HARARE, DECEMBER 12, 1999
In spite of our best efforts to ignore reality, our tickets say that we have to catch the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt on Tuesday afternoon how rude! I am nowhere near ready to leave, either. There are still many things to do and to see. The climate, of course, has nothing to do with our reluctance to leave!
On Sunday, we have a braai (barbecue) in the garden, with the family. Sitting in the shade, eating steak and boerwors (farmers sausage) and drinking cold beer isnt a real bad way to pass a Sunday afternoon in December! We also have the opportunity to try Chibuku, the beer that the African people drink. It is made from millet or corn and has the consistency of thin porridge. I would describe it as gruel! Apart from tasting a bit sour and yeasty, it wasnt too bad (as long as you chewed it well). If you were very thirsty and there was nothing else to drink, it would go down OK. It is drinkable and no more sour than say commercial buttermilk, but I could do without the bits floating in it! Chibuku is sold in two-litre brown plastic kegs, affectionately called scuds. A scud costs Z$15 (about 65 cents). None of the white people we were with had ever even tasted it before. They thought we were pretty bizarre for wanting to try it.
On Monday we visited Chipungu Sculpture Park, where native sculptors work and display their art. They create beautiful works from local stone such as verdite, serpentine, springstone and opalstone. African Verdite is a beautiful, dark green marble-like stone that is apparently fairly rare. Zimbabwes deposit of this stone is of the highest quality found anywhere. Most of the works are traditional native figures but some are abstract shapes; they are all very beautiful. The park contained hundreds of pieces and there were 40 or 50 artists and helpers chipping away everywhere.
On Wednesday we visited The Lion and Cheetah Park, just outside the city. It is very well done and has large drive-through areas for the larger animals and a walk-through area for smaller animals and also for babies. Like Chipingali, many of these animals originally arrived injured or orphaned and are no longer able to survive in the African bush. The animals were in enclosures, so it wasnt as big a thrill as seeing them in the wild, but they had some baby lions that were being raised on bottles. At feeding time, they let them out of their pen and allowed us to feed them. They were terminally cute. Their paws are as big as dinner plates, which gives some indication of their eventual size. They try to roar fiercely at visitors with their baby voices and just love the attention. We also watched the the larger lions being fed. The caretaker rolled a wheelbarrow full of beef into the enclosure and made each lion politely take a turn. We did notice that they fed the leopard from outside the enclosure, though.
The animals are all very conscious of feeding time. The cheetahs pace the fence, waiting impatiently, and the lions call back and forth from their separate enclosures, during the hour before feeding. The sound of a hungry lion makes your hair stand on end! They are all well fed, getting a good-sized chunk of beef once a day, whereas a wild lion might survive for two or three weeks between meals. We saw our first eland, more giraffes and some blesbuck. There was also a baby cheetah, a gigantic tortoise and an assortment of wild cats, dogs and hyenas. Hyenas are really homely looking creatures. I guess you could call them the sanitary engineers of the African wilderness, as their diet consists of the dead and dying! We were invited out of our car to touch and take pictures of a young elephant. There was a keeper there with a rifle, just in case! The drive-through part of the park gave us our first opportunity to see zebra close at hand. We got a bonus because there was a baby zebra in the herd. One of the advantages of visiting during the off-season has definitely been that we get the occasional opportunity to get really close to some of the animals as the keepers have the time to spend with us.
One evening, we set out to sample the local nightlife. Our first stop was at a bar called the Keg and Maiden, affectionately referred to by the locals as the Scud and Nannie. We were entertained by a well-dressed, but extremely intoxicated black fellow. He ordered tequila, licked the salt, tossed down the tequila and then ate the lemon peel and all! The bartender was as astonished as we were.
Speaking of bartenders, I must tell you that
the Shona people are a particularly good-looking race! None of
them would be over six feet in height. Their skin is smooth and
the colour of dark chocolate
The instance of AIDS in this country is very high and they say that there is a whole generation missing. This might account for my impression that everyone here is young! We read a newspaper article, which said that Zimbabwe used to have the highest life expectancy in Southern Africa at 69 years. It is now the lowest at 34. One can look, but one doesn't touch.
Altogether, it has been an awesome holiday! The climate, the scenery, the friendliness of the people and the hospitality of our relatives has made it just wonderful. Apart from the fact that it costs rather a lot to get here, it is a wonderful place for a holiday. Locally-produced things like food and clothing are inexpensive and accommodations are available in a wide range of prices. One could probably visit here in the off-season without booking rooms ahead, but apparently during school vacations and the high season that would be difficult. We will certainly never forget our trip to Zimbabwe and we have promised ourselves and everyone else that, one day, we will be back for another visit.