17 thoughts on “A Question for Sipu”

  1. Janus: I am planning to fly to South Africa and go up to Botswana. I would like to see either Zimbabwe or Namibia, but time constraints mean that I can only see one or the other.

  2. There is nothing with with Eswatini, JM. I’ve had a fixation on Zimbabwe for some time because I am rather fond of some Zimbabwean writers such as NoViolet Bulawayo and J. Nozipo-Maraire.

  3. Good morning, Christopher. Thanks for your question. I will try and respond as well as I can, though it may come in more than one post and it may take some time. I will be back.

  4. Hello again Christopher
    I like Namibia, though I am no expert. It is efficient, clean and well organised. It has some spectacular scenery including Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, and numerous rock, beach and desert destinations. Much of the country is given to national parks, Etosha being one of the more famous. But it is big and distances are vast and the population relatively tiny. There is not a great deal of cultural heritage that I could see, though to be fair, I am not hugely into African tribal culture. Travellers need to be well prepared against the possibility of getting lost or breaking down in the wilderness. It is proper safari country.
    I visited Luderitz on the coast back in 1986, when I was sailing a yacht from Cape Town to Dartmouth. We made an unscheduled stop there. It was pretty and striking because of the architecture. Bavaria in the desert. Swakopmund (which I was told, roughly translated meant anus of the country; a river that carries all the nation’s filth) is also a very pleasant town, being clean and efficient as you would expect from its Germanic background. But you spend a lot of time getting from A to B and once there, there is not a great deal to do after the first or second day. At least that is my experience. The Caprivi Strip provides access to the Okavango River which is better known for its landlocked delta in Botswana. Did you know that Caprivi exists because during colonial days and the Carve up of Africa, Germany wanted a route from West Africa to the East; it had colonies on both sides of the continent? Some plonker had thought that by getting access to the Zambezi, they would be able to run boats to the Indian Ocean. He seems not to have been aware of Victoria Falls.
    Zimbabwe, really is for me a beautiful country. Its climate is sublime and the scenery spectacular and there is a great deal to see and do.
    Eastern Highlands – Nyanga, Chimanimani, Vumba – Hiking, riding, trout fishing golf, game viewing
    Matobo Hills (close to Bulawayo in south west)– Burial place of Cecil Rhodes. Incredible rock formations. Bushmen paintings, rhino tracking.
    Bulawayo- Very good museum, (given this is Zimbabwe).
    Lake Kariba – Stay on a houseboat or on an island lodge for, fishing, including tigerfish, game viewing, camping.
    Mana Pools – Canoe trips and fishing on the Zambezi, camp or stay in a lodge. Excellent game viewing in Africa.
    Victoria Falls. – Adventure capital of Zimbabwe. Accommodation ranges from 5 star hotels to backpacker lodges and Air BnB. Whitewater rafting (white knuckle rafting!), bungee jumping, zip-lines, hikes, sunset cruises, game viewing plus a host of other activities. Of course Vic Falls are the largest and most impressive falls in the world, especially when seen from the air.
    Hwange is close to Vic Falls and has some wonderful lodges with excellent game viewing.
    Harare – is a pretty town if a little dilapidated in parts! Opportunity to see African culture in the streets and township markets. A lot of activities and places to visit within a couple of hours of town, including hiking, game-viewing, sport, sight-seeing. My avatar is taken from a place called Ngomakurira which is only about an hour from Harare and an excellent place to go hiking. Imirie http://www.imire.co.zw/ is also fairly close to town and definitely worth a visit.

    Zimbabwe’s biggest problem, currently, is that it is pretty expensive. We have a bizarre currency system that means that there are essentially 4 versions of US$.
    1. $100 outside the country will cost you
    2. $103 in US notes inside Zimbabwe which will cost you
    3. $130 locally printed Bond Notes which will cost you
    4. $160 electronic dollars in a local bank account

    Those are black market rates and are subject to change.
    The economy has been devastated ever since ZANU came into power in 1980, though there have been moments when things were better than they are now. But if one is prepared to go native, as it were, you can find accommodation, food and transport at manageable prices. Not that I would necessarily recommend going native!
    You may be aware that the country is holding elections today and we are all hoping that whatever the outcome things will start improve. We have all been led to believe that investors and donor agencies are waiting to see if the elections will be considered free and fair and that the results will be accepted by all parties. If that is the case, we expect to see money pour in which will hopefully mean the currency will stabilise and prices will reduce and sanity will be restored. But this country has been chaotic ever since I arrived here during the Federation!
    In conclusion, I do like Namibia but while I am clearly bias towards Zimbabwe, I do think it has a lot more to offer. A note of caution, though, depending on the time of year, some destinations and activities may not be available or particularly enjoyable. Much of the Zambezi Valley is closed during the rainy season from December to March, unless you are travelling with professional guides. While the weather can be very pleasant during those months, there can also be prolonged periods of rain, which can hamper certain outdoor activities. Having said that, we are so spoiled with our weather that we whinge if it is not perfect.

  5. Sipu: Thank you for the thorough reply! I have also been leaning in favour of Zimbabwe for many of the reasons you listed. Namibia seems interesting and I’d like to go eventually, but the distances are a bit off-putting. The rain isn’t too troublesome, really. I’ve grown rather used to it living in England, as has being in Japan when two typhoons collided a mere 200 miles away!

    Would you advise me to get US dollars before going to Zimbabwe?

  6. Hi Christopher. You have a couple of choices. Your international credit card will work here in many, though by no means all establishments. However, as explained above, you will be losing out on the difference between overseas dollars and local electronic dollars. When you swipe a VISA at a hotel for $100, say, you will be paying 60% more than you need. The hotel will not pass on the benefit of the fact that you are paying hard currency.

    So, my advice would be to come here with US$, and then open a local transaction account that enables you to swipe this new card at the same hotel. But what you do is to give someone that $100 in notes and they will transfer electronic funds to your new local account at a premium, which might 30-50% depending on prevailing black market rates and the amount the individual is willing to accept. E.g. you give him $100 and he transfers $140 to your account. Rates do vary enormously.

    Or you could transfer funds to the Zimbabwean’s overseas account, e.g. UK and he would again transfer funds locally. May get a better rate.

    Or you could haggle with the vendor and say that you expect a discount for US$ cash. Many people will do that as they need hard cash to buy imported goods and services. Goods such as spare parts for vehicles to zippers for making clothes and services like Facebook advertising, or Google/Apple/Microsoft cloud storage etc. Life gets tricky here.

    Trading currencies is technically illegal, but everybody does it.
    When do you expect to be here? Things change all the time.

  7. Sipu: I expect to be in Africa in March 2020. I know it’s well in the future, but I like to plan things out in advance to prepare for eventualities. This is especially so in the case of Africa. I’ve never been to Africa and I appreciate that this will be a very different kettle of fish than the Japans and Swedens I’m used to. My plan is to fly to Cape Town, spend some time in that area before flying to Jo’burg and Pretoria before going to Botswana and then Zimbabwe flying back to the UK from Harare.

    One issue that I have is that I do not have a credit card. I never trusted them and I was burnt by a very unethical company, so I am hesitant to even apply. The one bank I trust enough rejected my application because they’re infamously ultra-conservative in their lending practices and my income being split between two jobs in two countries in two currencies hasn’t helped my case.

    It all seems terribly complex and confusing. Hopefully something more rational and sensible is worked out soon!

  8. Hi Christopher. Sorry about that. It may have been suspended, because it is an account I rarely use and I notice that the terms have changed. In any event, I have just tried it and it seems to be working. So maybe when I logged on to it again, it reactivated. Have another go.

  9. Janus: Rwanda seems to have got its act together. I’ve heard many good things about it. Even better, they’re preparing to drive on the correct side of the road and make their official language a proper one, English.

  10. Aha! Let’s rehearse apocryphal tales of Sweden switching to the wrong side – and jokes about Ireland’s plans to do it over a two-day period!

  11. Janus: Samoa managed to start driving on the correct side of the road without a hitch. I trust Rwanda will do the same. Not that anyone would notice much of a difference in the quality of the driving…

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