Setting off early from my Livingstone lodge in Zambia, I soon cross the mighty Zambezi River using the well-known bridge into Zimbabwe acting as a natural border. Crossing the bridge I see the empty falls revealing its sharp cliff faces.
There was nothing to pay leaving Zambia and had my passport and carnet stamped in super-efficient
Entering Zimbabwe I had to purchase a visa even for my very short stay at accost of 45 USD. Also, I had to pay towards the carbon emissions tax which Livingstone may cause during his journey through Zimbabwe at a cost of just 16 USD. I think both payments acceptable after my telling off at the Zambia border post.
The scenery changed instantly with lines of man planted bare trees lining the side of the road. With the fresh morning air, I imagined I was back in England during autumn time for a few moments. Leaves covered the ground and not a sole in sight or vehicle. I felt alone, though a welcome break from the constant attention I have received along the way. I suspect the reason for the falling leaves is the lack of rain evident from the many dry riverbeds I crossed which are now being used as pedestrian tracks.
It begins to rain so I look out for a roadside hotel or lodge. Whilst doing so I lose concentration of my speed and creep over the 60 kilometres per hour limit when riding through the villages. Before I know it, a police officer stands predominantly in the middle of the road angrily waving for me to stop. I consider waving back and riding around him but think otherwise. The officer had recorded my speed at 94 kilometres per hour and is about to give me a ticket. His colleague in the police car adjacent notices my British number plate and waves his finger to the officer indicates he waivers the fine or possible arrest. I take my telling off, apologise and leave, slowly.
I had planned to find accommodation near the Botswana border and stay in Zimbabwe for the night, especially since paying so much to enter would be a shame not to. I struggle to find accommodation then nearing the border I see the perfect lodge. I whip Livingstone around just missing a cyclist and hear a “Oy”, one of thousands along the way normally to attract my attention so the local can ask about my journey. I glance around and notice the cyclist is white. I pull over to introduce myself. The cyclist was Philip from New Zealand. He has been on the road for nine months and you could certainly tell. Philip had allowed his hair to overgrow to below his shoulders and a beard down to his chest and skin the colour of a local. We chat for some time, though Philip could hardly speak at the excitement of meeting a white man. His accent scrambled and muffled as if he hadn’t spoken to a sole for months. I ask his plans. Philip bush camps by the roadside as I have done on occasions’ but he bush camps every single night even through the national parks unafraid of being attacked by animals. This man really does deserve a medal but paying for it mentally, unless all New Zealanders are like this. I ask if he would like a tow, he proudly declines so we agree to meet at the next border post 10 kilometres away and plan the nights’ accommodation.
I exit Zimbabwe with nothing to pay and both my passport and carnet success fully stamped.
Arriving at the border post in to Botswana ahead of Philip, I’m shocked to find a two day long queue circling g the immigration office. Nearly all are blacks. There are soldiers carrying M16 machine guns strapped to their shoulders all around keeping the peace and the queue orderly which makes a change from the usual AK47’s. I ask what to do. Disheartened, he tells me to join the queue with a sarcastic smile. I rub my fingers together indicating a bribe. He tells me to ask the group of soldiers at the start of the queue. They ask for no money and tell me to stand next to them right at the front. I shamefully do so and bow my head unable to look at my brothers in the long queue opposite. Other whites line up behind me. We now have two queues, one for blacks and one for whites and it’s my entire fault.
Just as I’m about to leave, Philip cycles towards me and had also joined the white queue and been processed. We cross the border together and ride through the foot and mouth disinfectant pool to the satisfaction of the border guard. We exchange some money and take a break to discuss our individual experiences. I decide that considering his bicycle has no engine and mine does we are probably best to go our separate ways not before showing my respect by buying him a coke and wishing him a safe remaining journey.
I eventually arrive in Francistown at my planned campsite bit it appears derelict with the gates chained and padlocked closed. I search for further accommodation for the next two hours and eventually settle for an unfriendly roadside hotel.