My Extreme Vacation – an extreme sport it is NOT !

June 27, 2008

I think when you book an extreme vacation you should be thinking more along the lines of what amazing adventure sport you can get up to, mountain you can climb, ocean you can conquer – rather than taking this vacation in a country in the midst of proabably its worst political crisis ever! 

You got a fairly good breakdown several days ago as to what things are like here in Zim. It is scary. It is frightening. It is probably the last place anyone should have gone on holiday! But being a Zimbabwean this is our annual pilgrimage to see family and friends, to give ourselves that dose of the bush that we need so badly and miss so desperately in the civilised first world, and to revel in the wide-open spaces and endless horizons. When we booked the tickets way back last year, the elections were meant to be in March and well and truly over by now…

But the reality here is something else. Deciding that it would be better to err on the side of caution we have elected to remain in Harare over the next few days. The thought of heading for one of our favourite places like Kariba on the northern border or Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands would entail a 5-hour journey through the fabled rural areas where a lot of the worst atrocities are occurring. To everybody’s horror though, these atrocities are now occurring on a daily basis right here in the heart of Harare.  

We arrived on Wednesday18th June and were able to change our money at ZW$6 billion to one. 2 days ago we changed again at ZW$15.2 billion to one US. Today it would probably be 20. The freefall is out of control. I have just heard on the BBC (from John Simpson who is here in the country and reporting on this election) that he was with a friend shopping in one of the supermarkets – which have very little in them anyway apart from fresh produce, and that the price of a bag of apples changed from the moment of taking them off the rack – to getting them to the till! This is no exaggeration. We had to return one 4-pack of loo paper because the same thing happened with us! You do NOT want excess zim dollars on you because within hours they have devalued by half if not more.

The largest note here at the moment is ZW$25 billion. This was worth about US$3.00 two days ago. Today it is worth US$1.50.

My mind blanks when presented with figures like this. A meal in a restaurant can cost you trillions. Imagine that?!

But that’s not the worst of it. Actually being able to find the necessities you need is an art. We call it “foraging” and I must say you do get good at it pretty quickly! You have a contact for meat here, sugar over there, maize meal (the staple diet) behind that house, wine (VERY necessary!) over the other side of town… and so it goes on.

So not only an extreme vacation but also an extreme shopping experience.

However, this is the lighter side of the country and one that you quickly adapt to. It’s the fear on the faces of everyone that is so tragic. And you find yourselves constantly fearful too, watching everything out of the corner of your eye, never directly looking at a young youth on the street, stopping for no-one (no matter how guilty you feel about this), and hurrying back within your security gates as quickly as you can.

Bush telegraph works well here. The moment there is trouble somewhere: a riot, stone throwing, plastering government posters on cars at intersections, axe wielding youths or anything along those lines someone from somewhere will sms you saying “don’t go in this direction…” There is a 9p.m. curfew on travelling at night.

The staff houses are filling up with relatives from the country who are coming in with horrendous tales of beatings, rape and torture – even children aren’t spared. Houses are being burned down – and this is winter. Everything inside the house is lost – blankets, clothing, pots and pans, what little food that might be stashed there.

This is despotism with impunity.

And the world mulls over it all talking about sanctions and that things must be left to the regional countries. Well, this poor country has been waiting for regional intervention for 8 years – why the west thinks they might do something this time I don’t know. Smaller countries surrounding Zimbabwe are now voicing disapproval – but Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is the man everyone is waiting for and he does nothing – despite the fact that his own ANC party is now vociferously against the situation here.

And this is an extreme sport site – not an extreme politics site! The next time I give you news on this beautiful country it will be more light-hearted I assure you! There is so much to do here. So many exciting things to do and see. And as soon as we are able to leave town I shall start documenting them!

Watch this space….


One comment

  1. […] My Extreme Holiday The moment there is trouble somewhere: a riot, stone throwing, plastering government posters on cars at intersections, axe wielding youths or anything along those lines someone from somewhere will sms you saying “don’t go in this … […]

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