Astray in Harare

How an app got us to the airport after many complications

Per is desperately trying to keep in his lane on the road in to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The road has no marking of lanes, but looking at the traffic all around us, I am sure we are driving on a road with six lanes.  We have impatient drivers on both sides and they are pushing our car in place.  We have ended up in the middle lane with no chance to drive anywhere but forward. The cars behind us are scary close up and in front of us the traffic is moving slowly. Horns are honking and people are waving their arms out of the car windows.  Pedestrians, cyclists and trolleys do not stay on the roadside, but gets in between the heavy traffic all the time.

At the same time I am looking frantically after a road sign saying city center and trying to follow the map. But road signs are scarce. We follow the stream and after a while we are in something that looks like a city center.

Market along the road to Harare
Market along the road to Harare

To drive in Africa, in this case Zimbabwe can be an ordeal. The traffic is dense and chaotic. The roads are not always sign posted, as we would expect. We are driving a rental car on our way from Madagombe to Harare and a couple from the village companies us, they are attending a wedding in the big city.  It’s always a good solution to have passengers who know the customs and language especially in Zimbabwe where police roadblocks can stop you at any time. The might not be real police either!

Our passengers gets off in the city, we are hugging and wishing each other a good journey and a great wedding. We are delivering the rental car at the international airport in Harare, not far away, but where? We do have a map and it does not look too complicated to find the way. Moreover, we have been there before so no we only have to find the road back. I remembered it to be just straight ahead and of course there would always be a sign to an international airport.

Harare
Harare

We are driving south out of the city and I am looking and looking for signs and street names. It’s impossible to find any signs for the airport and I cannot even find the name on the streets to compare with the map. Per has more than enough to maneuver in the traffic. But at last we are out of the city and traffic is less dense. After half an hour we can see the tower at the airport and can start to look for the exit. But there is no exit. We drive for another half hour and at last we have to realize that the only option is to return.

On the way back we see the tower again, only some few meters within a tall barbed wire fence.  And still no exit to find! I just can’t remember it looking like this. But anyway, our airport is there and it is completely unattainable. Very frustrating and our patience were put to the test.

To make a long story short, it took some hours. We drove back and forth 3 times. Then I suddenly remembered that I had an app on my iPhone, Tourism Guide to Zimbabwe. I had down loaded it before we went hoping it would have some useful information. It did not really, but still it was our rescue. This app had a map and my hope was that it would be more useful than the map I sat with in my lap. We had turned for the 3rd time and were on our way back to the city center, when I discovered that the map had a moving little dot. It had to be our car and we where obvious on a completely wrong road. We were driving parallel to the road leading straight to the international airport, according to the red dot. And on this road we hade been driving back and forth for the last 3 hours! The road had a different name on the map and the road to the airport had a different name than that on the map as well, confusing? Yes!

GPS is wonderful. I found a small road connecting the 2 parallel roads towards the airport and could guide Per to this exit. It was a small bumpy, gravel road and passed through one of the many townships surrounding the city. So we bumped along and we were relieved when we could drive onto the main road and even could recognize environment. The car was delivered, not without problems, but that is another long and complicated story!

 

Stop for fuel
Stop for fuel
Junction
Junction
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