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Pamela MacNaughtan

Zimbabwe is one of my favourite countries on my Classic Journeys trip with Intrepid from Kenya to Cape Town. I realize that the media makes Zimbabwe seem to be less than friendly, but I am here to tell you that that is just not true. It is just the opposite.

Harare was to be our first big city stop in a few days and many of us were quite excited about having 2-3 hrs to wander around on our own. While we were on the truck, George explained a few things that he felt we needed to know before venturing out on our own. On the top of the list was politics. Whatever we did, whoever we spoke to, we were to keep away from politics. Naturally, none of us had any desire to walk around the city and talk politics with the locals. George’s other warning had to do with money. It was nothing major, just reminding us that Zimbabwe uses USD and the money is usually fairly dirty. His advice was to take out as little money as possible and use it all before we left the country as nobody would want it outside of Zimbabwe.

As I stepped off the truck, my goal was to find a bank where I could withdraw some USD, buy some snacks and find a pharmacy where I could buy an elastic bandage for my foot. It’s funny how a person’s priorities will change while on the road. Normally I would have happily wandered the streets, looked at a gallery or sat in a coffee shop.

Unlike many of the African towns and cities we have been to on this trip, I was generally surprised by how polite and friendly the people were in Harare. For the first during this trip people were talking to be in the shop, saying excuse me and smiling. It was wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, Tanzania and Malawi are not unfriendly places, I just didn’t encounter as many nice people there as I did in Harare.

Walking in Harare is like walking in Bangkok. Keeping your head up will probably get you into trouble as the sidewalks are crumbling in places and there are holes here and there. As a person who has a habit of falling, I was very aware of the sidewalk surface in front of me and took care to not trip and hurt myself. I know you’re shocked to learn that I have yet to fall flat on myself in Africa. It’s a miracle, really, it is (I am now going to knock on wood ie: the tree outside my tent).

In many ways, Harare felt a lot like most major cities around the world. For a short period of time, I forgot that I was even in Africa, which was both good and bad. Good, as I was able to feed my ‘city girl’ addiction, but bad in that I lost the ‘African’ vibe that I have come to adore.

Although I would have liked more time to explore the city, that is not the focus of this trip. The trip from Kenya to Cape Town is about exploring the National Parks, experience local lifestyles and at times, eating local cuisine. Going to a big city to shop and hang-out felt like I was cheating.

Traveling in Africa, solo, can be a scary thought -especially for solo female travelers. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it can. What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with joining a group tour.

For 45 days I traveled from Kenya (Nairobi) to Cape Town with Intrepid Travel. This was my very first group travel experience. At first I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but as time progressed, I began to relax and fall in love with this type of travel. In fact, I would definitely travel with Intrepid again. 

Comments:

  • August 30, 2011

    Hi Pamela,
    It’s been good to read your reflections on Africa and I’m glad to hear you are having a good time. I think I know what you mean when you say “African” vibe, but at the same time, Africa is a complex place and it is rapidly urbanizing. Many people have an expectation of Africa as primitive and village oriented as if “Africa” and “modern” cannot be in the same sentence. In many places, this is not the case. But the cities are as much a part of Africa as the villages and you can still experience local lifestyles and local cuisine in the cities. Don’t worry, you are not cheating by going to a city! Cities provide one of the most meaningful windows into Africa. I don’t know what the limitations of your tour are, but when it’s finished, see if you can hang out in a city for a bit and learn a bit of a new language, make some friends, listen to some new music, and learn what dances are popular; your impression may change and you may start to view the city as something “African.” Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip. 

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