My experiences of travelling in Zimbabwe 1996


In no way is this information an accurate and up to date guide. Always buy an up to date travel book for the countries you are visiting.


The photos on these Zimbawe pages were taken on disposable cameras so in some cases the clarity etc. is decidely iffy. The subject matter is not particulary exciting either as I couldn't really be bothered to keep buying disposable cameras on my way round Zim after I was robbed in Jo'burg. So, the last place I have a photographic record of, is Victoria Falls.

If you find this guide useful, please take time to sign my guestbook Guestbook


I arrived at Shaka's Spear in Bulawayo on 29.1.96, a Sunday morning, I had no washing or shaving equipment, no food and had resorted to wearing my glasses all the time as my contact lenses were in the small rucksack which was stolen in Johannesburg. One of the first things I did when I got to Shaka's Spear was to go and talk to Natalie, the owner's sister in law, who was the only senior staff member around at the time. I told her my situation and asked for her to bear with me when it came to anything financial! :-)

Luckily if you walk out of Shaka's Spear's front gate and turn right then walk for 10 to 15 minutes up the road away from the city center you come to a small shopping center. One shop in this center is open on Sundays, I didn't have enough money to buy both food and all the washing stuff I needed so I opted for rice, vegetables and toothpaste!

Unhygienically I found a not too worn toothbrush lying around Shaka's, I only used it for one day! I borrowed some soap from an English guy named Adam who was staying there. I could now have a shower and a shave after four days of travelling.

Shaka's Spear
237 Leopold Takiwira Avenue

Above is a photo of Shaka's Spear, not the best picture I've ever taken but there you go. Despite appearances this is a large house which extends a long way back, behind the house in a separate building is a big bar.

The house, which only caters for people with backpacks, is owned and run by Karen. Her brother Mike together with a cool guy nicknamed Zuca run an adventure travel outfit offering expeditions into the Matopo Hills and the surrounding areas. Natalie, Mike's wife, together with Gavin run the bar. If you do stay there watch out for Kienan, Mike's son, he's let's say, a little hyperactive! The other staff at Shaka's are also really nice. Unfortunately I can only remember one of their names, Primrose.

Luckily I had kept my Passport, travel insurance and some traveller's cheques in my money belt, which I was wearing at the time of my mugging. I had a photocopy of a street map of Bulawayo which had been given to me by an English girl named Jesinta, who I had met at Jo'burg Railway Station just after my mugging. This map showed where the local American Express Office was so I knew where to go on Monday to cash some of my traveller's cheques.

I spent the rest of the day milling around in Shaka's Spear and thanks to that chat I had with Natalie when I first arrived I spent some time in the bar. I knew I would be spending a lot of time at Shaka's in the coming week as I had to wait for some 'emergency money" which I was entitled to as part of my credit card insurance, they were also stolen with my wallet in Jo'burg.

When I was planning my visit to Bulawayo I only intended spending 3 or 4 days there before catching the train to Victoria Falls. It turned out that I was there for a week before catching the train. Most of the time just hanging around Shaka's waiting for 'phone calls from England etc. I spent the days I wasn't waiting for calls exploring the city, with my tattered photocopied map, and going to the cinema a lot. Compared to England, Zim. cinemas are dirt cheap and they have some current films. I remeber once, I saw two films back to back for Z$10 which at the time was the equivalent of 70 British Pence or US$1.1! OK, the films were a bit scratched and there were pauses to change the reels but that was all part of the charm of travelling in Africa as far as I was concerned.

Here are some more photos of Bulawayo, two are of a fountain in Centenary Park and the other shows the view towards the city center down Leopold Takawira Avenue.

This last one is nice because it shows the trees lining each side of L. T. Av., this is a common feature of the streets in Bulawayo. It is very nice during the day as it provides pedestrians with shade when walking the streets, although at night the trees provide cover for anyone wanting to jump out at you. What I did when walking the streets at night was to actually walk along the sides of the roads, not on the pavements, that way you are illuminated by the street lights and by passing cars.

A worthwhile atraction about 4 or 5 minutes walk down Leopold Takiwira Avenue from Shaka's towards the city center in Centenary Park is Zimbabwe's Natural History Museum.

It is run by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe organisation. Admission prices depend on you being a Zimbabwean or a citizen of another country, when I visited the museum I payed about Z$35. There is a lot infomation to be learnt from a visit to this museum, from the country's history and the roles played by the Ndebele, formerley Matabele (traditionally from Matabeleland), the Shona people and Cecil Rhodes to copious amounts of infomation on Zimbabwe's flora and fauna.

Bulawayo is a nice relaxed city but if you like constant action it is not for you. I was forced by circumstance to spend a week there and I liked it. The next stop on my travels was Victoria Falls, I travelled there by train from Bulawayo.

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Last Updated on 29th January 1998 at 08:54:17

All images ©1996 Ian Simmins
© 1996 Ian Simmins