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Pole to Pole

Day 122: Bulawayo to the Soutpansberg Mountains

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe South African Immigration Office has a quarry-tiled floor, modern, efficient air-conditioning, computers and tinted glass. There are posters on the wall but they aren't displaying the beauties of the country. Instead, under the heading 'Look and Save a Life', they show you how to recognize an SBM limpet mine, a PMN (TMM) anti-personnel mine, a TM57 land mine and grenades M75, FI and RGD5.

Outside, the first white soldiers we've seen in Africa check the vehicles that go through. They seem an ill-disciplined, loutish lot, unhealthily red-faced and red-eyed. They deal mainly with commercial vehicles here, there are few private cars going through. Some African women are thumbing lifts on the big trucks belonging to Wheels of Africa or Truck Africa as they grind through the checkpoint bringing cobalt and copper from Zambia and Zaire.

Clem has rented for me not only a BMW but a white BMW. Hardly a discreet way to enter the country, but when you've been on the road for four months in fourteen countries you seize whatever bonuses come your way. I check the map, slip Bob Seger's The Fire Inside - noisiest and liveliest of my tapes - into the cassette player, and flicking on the engine ease southwards into the Transvaal. The economic transformation from the wild, unruly and unavailable to the comfortable, expendable and the infinitely possible, which began at Victoria Falls and continued in Zimbabwe, is complete.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 122
  • Country/sea: Zimbabwe
  • Place: Limpopo River
  • Book page no: 273

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