Saturday, November 28, 2009

Postings from Pretoria #25

28 November 2009

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:

“Amalinda” – “Bulawayo”

Extended Posting Alert

After our recent excursion to Victoria Falls/Chobe National Park, I hadn’t expected to be posting again so soon. Silly me. Anne had scheduled an official IRO visit to Bulawayo in southwestern Zimbabwe and, as an early Christmas present, picked up the freight so I could tag along. Lucky me. The three days there were among the most rewarding I can recall since we’ve been posted in Africa.

Day 1 – We flew in a 37-passenger jet from JoBurg to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, deplaning at an old hanger serving as a temporary terminal while the spanking new facility is under construction – a process halted by lack of funding. (This would be a recurring theme during our visit, especially regarding libraries, Anne’s area of expertise.) From there we were whisked away to Camp Amalinda (, located roughly 60 km down the road in the Matobo Hills.

Photoz hardly do justice to this place. The thatched accommodations are built into the granite landscape and the effect is that of a really cool “Indiana Jones” movie set. The Matobo Hills are magnificent and we spent the afternoon hiking to a rock summit, where we had a beer and absorbed the view, including Malindidzimu Hill or “World’s View,” the resting place of one Cecil John Rhodes, the legendary British businessman (founder of De Beers Mining Company), visionary (Cape to Cairo Railway), and embodiment of racist imperialism.

Quote: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” Rhodes influence in southern Africa was colossal and his legacy is still very much evident. Local example: Rhodes designed the broad thoroughfares in Bulawayo so that his wagons pulled by 16 oxen could make u-turns.

Returning to the Camp, we sat around the fire, watched the African sunset, and enjoyed a steak dinner. Then, off to bed, to the sounds of baboons in the bush and dassies on the roof.

Day 2 – After breakfast, we drove into Bulawayo, which a lovely city, and checked into The Bulawayo Club, founded in 1895 and formerly an old-school hangout for ruling class Brits and Rhodesians. (Dark wood paneling, large animal trophies, portraits of the Queen, that sort of thing.) It’s now a hotel, recently opened and still under renovation, and a great place to stay. Since A.J. had to work, I procured the services of a guide for a walking tour, specifically the Zimbabwe National Railways Museum.

Bulawayo was HQ for Rhodesia Railways (now NRZ - National Railways of Zimbabwe) and is still the country’s major railway centre. The Museum includes locomotives and rolling stock in (typically) various stages of repair, and visitors are allowed to climb aboard and explore at will, at their own risk, naturally. This includes a tour through the private Pullman car of one Cecil John Rhodes. (Dark wood paneling, green leather, brass fittings, that sort of thing.) This was a perfect way to spend a fine African afternoon.

[Sidebar: My Dad was a railroad man and worked “third trick” (the night shift) for many years. He would, on occasion, take me to work with him and let me spend all night riding around in a switch engine shunting freight cars between Louisville, KY and New Albany, IN. It was awesome.]

That evening, we had dinner with some of Anne’s colleagues at a local Chinese restaurant, returned to the hotel, and slept to the sounds of silence.


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