The roadtrip that roared: #2 Bulawayo

RoadtripThatRoared Harare to Byo

After spending a few days in Harare, we went to Bulawayo to see family. My mum moved from Harare to Bulawayo a few years ago and my extended family have lived there all their lives, so it’s a place I’ve often visited. We left Harare and settled in for the five-hour journey. I love seeing the landscape change from the more green area around Harare, to the dryer, more savannah-like land around Bulawayo.

There were quite a few police-stops but we didn’t have any problems – they did a quick check for our drivers’ license, and sometimes for regulated safety equipment like a high-vis jacket and fire extinguisher. We’d been told that we needed these so were all prepared. We always greeted police with a smile and a good attitude, and it went fine. We did however underestimate the 60km/h limit outside one town and were met by a policeman with a speed gun and a $20 fine!

We stopped in Gweru, at the Chicken Inn, for a toilet and food break, and got to Bulawayo safely at around 6pm. I was impressed with myself for remembering my way around Bulawayo, and we got to the house without any wrong directions from me (for once)!

Our time in Bulawayo was very relaxing – and once again, it was great to catch up with family. Our ventures into town were quite successful, shopping-wise – Ben bought a pair of flops (flip flops) from Bata, the nation’s favourite shoeshop, for a bargain at $2. I went to the Zonk-Izizwe centre (I love that name) and bought a pair of beaded sandals for much cheaper than I’d seen anywhere else.

RoadtripthatRoared Hillside Dams

On our first day in Bulawayo we went to Hillside Dams, which was rather run-down a few years ago but now has been fully cleaned and is managed by a committee. There are two dams linked by pathways that weave in and out of beautiful big rocks. The dams are surrounded by green grass where children can play. It stands out like an oasis in the rust-coloured Bulawayo surroundings.

We had a good half hour walk between the two dams, then to an amphitheatre built in the side of the rocks – they now use it for educational courses. We returned a few days later to have breakfast at the café there – called The Boma (not to be mistaken with the restaurant in Victoria Falls). We had a delicious cooked breakfast – bacon, eggs, the works! It is a popular place for families because there’s plenty of grass for kids to enjoy while parents enjoy a restorative cup of coffee.

RoadtripThatRoared ByoBoma

We went to Victoria Falls (which I’ll talk about in the next post), and returned to Bulawayo again for a few days afterwards. We got the chance to see some of Bulawayo’s coffee shops (always my favourite part of discovering a city!). On an outing with my family, I went to Rusteak, in Hillside, which is both a coffee shop and home-made furniture shop. The garden and house are decorated in a junk-art style – flowers cascading out of wheelbarrows, garden ornaments made of recycled steel, and so on. In a country where there is a lot of need, it’s great to see ‘broken’ items being re-used to make something useful and pretty.

On our last day in Bulawayo we went to the National Gallery in Bulawayo, which is in the city centre. The gallery is housed in a 100-year-old building with white balconies jutting from its sides, and a courtyard in the centre. The building was first used to manage colonial pursuits in mining and ranching, it’s now a hub for expression and learning. As you walk in the grand entrance, there’s a shop to your left, and Ben and I saw at least 3 paintings by local artists that we wanted to buy. The shop also stocks books written by Zimbabwean authors, and craft items.

We had lunch at the coffee shop, The Art Grove, where we could either sit in an open-sided wing, or in the courtyard itself. I had a tasty lasagne and Ben had a steak roll. My mum still maintains that this place does the best cappuccino in Bulawayo!

Ben and I had a fun morning of walking around the city centre, and looking in the varied shops. It’s such a pleasant place to drive around because it has enormously wide streets, lack of traffic and hardly any traffic lights. There are lots of intersections though and we weren’t always sure we drove through them correctly!

We went to Victoria Falls for a few days which broke up our time in Bulawayo. Victoria Falls was one of the absolute highlights of our trip and very different to anywhere else – read about it in the next post.

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Beth is the founder of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog: Zimbabwe’s first and longest-running independent online travel guide, created in 2010.

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