We’re finally in Bulawayo, which is a place that I have wanted to visit for ages. The main attraction here for most overland groups is the Matobo National Park, and the opportunity to go walking with Rhinos, which we are doing tomorrow but I’ve had a really enjoyable day.
The day started in an amazing way too as our campsite at Clever’s Lakeview Resort was in an amazing place. The views upon leaving the tent were incredible and it’s a shame that we weren’t there for longer.
Travelling to Bulawayo
We left camp at around 0730 this morning and, after a journey of roughly 5 hours, we arrived in the centre of Bulawayo. The atmosphere in the city is completely different to any other city that we have visited so far – it was very colonial, and open, I think because of its railroad heritage. It’s a city with plenty to do on a visit by a overland truck including a Railway Museum, History Museum, Art Gallery, various parks and markets, and checking out the architecture but for us the thing we were looking forward to the most was a group trip to Nando’s.
The long-awaited trip to Nando’s
Nando’s, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a Peri Peri chicken chain which started in South Africa but which has spread across the globe a lot in recent years. We had all been craving it since one of the group bought some during our stop in Lusaka and it was the first place that we went upon arriving in Bulawayo.
The menu of Nando’s Zimbabwe was a bit different to what we have in the UK but the core was the same – grilled chicken with a variety of sauces – and everybody found something that they liked.
We ate quick, to make the most of our time in Bulawayo, and after finishing a few of us decided to walk to the Railway Museum to see some of Zimbabwe’s heritage. The walk itself took around 20 minutes – it’s around 2km away from the centre – but it was a really enjoyable walk and it gave us an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of Bulawayo which is probably the nicest place that we have visited on the trip so far. Nice architecture, the people were friendly, and it was a nice place to just wander the streets.
Bulawayo Railway Museum
After arriving at the Railway Museum we were greeted by the curator, who is talked about in all of the guidebooks. He has been working there for years and is quite a character, and he gave us an overview of where everything was in the museum and told us that we could go into any train that we wanted other than the one which was owned by Cecil Rhodes, which is kept locked to preserve it.
The entrance fee is usually $5 but it had been reduced to $2 due to COVID – plus we got a free gift upon leaving. That’s great value!
Unfortunately we only had just over 30 minutes to explore the museum before we had to head back but it was a great museum with a lot of trains in including old coal trains, freight trains, newer diesel ones, and even one which was previously used as an eye hospital. Many of the trains, due to being left out in the open for many decades, are in a state of disrepair but the main attraction is the Jack Tar – the first train to cross the Victoria Falls bridge. It is, thankfully, kept inside and is very well preserved.
Another attraction that I enjoyed seeing was the exhibit about the St John Ambulance brigade, which was setup in Zimbabwe – then Rhodesia – by workers of the railway system. I’m a volunteer with St John Ambulance in the UK and I found it fascinating to see exhibits from the early years of a sister organisation half way around the world.
Burke’s Backpacker’s Paradise
After returning to the truck we made the short journey out to Burke’s Backpacker’s Paradise where we’re going to spend 2 nights before making our final journey to Victoria Falls. The resort mainly caters for overland trucks and backpackers and is set around several courtyards that have camping and shower facilities as well as private rooms that you can upgrade to for a very small amount. The compound also has a swimming pool, although it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for a while, along with WiFi and laundry facilities.
They also have a dog which, unfortunately, is unable to be washed as it’s allergic to shampoo so the owners are currently trying to raise funds for a treatment that might help. As a result, the dog constantly itches itself by dragging itself along the grass, which was really sad to watch.
I managed to secure a room for tonight which means that my days of camping on this trip are over and it’s just beds for me from now on. The room itself was small, but functional, with two beds, mosquito nets, and some storage. It did, unfortunately, have what looked like exposed asbestos roofing which wasn’t ideal.
Tonight, while sitting round the camp fire, we had a visit from Ian who would be our guide for the Rhino walk in the Matobo National Park tomorrow. He told us a bit of history about the area, and about what we could expect if we decided to go on the trip. It isn’t a cheap experience, at $100 per person, but it’s a full day trip and is one of the best places in the world to get that close to Rhino without the use of Safari vehicles and all of us decided to sign up for it.
When I told one of the crew from my first African overland trip in 2009 that I was doing this route he told me that, even if I do nothing else, I have to go on this trip and so I’m really looking forward to it.