This morning we woke to no water in the bathroom. I called reception to find the whole area had no water supply. There is a big development being built near the hotel and it seemed the builders had cut through the main pipe! Fortunately they had left bottled water outside our room so we heated some up from the kettle for a quick wash!
Following breakfast we were driven back to the Rovos station where Shaun the steam locomotive was entertaining the new passengers. There are only 3 couples who are continuing on from Cape Town, all the rest are new, mostly Americans. We were invited to climb into the engine cab to have our photo taken and Barry got to sound the hooter........talk about 'boys toys'! But it was great fun.
We were all invited into the lounge for yet another introduction by the owner Rohan Vos who we have nicknamed 'the Headmaster' due to all the do's and don'ts he lists when we are aboard the train! But all done with great amusement.
Then we boarded the train and the first thing on getting back in our suites was to have a shower......fantastic! At this point I should mention the animals we have spotted since leaving Cape Town - there has been a large flock of flamingos, cattle, horses, donkeys, goats and antelope. On one occasion when we sat down to lunch we spotted large groups of ostriches. Then surprise, surprise our main course was ostrich steak! During the afternoon we travelled on our way up to Zimbabwe. Eric our Train Manager advised that we would arrive at the border around 1:00 am the following morning where one of the staff would be taking our passports and visa applications to be processed by the Zimbabwean authorities. This could take up to 5 hours to be done! It seems in Zimbabwe all visas are handwritten - one official writes the visa, the second checks he has done it correctly, the third takes the money, the forth checks the correct fee has been taken and the fifth puts the money in an envelope which goes in Mugabe's back pocket! As there are 58 passengers visas to process you can see how it takes so long!
During the evening the train crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.
We awake to find the train at Beitbridge station which is just inside Zimbabwe having crossed over the Limpopo river which is the border. We were allowed to take a stroll along the platform only to find no engine! We are now waiting for the BBR railway to supply the diesel engine and driver. Following breakfast Barry took another stroll along the platform to view the engine which had finally been hooked up, only to find the train was ready to depart so he quickly jumped aboard at the front of the train straight into the laundry carriage much to the surprise of the staff!
This morning the train travels north via Rutenga, Somabhula, en route to Bulawayo which is the second city of Zimbabwe and capital of Matabeleland. Even on board with the windows open we can feel the temperature rising. We are advised that it could reach 40 degs today!
At crossings they don't have barriers. There were two occasions which were totally alien and non health & safety to us. Often the train has to come to a halt for various reasons and on one occasion the train had been stationary for at least 20 minutes. We were walking along the corridor and noticed that the train was straddled across a crossings where traffic was building up on either side. But people are quite content to wait......no beeping of horns even after 20 mins! The other time we were entering a small town where the children were walking home from school - again our train was stopped across the crossing. No problem to the kids they just crawl under the train through to the other side!
After lunch the train arrived at Gweru where we could disembark and have a look at the small town and market. Unfortunately there was not a lot to see but the school children were fascinated by all the white faces, it was a pity I hadn't bought any pens, etc for our journey, as Linda I know you would have done, to give to the children.
Well to coin a well known Orme saying today it's NACITS (not a cloud in the sky) and very hot, 40 degs again!
This afternoon we arrived at Kennedy sidings where a fleet of safari jeeps were waiting to take us on our first game drive this holiday in the Hwange National Park. We were amazed to see so much in the 2 - 3 hour drive. We knew we would see elephants as there are thousands in this region but we were thrilled to see a male lion with 3 females at very close quarters. Fortunately according to our guide they only feed in the evening! At various water holes we watched herds of elephants, zebra, giraffes and baboons sharing the water. Also buffalo, impala and hyena.
We were then driven to an area to watch the sun set while sipping cocktails. It really was a memorable day. Once back on board the train unfortunately they were having problems with the water storage and initially the shower wasn't working but they managed to get water through quite soon. We seem to have had a water problem wherever we have been this trip!
Sadly it was our last night on the train and following dinner we joined up with fellow passengers for cocktails before hitting the sack. Tomorrow morning we arrive at Livingston and the next leg of our journey.
Unfortunately I am having problems loading the photos onto the album but hopefully if they have a business centre at our first hotel at Victoria Falls I will be able to add them on.
Love to you all
Mary & Barry xx