Riding north the landscape quickly turned into a scrubby flat land, with the road heading arrow straight to Zimbabwe. While not quite like heading to Iraq, I had the same kind of questions going through my mind as the miles wound down and border loomed closer. But, just like Iraq, I wouldn’t know until I got there and refused to let my mind wander into all the nasty places it wanted to go. I’d heard goods things about Zim on road and the word on the road had always been better than any of the drivel written in a guide-book or regurgitated by some talking head on TV. And that was good enough for me.
The border crossing started out well designed, manned, and run- a very South African treat. While my hopes for a Swaziland like border experience mounted I was directed to a bridge and started to cross into Zimbabwe… and back into African Africa. The Zim side was a madhouse and, being the newest resident, I was fair game for anyone and everyone. The sheer number of people pushing forms in my face, asking to change money, and offering to ‘help’ me was overwhelming and unnerving after the well-organized calm of the South African side. Despite this, and after a few hours, I managed to complete my Pokémon task and collect them all.
Them? Yes, that bane of every African border crossing- the mysterious and powerful stamps that officials grudgingly provide on scraps of paper. You carry these talismans from official to official who will, assuming you’ve collected all the lesser ones in the right order, bless you with yet another, more powerful stamp. This little ritual goes on until you’ve managed to collect all the stamps and can then give your well hammered scraps of paper to a guard for the penultimate stamp that will then fling open the gates of the asylum and release you once again into the general population .
As tends to be the case in most government-run re-education camps- you don’t leave any saner, just crazy in a more social acceptable way to the country you’re entering.