The Khame ruins are located about 30 kilometres from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. There is no public transport to the ruins, so to get there you have to hire a driver or sign up as part of an organized tour.
Captain, the driver that I hired, arranged to pick me up at my hotel at 8 am. It took us two more hours, though, to ready the vehicle to pass police inspections.
“There are three police road blocks between here and Khame,” Captain told me. “They will examine everything. They will check and double check my driver’s licence. They will check to see that the air pressure in the tires is sufficient. They will make sure I have a fire extinguisher and a safety vest. And if anything is missing they will ask for an enormous bribe.”
“The key is to always, always carry a fire extinguisher. They never expect drivers to have it. And it stuns them when I actually have one”.
Sure enough, at the first and second checkpoints the police officer made a show of examining the contents of the trunk (for what I don’t know), studying Captain’s driver’s licence, and asking to see the fire extinguisher.
“See”, Captain said. “It’s ridiculous”.
At the third checkpoint we ran into trouble. After Captain triumphantly produced the fire extinguisher, the officer asked whether he had a permit for transporting tourists to Khame. “There is no such thing” Captain told me, before getting out of the car to have a discussion with the officer.
Through the rear view mirror, I could see arms waving and fists pumping in the air. On two occasions, the police officer came to ask me about the terms of my agreement with Captain. Finally, a supervisor was called and we were permitted to leave.
“Did you have to pay a bribe?”, I asked Captain.
“No”. He smiled. “I had the fire extinguisher”.