Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 128/129 - Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to Johannesburg, South Africa

Day 128: Bulawayo to Pietersburg.  After getting gas, cash and checking out of the hotel I hit the road toward the border, 300 km away.  Zimbabwe is an interesting country, very beautiful, but so much poverty.  Old shells of cars along the road, huts and villages dotting the countryside, lots of people walking everywhere, even along the main highways.  Few cars could be seen.  Also present along the roads were huge Balboa trees! 

The ubiquitous car shells along the road.

Balboa tree

The Zimbabwean border was something else.  It reminded me of the borders of central America with their ubiquitous fixers.  As I entered the border area I was immediately approached by several of these fixers.  One wanted to watch my bike, another wanted to show me the immigration office and take my carnet to customs because he had connections to get past the long line and yet another wanted to make conversation.  In all this I asked what it would cost me. “Very little,” was the response.  Okay.  I was prepared to give him 10 USD for his services.   He returned five minutes later with my carnet and asked for 100.  I said, “100 what?”  He replied, “dollars”.  What?!?!?  I lost it!  Told him I’d give him 10, nothing more but he kept badgering me saying he needed to pay off three customs officials and 10 USD was nothing.  I became livid, told him to piss off, got on my bike and rode toward the gate past customs.  There was no customs line.  Bastards.

Got into South Africa, figuring I’d get Rands in the next town until I got to a Toll.  I offered US dollars, but they wouldn’t accept that, so I had to turn around and ride back 30km to get to an ATM, then ride back to the Toll.  As the day wore on I needed to locate an Internet cafe to see if Rob e-mailed me his location but found no cafe.  I looked for Internet in a strip mall, without success, when a guy approached me to tell me I could park on the sidewalk, as he thought I was looking for a place to park.  He asked where I was staying and I said I didn’t know.  He offered his house and his computer but I didn’t want to impose.  Wow.  He said the only reason he was so generous was because he was a biker himself.  Stopped at a lodge down the road where the manager was kind enough to let me use the business computer so I could check my e-mail ... nothing.  Decided to pack it in for the day so I found a cheaper place for the night, which had Internet so I looked again it and nothing from Rob, so I sent him an e-mail.  Soon after that, the lodge's server went off-line.  This was 7 pm and I was wondering where he was.  He should have been in Johannesburg by now.

Day 129:  Pietersburg to Johannesburg.  Still no Internet today, so I decided to ride toward Johannesburg.  Stopped at a service station 100 km from Johannesburg where the girl in the office let me use her computer.  There was an e-mail from Rob containing his location and a cell number. I then called the hotel he was staying at for directions and the girl printed out the Google map directions which turned out to be wrong.  (Tracks4africa GPS map did not contain the hotel in its POIs either.) I ended up in a seedy section of Pretoria.  Stopped at a gas station and the guy gave me exact directions to the hotel, 60 km away!! Unbelievable!  I arrived at the hotel, only to find Rob was still at the hospital, called his cell  and found out what was going on with his injuries.  We briefly caught up on things.  Later, we talked about the next steps and the future of the trip.

RobC:  The entire trip from the time I left the hospital in Zimbabwe at 11 pm until we arrived in Johannesburg took 19 hours. The distance was only 1000 km. I soon found out that we were hauling illegal migrants from Zimbabwe to South Africa in the back of the pickup truck, mostly young girls who were heading for work in the fields, such as planting tomatoes, etc. Since these people had no documentation at all, not even a passport, they were essentially being smuggled. There were many police stops along the way, where Colin and his helpers would pay off the police as bribes for their migrant cargo. This went on not only in Zimbabwe and to get them across the border, but also in South Africa, where they seem to have standard bribes for bringing in illegal workers.

Besides all the police stops and bribery events, we also had three flat tires. Quite a trip. Fortunately, they allowed me to sit in the front seat, while hanging onto my injured extremities. What a night! What a day!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you still have your extremities, even though injured, RobC. You are one tough ol' bird! See now, everything in life will seem easy from now on compared to this!