Teetering on the brink

handwriting_200_132Dear Family and Friends,
On a weekend morning I counted the vehicles that were heading towards Zimbabwe's prime tourist area in the magnificent Eastern Highlands mountains. The 80 kilometre journey took an hour in what is known as Zimbabwe's champagne month where the approach of winter brings a bright and clear blue sky, thick, shining

What I saw tells the story of Zimbabwe’s tourist industry after 10 years of political mayhem and economic collapse: 3 ox drawn carts, 7 wheelbarrows, 3 bicycles, 2 rural buses, 4 private cars, 4 pick up trucks, 1 army truck, 3 commuter mini buses, 2 big double cabs whose number plates advertise their role here: ‘FAO’ and ‘WFP.’ (Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme).

That was all the traffic there was heading to a place of towering trees, massive kopjes and rugged hills where the granite slopes are papered with orange and green lichen and silver trails of seeping water run down rock faces, glistening in the sun. A place of rivers and streams and magnificent waterfalls where the water is crystal clear and icy cold and always running. On almost every horizon blue mountains beckon you nearer and always in your ears is the hissing and whispering of wind through pine forests.

Mimosa trees a mass of bright yellow flowers; aloes ablaze with orange, pink and red flowers; ‘shiny everlastings’ rearing out of the most unlikely slopes and rock sides, covered in golden flowers and everywhere the bees are collecting pollen, making the most of the bounty before winter. Apples straight from the trees, potatoes newly dug and King Proteas the size of dinner plates: pink, creamy white and with hints of orange giving a beauty almost beyond description.

In such spectacular surroundings in the clean mountain air there are Inns, Lodges, Chalets, Cabins, Hotels and even a casino but the car parks are deserted and the resorts barely surviving. Where is everyone?, you keep wondering.

Zimbabwe is on the mend, the politicians keep telling us – but the situation on the ground demonstrates the truth of the matter. Until we get real democracy and freedom back in Zimbabwe and until fear is gone – really gone – our beautiful places remain all but empty and our tourist industry stays teetering on the edge. Until next time, thanks for reading, Ndini shamwari yenyu.

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