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Biliary, Bribery & Our Mission to Kill the President

We’ve been back in the UK for a while now but still haven’t shared all of our last overland trip with you.

After the Vic Falls, we drove to the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo. We camped in a hostel garden with a very round, resident pooch called Tom. As we were setting up our tent in the dark, we noticed Tom sampling Bow Wow’s previously untouched dinner. Bow Wow wouldn’t come out of his kennel and looked so crest fallen, we wondered if Tom had bitten him. Even then, it was totally out of character because Bow Wow is a tough township dog and usually right in to rough play. When we threw Bow Wow’s ball, he’d make a half hearted attempt to go after it but had no balance and stumbled. We knew there must be something seriously wrong. 

Thank goodness we were in a city and could visit a vet. The next morning we took BowWow to be tested and it turned out he had biliary, a very dangerous tick borne disease. Biliary for dogs is a lot like malaria for humans, except that in the latter, a mosquito is the cause rather than a tick. If left untreated, Bow Wow would have died. 

Bow Wow looking very ill with biliary outside a vet in Bulawayo with his name painted on the wall.

Luckily, Bow Wow was treated for biliary in time. For the next few days, his tennis ball was confiscated because, even though he was clearly so ill, he still wanted to play. Note the 'Bow Wow' dog food advertised on the vet's wall.


Bulawayo retro lampposts

The flamboyant lined city has a lovely old colonial feel. When Bulawayo was being designed, Cecil Rhodes ordered that its streets should be wide enough to turn a wagon and oxen.


Contemporary windows in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Its mix of Victorian and 60's/70's architecture presented wonderful contrasting textures and shapes.


Victorian building in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe


Land Rover Defender 110 with Overland Kit out front of Cape Town sign

Only 1150 miles to Cape Town! We were on the home stretch.


Sick Bow Wow in Lachlan's arms recovering from biliary

From Bulawayo, we headed for the Zimbabwean border and spent a night camping by the Cleveland Dam in Harare. Bow Wow just wanted to be close to us while he was recovering.


Roadside trader in Harare selling forest fruit

Harare's roadside traders sell forest fruit they've gathered. We were given this fruit to try in Nyanga. You bite the tops off and suck out the sweet flesh. It tastes like creamy passion fruit.


Apostolic man wearing white robe in Harare, Zimbabwe

You can tell that this man is a member of the Apostolic religion because of his white robes. We saw a lot of Apostolics in Zimbabwe, especially around Harare.


Group of Apolistics having service in countryside outside Harare, Zimbabwe

They're church is anywhere outside in nature.


A taxi in Harare, Zimbabwe

The locals call these taxis Police ATMs because often they are breaking some law, carrying too many passengers, for example, or driving with a broken tail light and so they are a sure fire way for policemen to extract bribes.


Leaving Harare, we approached a set of lights that had turned green and were so busy chatting we failed to notice Mugabe’s cavalcade going past until the last moment. We’d been warned that if you see smart motorbikes with flashing lights, the president is following close behind and you must get off the road to make way or risk his body guards opening fire.

We stopped just in time but were pulled over by some policemen who asked, “Are you on a mission?”. Thinking they were referring to the stickers on the car, we said “Yes,” but before we could explain that our mission was to innocently source fair trade fashion and raise awareness for the charity called Back to Africa, they proclaimed, “You are on a mission to kill the president!”. They took Lachlan’s driving license and ordered him to come with them for questioning. (Bow Wow and I waited in the car. Luckily it was locked because at one point, a man tried to break in, tugging every handle with all of his might while ignoring Bow Wow’s barking.)

The police told Lachlan that they were arresting him. He tried to explain that he had no interest in killing Mugabe, that he couldn’t just leave Bow Wow and me and that we were supposed to be crossing into South Africa that day but the police would not budge and kept insisting that he would have to spend the night in a cell. After an hour of protesting, Lachlan called their bluff and said “OK, lets go then! Lets do this, lock me up!”. Of course, the policemen suddenly had an alternative, they would forget the whole episode if Lachlan handed over $60. He managed to get it down to $30 and we were on our way again. We are not proud of giving in to bribery but Lachlan spending the night in a cell, while Bow Wow and I took our chances camping alone, was not an option.

Once at the Beitbridge border, we parked and queued on foot for a few hours in the oppressive heat. When our papers had been stamped, we returned to our car to find that the wheel had been clamped! For absolutely no reason! We were in a proper parking bay alongside other cars (although, admittedly less pimped) which were mysteriously not clamped. Furious and frustrated, Lachlan eventually managed to be seen by someone in management who simply said that we must pay the fine or stay clamped in Zimbabwe. We felt utterly powerless and grudgingly coughed up another $30! It was such a relief to finally be through the border and no longer at the mercy of the Zimbabwean police.

More importantly, Bow Wow was back to his usual full of beans self. His only symptom was severe tennis ball withdrawal and we knew exactly what to do about that!

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2 Responses to “Biliary, Bribery & Our Mission to Kill the President”

  1. James says:

    Great post. Can’t believe that happened to you!

  2. Hi, Glad you guys got back okay, If I had of known I could of maybe helped you out in Harare, although I in the UK, I know people there – they live close to Cleveland Dam where you spent the night, I read your story, sounds familiar, and brings a few things to mind like- You could have a bad moment and the very next group of people the next day will have the exact opposite doing the exact same thing in the very same place, typical Zimbo Copper – well done on realising and calling their bluff, I know its difficult but next time try get some contacts and advice on typical hiccups you could encounter in any particular place, Also in long grass or any grassland you will get ticks and yeah when I saw your Inyanga video with Bow Wow billary is what came to mind as well as another dog approaching- not all people can afford to have their pets get any vaccinations etc so rabies was another thought – its thought usual culpret is that Jackals can carry rabies, all Zimbabwean waters (except parts of Nyanga and Eastern Highlands)have crocodiles- or in the very least assume they do just to be safe- the locals can be good at advising you on that- I have heard of dogs as well as people dissapearing within a split second- the worst being one guy was last seen underwater being dragged away by a large croc after just collecting some canoes that were in ankle deep water at the time, but I hope the adrenalin, adventure and the beatuiful continent of Africa made for a lifetime of great memories. Regards Sean.

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