates, but all of a sudden, I was now also informed that our ZAR currency, which by the way is their official currency together with the US Dollar, is not accepted as the government said our rand is to low against the US Dollar for their liking. The CHEEK! Although most of the Zimbabweans are friendly, the feeling I have of Zimbabwe is of a country which is in a time bubble, stuck in the 1970’s.
We left Zimbabwe, to travel on to Zambia, not with a feeling of “yes! We would love to visit again”. But rather a sense of sadness, that a country can deteriorate like that under a Government who is only there to look out for their own pocket, leaving the rest of its people and land to rot.
After our visit to South Luangwa, Zambia, we crossed the border into Zimbabwe to stay a few days on a houseboat on Lake Kariba. This was a first for me, but not for the rest of my group.
Upon arriving at Kariba Town, one gets the impression of a small little “hamlet”, which it basically is. The lake stretches out in front of you, with houseboats, all anchored in the little harbor. It has a feeling a bygone era really. We had our own little houseboat, which could sleep 6, but we had it privately for the 4 of us, together with our onboard chef and the captain. After we sorted a few things, including the parks fee of around 10USD per day per person, we were off. And relaxation started.
As the boat left the harbor, you enter this huge expanse of water, which is Lake Kariba. Buildt in the 1950’s, it is the world’s largest artificial lake and reservoir by volume. Lake Kariba is over 220 kilometers long and up to 40 kilometers in width. It covers an area of 5,580 square kilometer. After completion , the Lake was filled with water between 1958 and 1963. Maximum depth is approximately 97 metres and at the time when the Lake was filled with water, it is believed that it caused over 20 earth quakes of greater than 5 on the richters scale.
Lots of villagers were removed, as this vast expanse of water replaced their homesteads etc.
Today, it is still a wonder to behold.
We travelled at a slow pace onto our first mooring of the evening. There is not much traffic on the Lake, but you do see the Kapenta boats anchored on the Lake, waiting for the darkness of the night, in order for them to fish. They are not allowed to fish during the day and are only allowed fishing at night, when their bright lights atracks the little fish, which forms a large part of the daily diet of the people in this region.
As the sunset, we slowly went towards our little mooring area, with the calls of the African Fish Eagle as your guide and elephants at the edge of the Lake and the captain anchored for the night. Although we had a little problem with a neighbouring houseboat with its generator spoiling the quietness of the approaching, the beauty of the sunset over the water and the appearance of the cinnamon African moon, was a moment which I will treasure for always. (luckily the neighbouring houseboat switched off the generator at 8pm- there are strict rules regarding noise pollution on the Lake). Our chef, Albert prepared our food and served, which was great as well as very tasty. (And we did not have to do anything, which was an absolute bonus). We went to bed, relaxed and with the far off sound of a lion’s call.
The following morning with the wake up calls of birds around us and the typical sound of Africa, the Fish Eagle, our captain took us on our little speed boat on a game drive around the area of the Lake where we were moored for a few hours. Hippos and crocodiles galore, as well as wonderful wading birds and elephants and also Impalas, etc. An exciting sighting for our twitchers was the Gull Bill Tern, in the middle of the Lake on its nest. It was extremely hot, but at least the breeze off the Lake kept us cool. All I can say, is that I would not go for a swim in this Lake. Before you know it, you would be hippo or crocodile feed.
After breakfast we lifted the anchor and off we went again. Sailing for the day, stopping now and again when there was something interesting on the shores and we would take the speedboat and go and inspect. It was just a lazy relaxed time on the boat for the 2 days of sailing We had great sunsets and beautiful surroundings, but unfortunately this also had to come to an end, and with a sense that the holiday was over, we sailed into the harbor at Kariba Town and back to the reality of the world.
Although our houseboat was not new, it had a certain charm of a true boat and not a square box, with cabins on top. It was private and just what we needed. Will I go again? Oh yes!!!! Zimbabwe has not seen the last of me.