I returned to my native Zimbabwe with my 25-year-old daughter to experience the call of the wilderness, the leisure of decline and the hope for the future.
My daughter was 25 years old, born in New York, and grew up in a pure English environment. This is her first time in my hometown. Her major is political news, so I want to take a look at the status quo of Zimbabwe in the post-Robert Mugabe period. What is more important to me is to let her know and experience my country and culture, so that I have a better understanding of my father.
My idea is to go to Victoria Falls first. This is one of the three major waterfalls in the world. There are endless visitors all the year round. Despite the exhaustion of Zimbabwe’s economy, the tourism of Victoria Falls has never been affected; then it is the largest and wildest in Africa. The Wanji National Park, the most abundant plant species; finally returned to the southwestern town of Bulawayo, where I was born and spent my youth.
Although I have lived in New York and London for many years, my biological clock has been lingering in “Bulawayo time.” Mugabe’s faintness has taken away the glory of the town yesterday. The Matabele people living in the town are doing nothing, and the production activities are almost stagnant. I hope that my daughter can feel and be inspired.
Staring like an angel
After returning to Zimbabwe for 12 hours, my daughter gave the first comment on my hometown – we were at the Buffalo Bar at the Victoria Falls Eco Hotel, drinking golden soup and watching the sunset. In the afterglow of the setting sun, elephants and buffaloes wandered leisurely in the pool under our feet—the daughter took their eyes back from them and looked at me: “It’s so sad, Zimbabweans are too dependent on alcohol.”
She is really a word. For decades, under the rule of Mugabe, the Zimbabwean people could only bury their grief in alcohol; in November 2017, people finally defeated the most authoritarian in Africa, and they were immersed in a toast. In the joy. Although hyperinflation continues to ferment, the new political situation always leads people to see hope. Lonely Planet and National Geographic also listed Zimbabwe as a country that had to go in 2019.
In the two days of the waterfall, let us enjoy a thriving Zimbabwe. We sat in the colonnade of the Victoria Falls Hotel, in front of a well-formed lawn, and the whirlpool clouds rising from above the waterfall swirled through the air. The hotel is a historic building left over from the colonial era. It opened in 1904 with advanced facilities and quaint style. The public areas are decorated with oak and chintz.
The next afternoon, we flew over the waterfall by helicopter, this is my first time overlooking such a magnificent natural landscape. I really understand why the British explorer David Livingstone said when he found the waterfall: “This scenery is so beautiful, and the angels will definitely condense when they fly.”
Before leaving for Hwange National Park, we visited the headquarters of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. The Foundation carried out a wide range of small-scale relief activities to rescue the animals that fell into the trap and take care of them until they recovered. Roger of the Foundation told us angrily that people are now doing nothing to kill, and more and more people are putting pesticides and cyanide in their water sources. “Poison is now the biggest threat to wildlife.”
The destruction of wildlife and wild habitats in Africa is a huge disaster. The wide range of radiation and the impact of the impact are unimaginable. International criminal groups have been eyeing rhinos and elephants, and land rights and animal ownership are still pending, and remain the most compelling issue of the moment.
Breathe with animals
Although the overall situation is not optimistic, the Wanji National Park has always played an important role in animal protection. It is home to more than 100 species of mammals and more than 400 species of birds. The 6,000-square-mile park is home to 44,000 elephants, a figure that was only 12,000 years ago 40 years ago.
The 2017 animal census data showed that the number of animals rose sharply after the end of the drought in the 1990s, indicating that drought is more lethal to animals than poaching. In the 1920s, the visionary environmentalists built more than 70 holes in the park to ensure the stability of the entire park.
After flying for ten minutes, we went to Linwasha, the most luxurious tent camp in Wanji. There are more than a dozen water sources nearby, attracting a variety of animals to drink water: buffalo, elephant, impala, giraffe, zebra and so on. Sometimes predators creep in, and lions, cheetahs, and hyenas often appear at night. There are more than 500 lions in Wanji Park, and more than 50 of them are active around the tent camp.
I like wildlife very much, so when I was a child, I used to travel to Botswana, Zambia and Kenya. Ten years ago, we participated in a similar camping event in Botswana. One morning, we followed the tour guide and walked around the camp. There was a gunshot from Namibia across the Kwando River. The sound was not loud, but it still disturbed the elephants nearby for food. In an instant, there was a loud bang in the back, and we were so scared that we couldn’t turn back and knew that today we must die.
The tour guide shouted: “Don’t be afraid, come with me!” There is a tall termite mound nearby. It is the only highland in the entire open plain. We used both hands and feet and climbed up in a panic. After a few seconds, more than 80 elephants whizzed past our feet. Although after that, my daughter was still very happy to visit the wild parks with me, but this incident really left her a little psychological shadow.
At dusk, we came to a lion colony where the descendants of Cecil were living. Cecil is the star lion of Wanji and is the research object of Oxford University. In 2015, Cecil was shot and killed by the American dentist Walter Palmer, who was skinned, cut off his head and made a specimen. This incident has triggered a strong resentment and extensive discussion of “trophy hunting” in society.
At first, the lions were still careless. When we got closer and closer, they were alert and the hairs of the body stood up. I told my daughter not to panic, try to keep moving, we just watched an Asian adult lion walking past us. At that moment, I saw a lingering fear from my daughter’s eyes, just like ten years ago. After the lion left, the alarm was lifted and we laid leisurely on the grass as if we were part of the grassland.
The next day, we came to the private franchise area outside the national park and visited another famous camp, the Kuru Jungle Camp. The camp is small, with a total of only 12 beds, giving a simple, natural and intimate feeling. It has always been my favorite camp and was once one of the most well-equipped wildlife camps in Zimbabwe, where kudus, black gazelles and African antelopes live leisurely.
This family experienced great suffering in the Mugabe era, but the boss Sharon is still a very optimistic patriot. He will do some handicrafts during the off-season, and sing folk songs in his hand in his spare time. The daughter said that she felt the essence of Zimbabwe from them – very warm and very strong.
In the last four days, we returned to the town of Bulawayo where I was born. It used to be the industrial center of Zimbabwe and began to slide in the Mugabe era. Although the economic development is not as good as before, there is a different kind of leisure here: there is never a queue in the supermarket, no more than three cars waiting for the red light, and people are moving at half the speed of Londoners and New Yorkers.
Under Mugabe’s rule, the Zimbabwean people can only bury their grief in alcohol.
Matusadona National Park
We wandered around the city and met a group of tourists who followed the tour guide. The Bulawayo are born with stories, and it is a different kind of fun to listen to a few clips as we pass by.
As night fell, we entered a small bar on the side of the road, once a cave in the early Rhodesian settlers, now converted into a hotel and restaurant. We sat in the dim light and listened to the legends of the Cape Colony and Cecil Rhodes.
Zimbabwe has a long way to go to get rid of the influence of the Mugabe era and revitalize economic development. Although the tourism industry has been initially developed, the entire country is dead outside the Victoria Falls area.
As the daughter said, the people of Zimbabwe are very warm and very strong. They are like Zimbabwe’s national flower, Jialan, waiting quietly on the South African continent.