First steps in Zimbabwe



// Nikon D7200 | -20.21449 : 28.60068 | alt. 1433m

A long day driving from Maun to Livingston, then 2 days here at a campground doing delicious bbq and getting the vehicles ready : all light bulbs in working condition, white reflective stickers in the front, red ones in the back, Zimbabwe is famous for the corrupted police….
Quick detour in the central mall, we need a bit of cash to refuel, and we need to fill everything we can, it’s 67cents a liter here versus 1.2$ in Zimbabwe !
By chance, I found an outdoor shop, and found the nikon binoculars I was looking for to replace my crippled 400mm lens. 🙂 And the price was even better than in France !

Now is time to cross the border.
Botswana side is not very well organized, as usual, and I have to guide them to sign out mister Fox. Police check point before we leave, the guy found my cigarette paper in the central console, and he’s now looking for weed…. he’s asking me tons of questions, and threatens me to bring the dog to search the vehicle, but I keep telling him there is nothing to find, and the dog is welcome as long as he cleans his paws before getting inside 🙂
He hesitated a bit….. but let me go.
Alright, now in the gray area, 6kms to drive and we get to the Zimbabwe border.

Counter 1 : 30 people in front of us.
When I made it, I got my visa without too many questions, get my gate pass stamped in, but then I had to pay 30usd for it (Zimbabwe uses us dollars). Changing counter for payment. On the way, I forget my gate pass at counter 1…… (didn’t notice it yet)
Counter 4 : only 4 people in front.
I’ve got us dollars, so I pay cash, get my receipt, everything seems so easy I could not believe it. Now it’s time to process the vehicle.
Asking the lady back on counter 1, she just tells me to find the counter about vehicles on the side……
I check counter 8, saying foreign vehicles, must be that one !
There, 4 ladies having a lovely conversation, not giving a single fuck about me. I try politely to get some attention, then a few minutes later, one of them just tells me to visit counter 3.

Always be charming, always 😀

Now at counter 3, waiting…… waiting……. waiting……… 2.5 hours to process 15 people in front of me….. When I see the guy, he checked my carnet, and asked if I paid for carbon tax, toll fee and insurance…. No of course since I’ve been told to come here first !!!!!!!!!
So he checked my papers, looks like they are running on an old paper system and new comptuerized system at the same time. This guy is insanely slow, a fucking sloth !!!!
Then he’s asking my gate pass……. where the fuck is that paper ?! Shit !
This is blocking the whole process, so he kept my passport, and I had to get a new gate pass and get it stamped at counter 1, then pay at counter 9, and then queue again at counter 3……….

I need a break ! 😀

back 10min later, get my gate pass, get it stamped, go to counter 9 for carbon tax, insurance and toll fee. The lady is checking the system….. and only sees tax and toll, no insurance. Ok it has to be a mistake, I need car insurance as well….. yup, or I cannot pass the first police check point !
She tells me to see the guy at counter 3, to ask for car insurance, then come back to her counter 9 to pay the insurance, then I could queue again at counter 3 to show proof of payment and get my passport back………… ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME ?????????
It takes more than 2 hours to process the queue at counter 3 !!!!!!!

Always be charming, always 😀

So here we go, back to counter 3…….it’s slow…… too slow………….. I ask the security guy if I can quickly talk to the guy to notify an error in his papers….
Got permission to do so, and the guy told me my carnet includes car insurance (of course not, and good luck to explain that to the police…), and so I don’t have to pay an extra insurance…… Well, he can see my proof of payment at the same time, along with my gate pass, and I get my precious passport back without doing the long queue again and again !
Yes ! Time to go !
I get out, still wondering what’s the matter with this gate pass which no one stamped out……………. oh yeah, for sure, someone has to stamp out this little fucker ! But who ??????
Asking around, someone guided me to a place processing commercial vehicles and carnets…….. I’m filling a form before going to a new counter, but this document states I cannot import my vehicle for more than 14 days….. this cannot be right !
I went out, asked again, found a little kiosk saying “information counter” and there is the person dealing with the gate pass !
the lady ” where is the vehicle ?”
me “over there, in the parking lot…..”
the lady “bring it here in front”

walking to the parking lot, driving in front of the kiosk, going back to her counter.

me “alright, the vehicle is now in front”
the lady “……….. ok”
She stamped my gate pass, and that was it…….. yeah all done !!!!
Getting back in the car, driving away…….. and got stopped by another lady on the way. She wanna see my gate pass and passport……. ok I need to stop on the side. My gate pass got stamped one more time.
Another person, I give him my gate pass, stamp it, but he wanna see my proof of insurance….. long chat to explain my carnet is covering that part…… worked out pretty well. Then I have to see another lady. Looking at me and her cellphone at the same time, asking where I’m going and blablabla, stamping out another time my gate pass… poor piece of paper.

Back to the car, driving away !!!!!!!!!!!!!! until I hit the last police check point. Again, showing all the documents, blablabla, showing another piece of document, blablabla, opening the car since they wanna search the vehicle…blablabla, and this time I can go, for real……. but they didn’t open the gate……

At this point, after 4hours at this border, I could just step out and kick that bloody gate myself, but I may end up in jail.
I asked the policeman with my most wonderful smile if he could please open the gate for me. He’s looking again at my stickers, my plate……..and finally opens the gate to Zimbabwe……..
it’s now 5pm, sunset in 1 hour, time to figure out where to sleep. Since the whole country went trough an economic crisis about land ownership, everything is fenced, even fences. No where to park on the side.
We made it to the first campground on our list…… gate locked, no one answering, let’s call it a day.

Next morning, we could get in, and after 2 nights in this very little campground looking at the shooting stars (peak night for the perseids !), we went to Bulawayo, second biggest city in the country, and maybe the most interesting one.
Interesting fact, this is one of the only country, maybe the only city in southern Africa where you can refill french gas cylinders ! Done in a very african way (on a scale, bleeding butane all over the place), but at least, there is a “no smoking” sign in front. And thanks god no one did…… I have to say it wasn’t easy to find this place, the only one with a french connector, but the locals made a big effort to assist me with numerous phone calls until they found someone to refill my bottle….. really appreciate that.
Everyone is friendly to us, and I got a very positive feeling about this country from the first few days (with the notable exception of the border post).
We spent some time at the railway museum, with a lot of old machines dying under the baking sun (love those dead trains !!!), and then we found a nice place to camp, at Burkes paradise, where they have a cast iron bbq….. which is amazing for cooking ! Works like a proper oven. I could not resist, and I made some roasted stuffed tomatoes with our classic potato slices on the grill (a house classic since Botswana). De-li-cious, period.
Bulawayo also have a very nice supermarket in the south part, rather expensive, but the only place we found so far to get amazing cookies, cakes and fresh bread…. Yummy !!!!!

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