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Zimbabwe, May 2019

Visiting Elizabeth in Harare.

Contains 480 photos, the last of which were added 3 years, 1 month, 11 days, 10 hours, 2 minutes, and 23 seconds ago.

My first weekend in Harare, Zimbabwe was pretty chill. We visited some markets and hung out in cafes. Ate great Ethiopian food at Queen Makeda, reasonable pizza at St Elmo's, amazing noodles at the market.

Went with a Fin and two Russians to Lake Chivero nature reserve. We drove around in a totally in appropriate car for a while, and saw zebra, wildebeests, impala and other similar things, monkeys, tons of interesting birds and a giraffe (rare there). Then we stopped at the park headquarters and chatted to the rangers. They agreed to take us on foot to see rhinos and other things for a small fee.

We stumbled upon a snoozing rhino almost immediately, which Gladys, our guide, didn't see until we were way closer than we should've been. We snuck away, and the rhino stayed put.

Minutes later, one of the Russians behind me said "oh my god" (she saw a snake? I wondered), and then Gladys in front of me turned her head and said "Run." with the fear of god in her eyes. I didn't look back, and took off with the group. The rhino had decided he didn't like us after all. Gladys wove us through the trees as you're supposed to, and for some reason the Fin took off in a straight line, away from the group.

I tripped and fell. I had no idea how far behind me the rhino was, and my legs were lead, I couldn't get up. Figured even if I could I can't outrun a rhino anyway, so maybe I should just curl up in a ball and hope for the best? This is probably as cool a way to die as I could really hope for. Then Gladys was back, hauling me out of the undergrowth.

Simultaneously, the rhino had paused to decide who to chase; I had a second to look back and saw him standing there debating his options, still far too close. Lucky for stumbling me, he decided to go for the Fin. Gladys and the Russians and I put enough distance between ourselves and the rhino to slow down, and when the adrenaline had stopped I almost passed out, probably from a combination of heat, shock, and the fact my knee was bleeding everywhere. We lurked around, calling for the Fin and waiting for me to recover. Eventually Gladys got a call from HQ - he had run all the way there (having been followed a pretty long way by the rhino, who had then given up and gone to the lake).

I lost Elizabeth's sunglasses during the charge, and later after the immediate danger had passed I realised my phone was gone as well. Gladys went back for a couple of minutes and found it! She's a hero. Mostly for probably saving my life, not the phone.

We regrouped at HQ, then went to see some more chill rhinos by the lake. They had birds standing on their heads and everything. We also saw ostriches.

So that was a pretty good day.

The power went out. Fortunately the Fin and the Russians were still sightseeing (Elizabeth was at work) so I had ample opportunity to get out of the house. We drove through the CBD of Harare, and then to the balancing rocks. We tried to negotiate, but they would only accept USD (at a vastly higher price than the local price) and we didn't have any on us. So we took photos from the road, and went to the Botanical Gardens instead. They're not very well kept but there's lots of interesting trees.

The only vegan place in Harare listed on Happycow is V-Delights, which was in walking distance. Only it's closed. Obviously. We ate Ethopian food at Queen Makeda again.

Still no power. Went to some markets with the Fin and the Russians where I bought tasty snacks and tea, and in the evening we climbed up a hill in the south of the city in time to see the sun set. From the distance, Harare looks almost like a modern and functional city.

I spent a morning with the tutors from Sprout Coding in the suburbu of Dzivaresekwa, learning about the programme, listening to them prepare as a group for the start of term the following week (when they go into schools to teach young children Scratch and Woof) and chatting to a few of them about web development and git.

Ate lunch at Gava's, finally getting a taste of delicious Zimbabwean food. The veggie option is just what comes on the side of all the meat dishes - sadza (or peanut rice), greens (canola/rape) and beans. But it's enormously filling in itself. And a whole french press of local coffee, plus chilli to top it went down really well.

Got home to find the power finally restorted, so I could make dinner for Elizabeth, Sarah and Andrew.

The next day I met the Sprout Coding folks again, this time for a braai (bbq) in Kuwadzana. The tutors came out of their shells more and we had good discussions about hacking, encryption, privacy and surveillence. And the food was great (sadza and greens).

We ate dinner at Little Eataly, the only option for me being pasta with tomato. It was really good though. Then we made a half-assed attempt to socialise at Tristen's bar, where there was supposed to be a gig of some kind, but it was just full of drunk dudes who wanted to chat and I was too tired, so we went home.

Some Saturday morning market touring, followed by an extravagant lunch at Pistachio Cafe, probably the place with the most explicit vegan options in Harare.

In the late afternoon Andrew drove Elizabeth and I to Domboshava, a breathtakingly beautiful granite hill and national monument about a 45 minute drive north of Harare. We climbed about and watched the sun set. There are cave paintings there too, but we didn't find them before it was dark.

Chill Sunday. Adventure cancelled due to lack of fuel (in the whole country) so I joined Elizabeth and co at church again, and then we had a long, drawn out bbq at Andrew's house, including a jump in the pool. We ate and chatted and played board games into the evening. The power went out due to load shedding (coordinated turning-off of parts of the city, semi-accurate information about when this happens is on the electricity provider's website).

Last couple of chill days in Harare. Random cafe stops, cooking for Elizabeth, excellent Indian food at Spice Lounge (including really spicy chai), and sorghum sadza at Gava's. Then, depart.