Left it too late for high tea at the grand old Victoria Falls Hotel, unfortunately – couldn’t tear myself away from the swimming pool at Vic Falls Restcamp, so deliciously un-chlorinated it might well have been pumped straight from the Zambesi. All too soon it was time to get myself down to the station for the early evening train, eastbound to Bulawayo – an eerie, sweaty all-night experience (pitch darkness on board, no water, plenty of moonlight) before staggering out into the dawn.
As with the train ride, my ‘illegal’ excursion from Bulawayo down to Rhodes Matopo National Park became a window into what is wrong here: infrastructure rotting or rusting for decades; makeshift police road-blocks set up a few kilometres apart to gauge motorists; national parks set up as money farms for vested interests (tour operators, for example).
Circumventing the bizarre park entry restrictions on taxis, my driver and I managed to pick out way through to Cecil Rhodes’ grave and the majestic granite boulder scenery amidst which he chose to be interred, not to mention some of the millennia-old rock art of the almost-vanished San people.
Along the way, we encountered dozens of cheerful families enjoying a country-side picnic day out on private land adjoining the national park – and picked up a trick or two from some of them. Thanks, guys!