Challenge Accepted with Zo Loren: Get to Victoria Falls
PICTURES PENDING DUE TO LIMITED INTERNET CONNECTION
How to get to Victoria Falls from central Mozambique in over 50-60 hours by land and as “safety” as possible.
Summary: Location - Transport Type - Cost - Time - (Special Notes):
Start: Beira to Chimoio, Mozambique - minivan bus depot - 150 MT luggage and 250/300 MT for ride - 6 hours (excluding overnight Pension/Pensao layover in Chimoio due to late night 1600 MT)
Stopover/transfer: Chimoio to Machipanda - minivan bus bus area - 50 MT luggage and 150 MT for ride in minivan transport - 2 hours
Stopover/transfer: Machipanda, Mozambique/Mutare, Zimbabwe Border Crossing - 0 USD, walked - 30 minutes with visa registration /// (30 USD for 1-entry visa OR 2- entry available for 45 USD and multiple entry available at Embassy of Zimbabwe)
Transfer: Border post exit taxi stand to Mutare, Zimbabwe - 4 USD in a 4 door car with 5 other passengers (30 min with waiting)
Stopover/transfer: Mutare to Harare (capital of Zimbabwe) - minivan with 16 others - 10 USD cash with Anthony and his brother’s company transport van company - 6.5 hours (excluding one night at hostel/backpackers 13 USD and transfer taxi with Standard - 7 USD)
End: Harare to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe - 9 AM sharp tour bus with Extra City - 30 USD cash (can walk on at your own risk) - 16 hours bus ride /// (bus delayed by 3 hours arrived at 1 AM in the morning)
Total cost in USD and time: 50 USD and 31.5 hours with a 30 USD 1 time entry visa for Americans /// (excluding 2 overnight layovers, about 12 hours each)
Luckily, on the trip my friend was teaching in Chimoio, Mozambique, a city close to the east board for Zimbabwe, thus I planned to eventually cross by food.
In the early afternoon, I started in Beira, Mz. On the east coast of Mozambique, a port city which had been devastated by a cyclone/hurricane in years past. There I boarded a large tour bus and paid extra my luggage for 150 MT (Metical/meticais). Eventually, with a bus full of Mozambicans, I had many boys and men try to sell the riders trinkets and electronics.
After about 1.5 hours we were moved to a small van, where we squished in a an 19 seater and I squished next to a gentleman who wanted to greet me and practice his English.
There I learned some lessons with traveling by the transport minibuses, called CHAVAS in Mozambican Portuguese.
Mistake #1 I didn’t sit in the front of the front row, and the back of the front row bench, kept falling into my knees. Yikes!
Mistake #2 I didn’t sit in the middle aisle with the fold down seat. To me the fold down seats are the most comfortable, even without a high back to support myself.
Mistake #3 As a guy or girl I realized the trick is the spread legs wide or else some men will take advantage and without any luggage between their legs, spread their legs, which can become very uncomfortable.
Mistake #4 I didn’t sit by a window, thus when falling asleep, which is inevitable on long journeys. My head bobbed because a certain travel company’s pillow never arrived in time for my flight although I paid for express shipping (lol).
Eventually, we filled up and a nice lady named Virginia, sat next to my left and the gentle men to my left and I chatted about his dream to visit the USA and life experiences. It was a journey full of men (as opposed to my previous Chimoio to Beira chava minibus full of rice, maize/corn, women and babies! So cute!).
Upon arriving in Beira, we unloaded, made friends with Virginia who spoke Portuguese, and seemingly homeless man kept asking me in clear English to be my guide. I pushed him away and jumped quickly on a motorcycle taxi, named Umar, who carried all my luggage to search for a pension (my data wasn’t working on Mozambique’s movitel.
Afterwards, I searched for food and cash. Only FNB bank worked nearby and then I found the Lahore Restaurant, owned by a young Pakistani. He had moved from Pakistan to build a business in Mozambique and support himself and his family. He and I chatted for about 2 hours, until I realized how late it was. Outside, his restaurant, gentlemen of ethnicities played billiards and smoked. I asked him if I could interview him the next day and he said, yes.
Luckily, we found the Pensao where I was sent immediately to a large room for 1600 MT which to me was out of budget, but was the only clean one - haha. I tried to bathe and the water stopped flowing, so after the guard and receptionist, a young man in all black who was 23, patiently tried to boil me water… I fell asleep. I woke up to multiple mosquito bites, found bottled water, was given a large amount of boiled water and bathed in squat position. I didn’t want to waste all the hot water, so I returned as much of it as I could to reception.
I left and pulled my luggage on the dirt road with some pot holes and more and found the Lahore Restaurant where I had had the great conversation about the world, family, migration and life. As beggars, people selling, and vegetable delivery men passed into the restaurant, I waited as it opened.
Breakfast eventually was served with an egg and a sweet chapati (South Asian pancake/crepe (cr-eh-pah NOT CRAY-PE this aint no CRAY-FISH). I waited patiently for the owner to be available, and soon he was.
I will share his interview in my upcoming podcast series.
Inspired once again by our chat, I walked to bus depot where I met some taxi drivers and helpers. I asked how much to Machipanda, to go to Zimbabwe. They laughed and said 3000 meticais AKA 50 USD. I laughed and negotiated then lost the rest in translation. So, I went to stand with the waiting people. People of all ages sitting in between the stalls of shoes cleanly laid out on sheets with young kids and old men selling so many different items - peanuts, fruits and electronics and more. Then, a smiling lady greeted me with black and a girl next to her.
“Where are you visiting from?” She asked.
“Machipanda and then to Harare and Victoria Falls, my friend asked me to go who can’t return to Zimbabwe soon.” I responded
Thereafter, we chatted about how she works for a gender studies programme for a local NGO, is actually from Zim (Zimbabwe) and her daughter would soon return to school.
We waited about 30 minutes chatting and she eventually gave up and left, wishing me the best. Her name was Doreen.
Suddenly, the drivers started moving quick and opened the minivan in front of us. Then the waiting passengers scrambled to fit in the broken down minivan, broken windows and black trash bags as covers with duck tape. We were stuffed in like sardines, reminiscent of full Jeepney rides in the Philippines but worse - I was pressed against in between people and had a back into my knees and babes laughing on my neck.
2 hours rolled by and I couldn’t believe what I saw: Mountain ranges looking like multiple brown ulurus and table mountain. I was in awe despite the incredible pain of being squished and resetting as the driver, took on way too many passengers. None of us had seatbelts and compared to other Mozambican minivan/chapas, this was utterly painful for everyone. People shouted at the drivers to move on. “Tara! TARA! Let’s go!” They said, reminding of the same word in Filipino Tagalog - Tara! Tara na!” I wondered if actually it was a Portuguese word we all adopted.
After the breaking taking views and the super “comfortable” ride, luggage was quickly offloaded from the roof and under our seats, by different villages and towns.
Eventually, lines of tractor trailers appeared for a few miles! Without any signal, I assumed we approached the Machipanda/Mutare border crossing until we stopped on the highway, where there were other vans. The last remaining people and got off, with money changers offering USD and rands. Motorcycle taxis asked to give me a ride and pushed on walking through through the line of trucks. I refused graciously and continued on.
Eventually made it to the border where unlike my arrival border, it was well staffed and I filled out a tourism form showcasing how I traveled and how much I spent. I asked the Mozambican immigration officer how much it would be to get to Harare and he told me: 2 USD taxi to Mutare and 10 USD to Harare.
I bid farewell to Mozambique and walked through the border posts to a bridge and up into Zimbabwe.
Immediately signs didn’t say Frontiera de Mocambique o Zimbabwe, rather they started to read in English and United Nations tents were set up all over and UN branded trash cylinders.
I walked to the Zimbabwe border post office, filled up forms, paid for a new visa, and talked about social media with immigration. Then two men hanging out with a woman security guard asked to give me rides to Mutare City for 20 USD, I waved them off. One asked me directly for money, and I was, “dude, if I just walked across, what makes you think I have 20 USD to spare or that I would carry that much cash alone.” I had gotten the habit of just relying on ATMs and less valuable currency in case of muggings or altercations.
Also, a lady in eSwatini had swindled me of money and an expensive meal with a friend, so I wasn’t tolerating any unwarranted requests.
After I had my bags checked and a nice man helped me at immigration welcoming me to Zimbabwe and I walked to the taxi rink.
There I found many older cars, mostly Toyotas and broken down ones being used to group transport people. Three nice taxi cab drivers helped me and I shared a front left seat with a business owner. We listened to the radio as we drove past more trucks, alone dirt roads and towards Mutare City.
Mutare City was busy and surrounded by studding rocky hills and mountain ranges. It was so pretty but not centered around the beautiful natural sites. I saw so many students in nicely green and white uniforms and hats to protect their heads, similar to those in Europe/USA used for hiking, one can find at REI.
The taxi driver dropped off some ladies who asked if they couldn’t pay him and I passed well taken care of colonial heritage buildings and then to a gas station on the highway to Harare.
I boarded a brand newish Toyota van and squeezed next to the driver. He drove manual and after searching for more passengers for about 15 minutes, we left quickly for Harare. The sun was setting and we drove fast!
Along the way we sat a bus that had rolled over the edge of the cliff and people stared, it was an unpleasant site. After a few stops and pick us, I noticed the man to my left, a middle aged man, was struggling. He had a whole seat but he kept looking at his phone and expressing distress and he kept making some lip smacking sound. I am not usually annoyed but he was not content! HAHA
As the night approached the driver changed and I met this smiling driver that played incredible Zim, South African, African and American music. He English name was Anthony.
Upon asking him a few questions, he started to tell me stories, ask me questions and explain more about Zim culture and history. I felt grateful, I finally met someone who wanted to talk and behaved joyfully. A few hours later, we stopped in the dark half way and we all got out to use the toilet AKA the bush!
I looked up and start glimmered all over, constellations, galaxies and more I don’t usually see and didn’t see because every where I had been had so much 24 hour light or dust clouds.
I treasured the moment and we all returned to the big Toyota van, and finally when we arrived in Harare, he and his brother worried about how I would reach my backpackers without any data or a local sim. The previous border crossing driver and I forgot to get a SIM. Thus, he and his brother offered to drop me off, they were worried! Harare was grey, dark and quiet except in the CBD. He taught me people don’t stop at robots/traffic lights because of potential robberies and to be vigilant and keep a touristy profile .
I gave some money as a thank you and checked into a backpackers, met some small dogs (one tried to bite me), an Iranian hitchhiking from Kazahkstan and showered in an actual working shower.
I survived. I felt thankful.
The next morning I woke up prepared and called for a taxi, I slept only 4 hours and wanted to see Harare before the bus took off at 9 AM. The taxi costs 7 dollars and I met Stanford, I jollily shared with him he should attend Stanford University. He was dressed in a nice vertical blue and white button up and long pants. He behaved professionally and welcomed me to Harare, dropped me off around 7 AM.
I bought my bus ticket and looked around, I was in a bit of CBD outskirt and thought quick… I better see the city before 9 AM. It was 730 AM LOL. I borrowed a phone to call Stanford and he said he would pick me up and talk in person.
When he arrived I negotiated an hour of his time and off we went to see the CBD… Milton Avenue with the Jacaranda trees, Harare Gardens, the Museum, a statue and the Anglican Church.
We reached reached all but the Anglican Cathedral but reached the Catholic Cathedral, which looked stunning but due to the time, we kept it quick. I bought two long bags of hard peanuts in front of the parliament buildings for 1 USD and then I interviewed Stanford for my upcoming podcast.
He told me of his life, family and more, he believed in God and told me to travel safe. I gave hi some useful gifts for protection and he dropped me off just in time for the bus.
I boarded last and we rolled away… Bye Stanford!
The bus left and a few interesting things happened alone the 12 hour, wait I mean 15/16 hour voyage:
I discovered Chicken, Pizza and something Inn, fast food places where I could buy a chicken wrap for 3 USD.
I met a grocery store lady who laughed and smiled, asking me where I came from.
I helped a young student in uniform, buy water and snacks who only had a credit card that wasn’t accepted
I passed many jacaranda trees.
I passed many groups of people in white praying alone the dirty, paved and dusty roads and highways.
Passed through Bulawayo and cool antique buses.
Saw many passengers come in and out.
Watched Citadel with Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Richard Madden and Stanley Tucci
Watched Lost in Paradise with Julia Roberts and George Clooney and and incredibly diverse SE Asian, Indonesian, and American cast.
Watched Dog with Channing Tatum, and excellent film featuring military veterans, perseverance and determination.
Watched Making the Cut with James Gunn, Heidi Klum, Nicole Ritchie and Jermey Scott.
Viewed the rock formations, acacia trees and long stretches of dry areas with vegetation.
Met two ladies who I laughed with asking me to be their boyfriend and for my clothes - I wish I had their names.
I changed many times because of the heat, then cold, then heat.
Then, the sun set and it was glorious. Burning red orange alone the left side of the bus, I watched it set, while leaving windows open to reduce any respiratory viral infections. I slept a lot, stretched a lot and finally we arrived on unpaved roads and hours passed.
… 15-16 hours later
The left over passengers and I arrived at Victoria Falls. Only one taxi man was available and I refused his help, insisting I travel by foot to the Shoestring Backpackers.
I last 30 minutes walking in the dark, eventually walking along in the neighborhood, as a dog tried to chase me, with my suitcase getting stuck in the dirt roads, and light going in and out.
I felt confident until I arrive at a long lack corridor. I only had a fork to protect me but with all my bags, I felt unsure of continuing the last 10 minutes or so by foot. A taxi driver found me and told me it was dangerous and elephant could stomp on me. He tried to charge me 20 USD and I refused pushing his price down. Eventually I gave in to 4 USD because it was almost 2 AM and he kept saying I would be robbed or stepped on by elephants.
I acquired and he drove me. Funny enough it was the shortest drive, I had done the hard work but I felt safer.
I arrived at the backpackers. I felt safe, stepping into a room that smelled of someone’s body odor/odour. I brushed off the odor/odour, prepared for bed and woke up to new roommates.
One from France and One from South Africa.
Quickly, we all bonded and Mo, from South Africa and I chatted and she asked me to go with her to Victoria Falls by foot. We tried to bike but the receptionist dissuaded us citing high costs of parking. We listened and walked to Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the modern 7 Wonder of the World. Men were selling to us with names such as Felix the Cat, Trust, and Enough, among the most notable. One man was extremely aggressive and we walked past him to find the entrance to the park. The time was about 10 AM.
We entered the gates after many giggles, recalling the gift sellers and waited in line with West Australians, Spanish speakers, people in wheelchairs, kids and more.
As a South Africa she paid 30 USD and as a non resident and nearby Africa, I paid 50 USD. Credit card was accepted and finally, we crossed the threshold into THE Victoria Falls, almost 60 hours later over land from Beira, Mozambique.
I could hear the water pounding and my heart pounded in excitement!
… to be continued.