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10 MAY - Harare, Zimbabwe

Date received: Tue May 15 2001, 01:44 PM PDT

We're back in Harare after a four day canoeing trip on the Zambezi. We have a limited time before Emily has to get to Cape Town and fly to Spain, so we had to make some choices about priorities. We decided that we really wanted to go canoeing along the Zambezi up to Mana Pools park, even though it may mean that we won't make it to Victoria Falls.

The canoeing was very mellow, but beautiful. We slowly paddled our way along the river, carefully dodging hippos. Over the course of the three days, we probably saw about 100 hippos, but we never got close enough for them to cause problems. We camped along the river bank, and the hippos would serenade us. They are extrememly loud animals.

The company we went with runs the trip from the Zambian side of the river, so we had to cross over the border. We could get as close as we wanted to the Zimbabwean side, but we couldn't set foot on the shore, or else we would be "illegally immigrating."

The bus back to Harare was full, so we hitched a ride with a couple of South Africans. The political and financial situation in Zimbabwe is very fragile, and as a result of the poor state of the Zim dollar, they can't afford to buy fuel, so there is a major fuel shortage. Luckily, the driver who took us back to Harare knew of a farmer about 40km off-route who has underground tanks of diesel, so we were able to get enough fuel to make it.

The whole situation in Zimbabwe is fascinating. The problems with Mugabe's (the president) supporters seizing white owned farms and businesses continues unabated. As a result, the entire economy has collapsed, and it seems that things will have to blow up soon. Right now feels like the calm before the storm.


Copyright 2000 Peter Birch All Rights Reserved.