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.

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Johannesburg to Bulawayo (BYO)

I travelled from Johannesburg, South Africa to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe by Translux coach, overnight. The coach left Jo'burg at 20:30 and arrived in Bulawayo at 11:30. The portion of the journey which took us through Northern South Africa was nothing special apart from the fact that I met two people on my coach who knew Rob, the owner of the The Green Elephant Backpackers in Cape Town , small world! If you ever read this Nicki or Monica, very nice to meet you. :-)

As we left South Africa via Beitbridge we crossed the Limpopo River, the border between SA/Zimbabwe follows the path of the river. Due to the unusually high amount of rain in the region the water level of the river was very high, almost up to the border fence. To the average Joe Bloggs this wouldn't seem odd but locals would tell you that it was, very. Zimbabwe has been gripped by a severe drought in recent years and the rains were very welcome.

At about 07:00 the next morning, we were now well within Zimbabwe, we stopped for breakfast at a small hotel by the side of the road. The only currency I had on me at this time was American Dollars which I got by changing a traveller's cheque in Jo'burg after I had been mugged the day before. At the time of my visit it was impossible to buy Zimbabwean Dollars (Z$) outside of the country, because of this state of affairs regarding currency exchange no figures are available for Z$ to British Pounds (GBP) or any other currency.

South Africa is a major investor in the Zimbabwean economy so the South African Rand (SAR) is a good indicator of the strength of the Z$. At the time of my visit, the SAR stood at approximately SAR5.8 to the British Pound, then Z$ were worth just under 15 to the Pound. At the time of writing this passage (21.5.96) the Pound was worth over SAR7. For the latest news look at The Universal Currency Converter

My first impressions of Zimbabwe were how green it was, this I was told by Nicki (see above) that this was very unusual. Normally the countryside around the SA border would look like dry scrubland but because of the rains everything was very green. The drive from Beitbridge to Bulawayo is made up of long flat roads, we saw a few small animals in the morning by the side of the road but none of the 'Big Five' (Lion, Cheetah, Giraffe, Rhinoceros or Elephant).

Nicki and Monica had told me they worked in Port Elizabeth as nurses and they were coming up to Zimbabwe for a couple of weeks to visit Monica's Uncle (I think that's who he was :-) Seun who lived on a farm near Shangani, 95 Km North East of BYO. When we arrived in BYO Seun said he would take me to find the hostel I had booked into, as he doesn't come into BYO very often this took some time to find. Eventually we found it - Shaka's Spear, 237 Leopold Takawira Avenue. I said goodbye to Nicki and Monica and thanked Seun for the lift.

Eventually, I was in Bulawayo, with very little money and my baggage a little lighter! :-)

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Last Updated on 13 June 1997 at 14:11:34

All material ©1997 Ian Simmins