This trip was an undeniably a valuable experience. The country of people, as my wife put it somewhere around the lines: “...beautiful, poor and happy..”. People who are educated and open but with very little hope for change for better. One lady said with tone of resignation: “We pray but how much time can we spend on our knees?” This beautiful region of Africa, with so much potential and resources suffers. People struggle, government dysfunction, an economic meltdown, shortage of newly introduced Zimdollar and petrol. Schools are heavily underfunded. In many of them there is no money to finish blocks for very much needed new classrooms. Many of those developments started years ago. There are not enough founds for even simple repairs, like changing broken glass in a class room’s window for instance. In one of visited schools, the Principal said that they just got paid long overdue money for … year 2014. Word money seems like an exaggeration when you hear it was just 14 (fourteen) US dollars per student... per year. Bear in mind the prices aren't so different from those in Europe. As a result of economical situation and this year’s severe drought there is a growing food crisis is already at its worse in a Decades (as on December 2019 when I’m writing this).
I was amazed by a vast landscapes and the quality of light in Zimbabwe. I know that many people are stunned by the deserted landscape of this region during drought and I’m certainly in this group. There is a lot of dust in the air during dry season. This creates kind of soft gradient on blue sky which touches horizon miles away. That, altogether with lack of green vegetation and light color of soil bouncing the sunlight creates a very pleasing effect. Zimbabwe in dry season smells off heated and bone dry soil, vegetation and smoke. Smoke from barbecues and burning grass and something else I couldn’t quite identify. Something like vegetation, a bit sweet. I don’t know… maybe it’s just an elephants dung evenly “disposed” in many regions... I don't know.
All trees, grass and bushes have every shade of desaturated brown, yellow and red. Many trees are damaged and shorten by, as many believe, elephants. The researchers don’t confirm that but it seems like a very logical explanation. So, as far as you can see, most of the trees are not higher than 1.5-2 meters. Dry season is a rough time for humans and animals. Especially 2019 experienced big drought which led to death of around 200 elephants in Hwange National Park alone.
The road trip facts
Dates: between 3rd and 13th of October 2019
On the road: nearly 2000 km across North, South and West of the country
We stayed with locals in a village for two nights, visited towns and ghettos of Harare and Chinhoyi and some smaller localities. Visited three schools where we had a chance to talk with teachers and kids. Toured Matobo, Hwange and Victoria Falls National Parks.
Obstacles: Imagine this… It’s the end of dry season and four months after Zimbabwean government has introduced a new Zimdollar. It’s been over a decade since hyperinflation exposed a meltdown of Zimbabwean economy. From then on, you could use five different currencies on the market e.g. US Dollar or South Africa’s Rand. Now, by law, shops have to operate on Zimdollar basis ( this have been introduced just two weeks before our arrival ) in cash or by card payment. The tricky part is that Zimdollar isn’t recognized by any other government nor by financial institution. There is a massive shortage of cash on the market and as a foreigners we didn’t have an access to local money in any way. Another obstacle was diesel/petrol shortage and therefore its prices higher than in Europe... But, we have a friend, patience and some time. So, after couple of days and hours on various parking lots things got sorted… With help of friend’s friends and his family we got in possession of some cash, diesel for our cars, local sim cards and local payment card.