The Road to Bulawayo: Hitting a Goat
The Road to Bulawayo: Hitting a Goat
Sometimes, you can just feel when it is time to move on from where you are to see more of a country. Other times, you have to get moving before people begin to realize how many days you have been wearing the same shirt and pair of shorts. I left Shoestring Backpackers Lodge today a little for the former, but a lot for the latter. It was time to change my shirt for appearance reasons, but it passed this morning’s smell-test with flying colors. So, I figured I would hit the road.
I have had a pretty good time at this hostel. DJ Rodney brings a really good environment. Well, I think so anyhow. The next generation probably does not think so, hence the music changing from rock and roll to generic Top 20 after midnight. Rodney says he has to do it because he is a “business man.” But, it had been nice to rock out with him. I sort of grew quite a reputation in the hostel. One of the workers came up to me and told me, “It is really nice to meet a real rock and roller here.” That felt good.
I got smashed in the bar two nights ago and shared sniffing snuff with my hostel worker friends. That was fun. A girl had a blow-out where her heel came off of her boot and she could not dance, so I taped it back on for her, much to her delight.
I had a good talk with DJ Rodney and his musician friend last night. Rodney told me, “We do not get a lot of real people like you in here. Someone with a personality. There is a not a lot of that anymore.” I am terrified for where we are going….
At about 10:00, I checked out of the hostel and hit the road on a hitchhike from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, about 400 kilometers away.
I was just walking through Victoria Falls to get to the outskirts of the city when someone just pulled over and gave me a ride. Thanks! Then, I caught a car to a town 100 kilometers away called Hwange, and then I ended up on a mini-van taxi for the remaining 300 kilometers for the rest of the way to Bulawayo.
I heard a great story. A man was telling me that when inflation was so rampant in Zimbabwe, the currency got so crazy that they were making $100 trillion currency notes. Even those were virtually worthless. The currency was abandoned in 2009 in favor of the United States dollar that they have seen using ever since. So the story goes, when the currency was changing over, a man went to the bank with a wheelbarrow full of Zimbabwean dollars to exchange for their value in USD. In the bank, he had to go to the bathroom and he asked some guys if they could watch his wheelbarrow full of money for him while he ran off. They agreed and he went off to find a toilet. When he returned, his money was on a pile on the ground of the bank floor, and his wheelbarrow had been stolen.
Beautiful. Likely a wives tale, but a great story…
So, the country uses USD today, which is much better for Zimbabwe, but it is not as good for people like me as it makes the cost of the country so much higher. Somehow using the USD as a currency really inflates the prices of things in comparison to neighboring countries.
And wow, the notes here…they are so dirty that they hardly look like currency anymore. The bills are brown. It makes me feel bad for the clean bills that I have with me that I am now spending in the country that will become a part of the currency circulation in Zimbabwe that will one day be just as filthy. I feel like I am abusing them somehow and giving them a dirty future… I have never seen USD in this kind of condition in my life. And, I have found out where all of the $2 USD notes go! They are here. And they are prevalent. There are probably four $1 bills for every $2…There are that many of them.
So that makes me wonder:
a) when your money is worthless, how do you buy the notes of another currency to make it your own?
b) when Zimbabwe made a deal with the US to start using their currency, did the US say, “Sure, but you need to take these $2 bills off of our hands. We have sheds full of them that we never use.” I have now been in three countries outside of the US where you get USD from the bank machines as the major currency there (Cambodia, Ecuador, Zimbabwe), but this is the first time I have ever seen a $2 in my life.
I had the front passenger’s seat in the van and I fell asleep on the drive. I awoke to Dolly Parton playing on the stereo. There is an abnormally excessive amount of Dolly Parton in Africa. In Africa, you either hear music that you have never heard before in your life, Top 40 hits hip-pop, or Dolly Parton.
I am not making that up.
If you are hearing music that seems really out of place, it is always Dolly Parton. Not ever Johnny Cash. Never Willie Nelson. No Elvis Presley. Dolly Parton. Every time! It is a weird crazy…
Dolly Parton’s “Silver and Gold” was coming through the stereo and I was thinking about my mother who used to sing that song with our family band. I was drifting through thoughts of my childhood when all of a sudden the driver hit the brakes of the van, HARD. We had just popped over a hill and in a flash all I saw was a full grown white goat on the road who knew that he was in trouble and was running as hard as he could to get across. There was no escape for him. We smashed into him with the front passenger side with a really loud and devastating noise and I saw a white blur fling past my window into the ditch on my side of the road. The driver kept on applying the brakes until we were stopped.
Everyone got out of the van to have a look at the damage to the van, though no one went back to check on the goat. The driver just said, “Expense… Expense…” as he assessed the van. He and I tried to push the hanging plastic back in place and we pulled off anything that we could not get to stay in place. Everyone got back in the van and we drove off again. I kept on thinking about the goat, though I was sure it was dead.
We arrived in Bulawayo where I got out of the van and walked to what was supposed to be a cheap hostel, but turned out to be a $20 a night hotel. The man running the hotel had no teeth and I felt like a character that I did not want to leave my belongings with as I went out to see the town. So, I found a taxi stand and the guys there could not have been more friendly, honest and helpful. They put their heads together for me and figured out a hotel that they knew of called “The Cecil” that was much nicer on the other side of the city center where I would only pay $15. It cost me $2 to catch a ride across town so I came out ahead.
Staff was great, friendly, and not used to foreigners so all they wanted to do was help me out with anything and everything. It was really nice. This is the second largest city in Zimbabwe, but it feels like there has not been a foreigner here in about three years. Maybe I am going to really like this place!