The Evil Empire?

Zimbabwe has spent so much time in the news that it’s easy to forget that you really don’t know it.  Like some vacuous Hollywood celebrity, we know about it’s failing career, legal problems, and sordid personal life.  We don’t know what’s inside- what exists behind the lurid headlines.  The wonder of visiting a country like this is as much in the visiting as in the knowing- knowing what it is and understanding where and how it sees itself in the world.  If this trip has taught me anything, its that judging a country’s people by it’s leaders makes as much sense as judging an actor by the roles they play.   Heck, for all I know, Lindsay Lohan quotes Faust to her parole officer and Alec Guinness watched Jerry Springer between takes!

So, Zim…  Well, after the chaos of the border crossing I wasn’t expecting much.  Desperate people, lazy officials, and crumbling infrastructure seemed to be the best I could hope for.  For once, I was right.  But, as quickly as I congratulated myself on being so astute, I started to see water in my well oiled assumptions.  The desperate people were more desperate for me to know that they were a friendly and open country than to see my money.  The lazy officials were more concerned that I was driving safe and hadn’t had any problems than asking for a bribe.  The infrastructure was…  Well, it was falling apart and it was falling apart a lot faster than anything that new should.

As Meatloaf said, two outta three ain’t bad.

My first proper stop in Zimbabwe was Great Zimbabwe– a site as great and historic as any in Africa.  The lack of tourists has led the site to become overgrown and rather neglected, but this has also helped it retain its feeling of age and the tourists feeling of having just discovered something lost in the jungle.

The campsite wasn’t bad.

The Dry fitted, shoulder-wide alleys running around the interior edge of the great enclosure were stunning.

But, beyond that, so much was overgrown that pictures just can’t show anything but grassy mounds- the details are lost when you aren’t there walking through them.


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