On Tuesday 19th March 2013 I once again left home to assist on a trip to Zimbabwe for the ZPSF. After meeting up with Attie in Maleleane we took the fully laden trucks through to Attie’s home in Duiwelskloof, and spent the night there. We spent the next morning getting our things sorted onto the trucks and getting some “padkos” together, leaving for Musina after lunch, arriving there just after 5pm. In Musina we stayed at the NG Church, they allowed us to sleep in their Church rooms, which was very comfortable, we provide our own stretchers and bedding, but use their ablution facilities, and most importantly there is room to park the trucks on the premises, with a locked gate. A friend of Attie, Joe Joubert delivered all our paperwork for the border to us, which means we can check it all out, and are ready for the crossing the next morning.
Thursday 21st March – We had a really good crossing into Zimbabwe, arriving at 06:00 and leaving by 08:30 – it is not often that we are able to clear so quickly, but it meant that even with so many road blocks en route we were in Bulawayo by lunchtime. I had been driving the UD 80, and Attie the UD90 until now, but the 80 was left in Bulawayo, as it was loaded with goods that were to be distributed by Hannes in Bulawayo. After offloading some of the excess goods at the warehouse in Bulawayo, Attie and I carried on to Gweru and KweKwe. We were still making good time, but near Bembezi the left front tyre blew .Fortunately we were going slower due to road works, and were able to pull over safely. As he always does the Good Lord sent a Samaritan to our aid, he was called Eddington, and he told us that he had seen our trucks in Zimbabwe before, and today he and his driver were going to change the tyre for us. Eddington works for a company that delivers BMW vehicles in Zim, and while they were busy with our tyre he got a call to say that he needed to go back to Gweru so we were able to repay him with a lift back, and his driver continued on his way back to Francistown. We were now way behind time, and had to leave the Gweru deliveries for the next day, as we had an appointment for Dinner in KweKwe with the old folk there. We only arrived in KweKwe at 20:00, but we were treated to a great meal and a couple of drinks at the Club there. This had been arranged by our host in KweKwe, Ken Connolly, and some of the folk from the Home were also there, a really good evening.
Friday 22nd March – we had to retrace our steps back to Gweru to do the deliveries there, there are 2 homes and some outsiders, so quite a bit of offloading, but once completed we were able to get back to do deliveries in Redcliff and KweKwe. Ken had once again come to our rescue – while we were in Gweru he had organised a spare tyre and some fuel for us, what a relief as we had anticipated having to travel without a spare – what wonderful people we meet on our travels. Our next stop was Kadoma, and there while we were offloading Estelle, who is one of the people who always assist us, arrived with cokes and Cornish pasties for our lunch, most welcome as it was 14:30 and breakfast was a long time ago!! From here it was on to Chinoyi, where we arrived at 1730. Despite our late arrival a lot of the pensioners from the area were waiting eagerly for their boxes, and with so much help we were able to get away fairly quickly, we had to get to Harare to sleep that night. It was 20:00 before we arrived at our hosts, John and Leonie Herbst, for the night.
Saturday 23rd March – After a good night – good food, good company and a great bed – it was off to deliver the Harare boxes and collect diesel – once again the diesel was donated to our cause by Jim Forrester, always a wonderful friend for the fund. Our first stop after leaving Harare, en route to Mutare, is always Rusape. The home at Rusape is always waiting for us, with tea, sandwiches and the folk there never let us go without a good chat, it is a stop that we always enjoy. We finally arrived in Mutare at 4pm, where our good friends Des and Sally Becker were waiting for us. They always give a lot of help with the delivery of the boxes, using their own transport to assist. They also always provide great food, a good chat to catch up on all the news, and a most welcome bed.
Sunday 24th March – Today the plan was to do deliveries at Chivhu, and then to sleep at Masvingo, hopefully doing the Masvingo deliveries before dark. It is a long drive, but we managed to deliver in Chivhu, and get to Masvingo by 15:00. Our hosts in Masvingo – Gerhard and Trudie Burger, were in SA, but they had left everything we needed for a comfortable stop over. Johnnie Nel and all the staff assisted in offloading, so we were able to get finished, and enjoy some supper and a much needed early night.
Monday 25th March – we were able to get a very early start, and were in Zvishavane by breakfast and what a breakfast we were given. The boxes for this area are delivered to private homes, by Lynn Dewes, and once they were off loaded we were presented with a wonderful breakfast, everything on our plates that we had been dreaming of!! The next stop was Shurugwe, to off load a few boxes there, and then Gweru to pick up the empty boxes from the homes there. Now we were on our way back to Bulawayo, the truck only had empty boxes, so the trip went really well. In Bulawayo we sleep at Coronation Cottages, a room is supplied to us, and Hannes provided us with a wonderful meal.
Once back in Bulawayo it was the end of our deliveries, and we had a day off. We were very tired after chasing all round Zimbabwe, and the trip home is quite long. Also we were collecting the UD80 to take it back to Malelane, so would both be alone in our trucks for the trip, always more tiring than having company. On Tuesday I was able to meet 2 old friends, and it was nice to have time to sort the truck and my case out etc. We left Bulawayo very early on Wednesday 27th March, and had a good run to Beit Bridge, and once again a good crossing into SA. Attie was home by afternoon, and I was able to get to Malelane with the UD80 by 7pm. It is a long haul, Bulawayo to Malelane, so I slept over in the Warehouse that night, heading home very early the next morning. Linda, Hannes daughter brought me a good meal when I arrived – most welcome as you can imagine.
Some thoughts on Zimbabwe and the trip – The roads are still in very poor condition, with little or no maintenance being done, heavy vehicles are doing a lot of damage. The last time we were there in January it looked as though they would have decent crops, a lot of rain had fallen, but sadly this does not seem to have carried through in all areas, and now especially in the South, the crops look to be beyond help. The landscape North of KweKwe and Masvingo is green, but South is very dry and there is little or no ground cover. As always we were given so much help from people on the ground, in the form of help with the trucks – fuel, a tyre, roadside assistance, etc. Then there are the folk who help with accommodation, food, a good night’s rest, all makes such a difference. Last but not least there are the pensioners themselves, everywhere we stop they are always waiting, no matter how late we are, and always want to give us something from the little they have, a cup of tea, a sandwich, and often they just need someone different to have a chat to. These trips to Zimbabwe have become a part of my life now, and I feel very privileged to have been part of this wonderful mission.