So this airline sells these flights as “direct”, knowing full well that they are going to end up combining them with other flights to other small towns to pick up more people. They give a set time of departure, which is apparently only “approximate” and sometimes leave early without all of their passengers or luggage. According to a fun Australian couple we talked to, they also made an unscheduled stop on a flight to Victoria Falls and then told the passengers that “the President needed the plane” and left all the passengers stranded with no way to reach their actual destination since there were no more flights coming or going from that airport that day. Baylie and I spent all day yesterday convinced we would never see our suitcases again – but miraculously they made it to Johannesburg. A wonderful South African couple that we were indebted to were not so lucky. Let me back up…
There is a cash shortage in Zimbabwe. They had a major financial crisis in the past few years and their currency completely collapsed. There are guys on the streets selling old Zimbabwe currency as souvenirs, we were offered million-dollar bills every time we walked down the street. They now use the US dollar but will also take pretty much any other currency you have. When you buy something, they give you the price in dollar, rand, euro, and pound. The real problem is you can’t get cash of any kind anywhere in town. There are banks and ATM’s everywhere, but no cash. People line up at 8:00 in the morning at the banks to try and withdraw cash and every machine and bank is out of money almost instantly. We tried a few times at ATM’s just to see if we would get lucky, but we never got any cash. I had $180 US dollars on me plus about $50 in South African rand. We figured by using my card at restaurants whenever possible we had plenty to get us through a couple of days. Which brings me to the departure tax that had to be paid at the airport before we could leave the country. We were assured we could pay the fifty dollars each with a credit card. Haha! Not when the card reader machines go down just thirty minutes before your flight leaves (a flight which notoriously leaves whenever the hell it feels like it). We started to panic just a bit. I had almost enough dollars and rand combined to cover the fee, but the guy at the counter was not going to budge. I looked at the people behind me in line, held up the cash I had, and said, “Can anyone loan us enough to get out of here? I will take you to an ATM the minute we get to Johannesburg and pay you back!” The super nice couple behind us handed over a $100.
Once we finally landed I immediately went in search of an ATM and had to try THREE before I found a working one and could pay back our hero. Meanwhile, her partner was filing a useless complaint about a piece of their lost luggage.
But after all of this being said, I actually loved Zimbabwe! The town of Victoria Falls is great, loved the people, and felt totally comfortable there. Could have stayed a lot longer!
So here we are in Johannesburg for two days to finish up our fabulous adventure. I think a visit to the Apartheid museum and a ride around the city on another big red bus are on the agenda.
There are a few of my zillion waterfall pics now in the gallery.