Who: L U C I E, L A C H L A N, and B O W W O W.
Their occupations: Gypsy, Slick Suit in Finance, Dog
The trip: Crossing Africa by 4×4, helping communities through trade.
We’ve cut our teeth on over 25,000km of dirt roads across Southern Africa with our dog, Bow Wow, sourcing wonderful, handmade treasures… Think Summer of Love! Here are our highlights so far…
Leaving Zimbabwe, poor Bow Wow becomes seriously ill with biliary and Lachlan is accused of trying to murder Mugabe.
Even though Bow Wow promised not to lift his leg against the statue of David Livingstone, no dogs are allowed at the Victoria Falls. Not even adventure hounds sponsored by Hill’s pet Nutrition.
The Tonga tribe were forced to move from where they’d lived and fished for centuries so that the power of the Zambezi could be harnessed for electricity and yet 50 years on and they still go without electricity or running water. No wonder they smoke dagga.
We discover why Lake Kariba’s southern shores are less travelled and live to tell the tale.
At the Chinhoyi Caves in Zimbabwe, we visit a crystal clear pool which is home to the souls of captured travellers and some lucky gold fish.
East of Harare, in a pretty little agricultural town, lives a journalism graduate and Jason Bourne fan called Joseph who makes jewellery out of cow horn and bone. We came across his work at a market in Harare and arranged to visit his workshop and develop some tribal inspired earrings exclusively for Vagabond Van.
We returned to Harare and stayed with our Zimbabwean friends, Bruce and Nicola. It was fascinating to hear about how people coped during the desperate days of hyperinflation, when the enormously devalued Zimbabwean dollar was not even worth the paper that it was printed on. We joined them for extreme sundowners on a granite outcrop until a nearby lightning bolt caused our hair to stick right up on end (not a good sign!) and visited their sun filled factory called Copperwares.
The national park near Nyanga is said to have been Cecil Rhodes favourite spot and by all accounts has fabulous hikes through lush green mountains with waterfalls, breath taking views and great trout fishing. We knew that these hikes would be out of bounds for us with a dog but we hoped that as the park is not home to many animals and has no predators, the rangers may turn a blind eye and allow us to stay for one night in their campsite with Bow Wow. However, they were not to be charmed and once again we found ourselves in the stressful situation of having to find alternative accommodation with less than an hour of daylight left. Blaming himself, Bow Wow felt horrendously bad about the whole thing and increasingly worse when we were turned away from a motel in the town of Nyanga which was fully booked and did not allow camping in their grounds. On hearing us discussing our last hope, which was to ask if we might stay at the local police station, the snooty receptionist reluctantly suggested that we try a place just out of town called Angler’s Rest but she definitely did not recommend it. (Includes 3 videos)
Rusape is a real Zimbabwean town not featured in any travel guides. We camped in the grounds of an achingly retro, yet empty, motel with a swimming pool full of frogs and provoked lots of laughter as we wandered through Rusape’s bright and bustling streets. Our taste buds had a real treat when we tucked into mouthwatering sadza with local farmers, sampled some thirst quenching Zimbabwean beers and sunk our teeth into the most flavoursome fruit that we have ever tasted. At Lovely’s Hair Salon we learnt how to braid while her gogo held court and swigged Coca-Cola on the stoop.
With so few tourists for so many years, all of the official campsites in Harare closed long ago. We eventually found a safe place to set up camp at Cleveland Dam and sampled the local “brain kicking” tipple, Chimbuku. At a vibrant market we felt the true hustle of Africa but our search for Vagabond Van products continued.
During our three hour long delay, I took pictures of the chaotic Zimbabwe border crossing but was caught and asked to delete them from my camera. It was a total shambles; Bow Wow’s forms were filled out in a rotting make shift caravan with a missing floor, great chasms in parts of the pavement waited to swallow humans whole and disorderly queues seemed unformed in all directions.
Once through, we were warned by a local to not stop for anything or anyone until we reached Great Zimbabwe. On registering our concerned expressions he added “Don’t worry, it’s not like South Africa; they probably won’t kill you but they will rob you.” Off at last, we chased the setting sun past mountainous boulders muffled in lush vegetation and colourful clusters of roadside pedlars touting pyramids of golden mangoes and baking mielies in their leaves over smouldering embers.