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Friday 17 Feb 2012
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Safari at The Hide (part two)

(...continued from previous entry)

There was a small pool, and beside that a large open-plan hut that housed a huge 26-seater solid wood table, where the guests would eat. The food was prepared by their black chef, Eamon, who created some amazing culinary delights each day. Huge quantities of food were consumed with more meal-times than I thought possible: based on the English colonial style you had breakfast, tea, lunch, supper, post-safari tea, dinner, drinks ... and more tea if you wanted! The only thing I didn't like was that you had to stick to a strict timetable so that everyone had to eat at the same time, even if you were still stuffed from the selection of cakes you had at tea!

Table laid out for...
Table laid out for dinner

Mealtimes were announced by the sounding of a talking drum played by one of the black staff members, and on hearing this you would rise up from your gin-and-tonic and head to the table. Mealtimes, and the discussions that followed with other guests, were as much part of the experience as the safaris themselves. Part of the reason I enjoyed The Hide so much was listening to the stories told by the white Zimbabweans, in particular about the hardships they had to go through as a result of the "farm invasions" 10 years ago. Since The Hide was a fairly expensive place to visit, only wealthy Zimbabweans were staying there, and my co-guests would typically have been of colonial British farmer heritage (plus a few South Africans). During the farm invasions in Zimbabwe 10 years ago, whites were literally thrown off their land, despite their families being there for 5 generations, and the land + buildings would often be left to the elements. So much investment just wasted. "There had always been talk of giving the land back to the black people", they told me , "but the way it was done was just wrong". In reality only Mugabe's cronies got all the land, and the people got nothing. Now, like the Prestons who once owned vast tracts of land, most whites have branched out into other industries like tourism.

Surviving in Zimbabwe during the economic crisis also caused hardships, although many white Zimbabweans would do a "food run" across the border to South Africa to buy the essentials. Of course the blacks wouldn't have had this luxury and would have suffered far more than the whites during the crisis. When a Kiwi journalist, who was also staying at the lodge, mentioned this to the whites during dinner, there was a disgruntled silence: many white Zimbabweans would feel far less sympathetic to the plight of blacks, and don't like outsiders suggesting otherwise. They also didn't like my condemnation of hunting, saying that the money generated by hunting boosts the economy (hunting a lion costs millions of dollars apparently). My argument was that culling is understandable where required, but it should be done by licensed operators and there should be no any pleasure derived from killing animals like elephants. They didn't like the idea of culling, calling it "cruel". Hmm tough call there...

I met the owners of the lodge, the Prestons, whose family was staying the weekend. Lovely polite kids. I also met a young Zimbabwean couple, the man of whom is a teacher in the school Robert Mugabe's son goes to. He was a pretty muscular guy and had pleasure in telling me about beating Uncle Bob's son unconscious when he misbehaved (something that Robert actually recommended) despite the kid having his own bodyguards walking around with him. It seems corporal punishment is still doled out in schools in Zimbabwe, probably a large reason why the Preston's kids were so well mannered. Wink

One of the things that I found rather shocking about the white Zimbabweans and South Africans that I met was the liberal use of "mildly racist" throwaway comments. Some of these would have been used directly in front of Daffy, the only black guide working for The Hide (and incidentally the most qualified of all the guides). When one South African was discussing how, due to interbreeding, 2 whites could give birth to a black child, the term used for the kid is "touched by the tar brush"! As I pointed out, if you said that in the UK or US, you wouldn't survive to drink your next gin and tonic. The young Zimbabwean couple were also somewhat racist and when I asked what they would do if their daughter brought a black guy home, the guy said "I'd show him my rifle". When I mentioned that my sister had married a Tanzanian guy and that my niece is black, they shut up fairly quickly.

OK enough about the people that I met at The Hide ... let me tell you about the real reason I was here: the animals! Laughing

continued...

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Sithern Efrika

Travel blog by peterforan

Great White Shark cage diving

Great White Shark cage diving


20 days to sample the "other" down-under... a trip covering parts of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe in February. Cape Town to Vic Falls get the treatment, while I mix in a safari or two... Now where did I put that elephant gun?

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