Today we check out of the Kingdom hotel, to start our two night Camp and River Canoe Safari. We weren’t getting picked up until 4pm, so we checked out of our room, and dropped our backpacks (we are only allowed a small day pack on the safari) at out next Hotel. And I was hustled at least 3 times.
We took a cab from the Kingdom to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (approx 5 mins) to drop our bags off. Before taking them out of the cab, I went to reception and told them we were checking in a few days and asked if it would be ok to drop our bags for storage early. We were really worried as they contained not only the bulk of our clothes, but also our Laptops and iPads.
The reception said it would be fine, as long as we had our names on them. I grabbed the bags from the cab to check, and as I did, two Africans approached, grabbed our bags and assured me they would be safe. Even as I was trying to check if our names were on them, they two gentlemen continued to assure me then carried our bags off.
I have to admit, at this time, I felt completely assured that the bags would be safe, because both men had smiled at me, and nodded together and told me they were safe. It was only once we left the hotel and headed back to town, I realised that I had taken the absolute word, of two complete strangers, who I was not even sure worked at the hotel.
Hustle number 1.
We took the cab back to town and the cabbie told us the fare was $20, $10 each way. Since there was no meter (well there was but he never bothered to turn it on) and we had no idea of the cost of the fare, we just took his word for it, and paid.
I’m sure that was another hustle. Hustle number 2.
When we were in the cab, the driver was talking to us about Crazy Money, and the people walking up to us on the street to sell us Crazy Money. As we hadn’t really been on the street, we hadn’t experienced this so we had no idea what he was referring too.
We were only out of the car for about 30 seconds when we were first approached. A local man with a fist full of Zimbabwe notes (the local currently was abandoned a few years ago due to HyperInflation – and after printing a 100 Trillion Dollar note that was still worthless, they shifted to the US$). He had a collection on Billion dollar notes which he agreed to sell to me for US$7 (he started at US$20). No sooner had I completed the transaction and I was surrounded by others trying to sell me their notes. One so intimidating, that I had actually purchased another pile before I realised what I had done.
Hustle number 3.
By this stage I was a wake up to what was going on, and felt game enough to venture into the street markets for a good game of barter with the local store holders. But this was short lived. With more Crazy Money on offer, by more crazy people, and everyone trying to trade our hat, shoes and thongs, after two stalls, we decided to call it a day, and retreat to the safety of our hotel.