When I speak here and further in this blog of “Zimbabwe” – I refer to the landscape, the wildlife, the wild places and the beautiful people of this little teapot of an African country… this is an important starting point for this blog. For this is a travel blog. This is not an avenue for political commentary, nor are my words aligned with any one side or other (and by the way, as with most things grey and murky, there are certainly not only two sides to this story…)
No, this is simply a way to let those out there who associate politics with nationality – those who link rotting fish with rotting oceans; those who think Berlusconi makes Italy a terrible tourism destination – know what exactly goes on in the country many have written off as a place that used to be great to visit… If you fall into this latter category, firstly shake your head roughly, then read on… for you are about to be inspired by the country that has absorbed so much and yet still has so much to give…
The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are a well-described, and proud national heritage monument in this country (and rather embarrassingly one of those big fat red pins on my Great Zim map… tut tut). Rather ironic really that Zim is best known for its ruins… the past decade or so has produced more than a handful of other empty shells of former glories, especially some of the sad stories within the once-flourishing safari tourism world. None so sad, I feel, as those fine folks who continued to make the beds, set the tables and clean the toilets in the empty camps, hotels & lodges across the country, in the hope – the often very distant hope – that some or other smiley happy client would turn up unannounced to appreciate that just because one travels to Mars, does not necessarily mean you have to believe in aliens… On one occasion in late-2006, I visited Hwange Safari Lodge as part of an “educational” trip I was doing around the country. In the large, stately, draped dining-room, an old sekuru stood in full number-ones, busying himself setting the tables. He was polishing the cutlery and straightening the starched table cloths of the roughly 20 tables in the restuarant.
‘Expecting a big group are you?’
‘No, sir, just staying prepared…’
And so it was – the Lodge had not received any clients for over 2 weeks and were not expecting anymore until the Christmas period some months away. But the waiter was still getting up each morning, getting into his freshly ironed black-and-whites, and continuing as if it were business as usual… what incredible purpose of spirit. (Made ever more incredible when one considers his monthly salary at the time would have amounted to the value of a tiny pin-head sized chunk of a copper coin in any other currency in the world…)
Thankfully, the country now operates under the US Dollar (officially since early-2009), a move that has made a drastic improvement on the socio-economic situation in the country which once boasted multiple-trillion dollar notes. Which also makes the whole travel thing in Zim much more workable – more doable – and more understandable from an outsider’s perspective… what it also means is that for the first time in a very long time, Great Zimbabwe is no longer just the name of some or other famous old ruins…