|Bulawayo is a city of 2 million, wide, clean streets...as we drive to bus stations it looks eerily like a ghost town. Large industrial area is completely shut down due to lack of power & raw materials. The huge power plant was shut down last year because the coal used to generate the electricity is being exported for exchg $$ to import more critical goods(food, weapons, ??). Mfg. of blankets, iron works, tile, cement, lumber, fabrics & textiles of all kinds have been idle since last year. The facilities look to be in good shape all locked up and ready to begin again in better times. The people who worked in them having no income, many on the streets selling whatever they can. In Vic Falls they asked us to trade our shoes/sandles, shirts, sunglasses, cap, anything for their wooden carvings/artwork. Inventories of goods in public stores are minimal, I saw long lines of people waiting to get meat at the butcher shops. Chedric drove us to 2 bus sta. - Mari's was out of town(going across border to Francistown), he went there first - at 8. Ours was i town and we apparently got there just after the 8 o'clock bus left since we were the 1st ones on the bus which then did not leave til 9:45. There were 4 buses at our station loading for vars parts of the country & several minibuses - this is a huge bus station, hardly what you'd expect in a city of 2 million. A fellow tried to get us to take his van instead of the standard sized bus but Chedric warned us that it was not safe.
The people smile and act very friendly but I sense a reserve, a stress beneath their positive veneer. Perhaps I'm reading too much into the situation but in conversation they speak with some pessimisn and doubt about their future. Innocent told us that the university in Harare where his son just graduated has lost all its good professors - left, out of country? He did not say more.
Underway now, the roads are very good - no potholes, perhaps because there is little/no traffic?! Once away from Bul fuarmsteads(several very large) were abondoned, just small subsistance plots were cultivated. I did see one place quite a ways off the road where an overhead irrig system was working. But for a country once considered the breadbasket of Southern Africa, exporting huge amts of food, virtually nothing is being grown in quantity.
Just an hour from Masvingo we were stopped at a police ck point. Previously, the driver just showed his papers at several other ck points & was on his way but this time the policeman required the driver to get out and go w/ him to the side of the road. At that point the bus motor stopped and the driver could not restart it. I'm pretty sure it is because when we were in the bus station in Bul I saw them remove 2 bateries from our bus before we left...I assume to start another bus. This was at 1:30 and the driver claimed another bus was coming. At 3 pm it pulled up, an already full bus now acquired the full contents of ours - it was quite packed down the aisle all the way to the door. Got to town an hour later and just managed to squeeze - and I mean squeeze - into the last midsize bus(22 pass capacity w/ now close to 50!) to Great Zim. Just as sun was setting we got off at the junction and began our hike of 2-3 km to the govt run campground. As I approached the road which was signed 'To Dormatories" an army gal stopped me, luckily she saw me in the dim light because she was on her way home. She ckd us in at a picnic table and then when her replacement came led us to 700 m further to our dorm door in the dark. We decided it was not worth it to hike back the 1-2 km to the Great Zim Hotel for dinner so settled in for peanut butter & crackers ending a long day. The 'form' is 4 walls & 2 army cots w/ vinyl covered mattresses...10x10' no electricity and a shower bldg in the dark w/ cold water, looked like it hadn't been used in quite a while.
Easy up and out 8:30 to explore the Great Zim site...entry fee is $15 US each(a bit steep considering they list an amt equiv to $4 US in Zim dollars! but only accept US money) We opt not to hire a guide for $6 US since it's self explanatory and the museum is quite good as it turns out. It is the largest man made structure in Southern Africa and 2nd largest in all of Africa(after Egyptian pyramids). The history goes back to the 11th century and at one time at the kingdom's peak there were 25,000 inhabitants in the immediate vicinity. The Great Enclosure is newer, built for the royal family and religious/puberty rites they guess. The Hill Complex is the earliest manifestation of the Shona people's presence in the area, and most important part where 6 soapstone eagle/birds were found was in the Eastern Complex. The religious ceremonies held there are said to invoke ancestral spirits both individual & communal. There is evidence(fire circles, stone seats, etc.) that this complex is used even today to consult w/ ancestral spirits...the museum curator as much as said so when he was explaining the different areas to us snf happened to mention that leaders periodically come to 'consult' ancestors for answers to difficult questions(hmm, Mugabe should try this...or maybe he has?!). It is interesting that priests who led the people in opposition to colonial rule were killed by the occupiers and so great was the power of the priests that the people immediately submitted to these Euro rulers once their priests no longer were an obstical.
The area is covered w/ granite wall enclosures which were once thought to be stone houses(the name Zimbabwe) but have since been shown to be walls which partitioned off different activity areas(especially for the 200+ wives of the last king - circa 1400) and connected the bantus(huts) w/ one another. The Hill Complex is the most amazing to me since it is on a pinnacle of rock and oversees 360 degrees of the surrounding countryside. All water & food had to be carried up steep steps to the inhabitants. The walls are all mortarless, built of granite blocks from unknown quarries. The extent of these walls is most incredible and demonstrates the wealth, power, and authority of these early Shona people. Their geographical location being ideal for merchandise(gold esp since Zimbabwe is even today the 15th biggest supplier of the metal in the world and once was thought to be the location of King Soloman's mines) trading & cross roads for transport E-W, N-S.
We hadn't eaten a meal for the previous 24 hours so 'splurged' at the Great Zim Hotel which is the only avail food in the vicinity. Two billion dollars lighter(equiv to $20 US) and we headed for our dorm to settle in for the long nite(no elect or hot water again, ha)
A July 2011 View of Zimbabwe