Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The Road to Nowhere

Unless you happen to be in a game reserve, or one of Zim's famous national parks, don't expect to see much wildlife anymore. We drove in convoy back from Gweru to Bulawayo and the only bit of wildlife we saw was an Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus), and that had come off second best in a face-off with a car. They are beautiful creatures - a smaller, fluffier version of a hyaena, and increasingly endangered... Two years ago I drove from Bulawayo down tio Victoria Falls - a long drive if anyone knows it - and saw a handful of Baboons and a herd of elephants.

Our driver told us that in years recently past, you'd see all sorts of wildlife - plains game, warthogs, you name, nothing. The same animals that tourists came from all over the world to see and photograph, and which sustained the Zim economy for years, have now become sustenance of a different sort. And for the people that would otherwise starve without it....well, who can blame them..?

What you do see on the road are policemen, manning ineffective "roadblocks". At least you should expect to see them. It had been a long days drive, almost to the border with Botswana and back in the Donkey Protection Trust Toyota. I was turning over the days events in my head, and lazily overtaking a VW combi bus when Jeremy said rather nervously..." out!". I somehow managed to avoid the policeman by deftly driving at 45 degrees across the carriageway, although i did see him wagging his finger at me in the rear view mirror.

"Didn't you see him" asked Jeremy somewhat incredulously?

"Well, I would have done!" I replied. That didn't sound like much of an excuse as the words came out of my mouth, so I tried a different tack. "Stupid idiot was standing in the middle of the road!"

Jeremy sighed "He is manning a roadblock. That's what he does. In order to man the roadblock he stands in the middle of the road. Manning a roadblock while hiding in a hedge at the side of the road somehow defetas the object."

The truth is that Zim roadblocks are not exactly effective for a host of other reasons.

The poor guys standing there in the sun and rain will have no radios, no cars, (or no petrol in the cars if they do have one), they probably haven't been paid and if (like me) you are intent on avoiding the minefields of potholes, then you never look too far in front meaning that they suddenly loom up at rather short notice.

So had I been a hardened criminal, intent on avoiding being flagged down by a nervous looking cop, I might just have wound my window down, given him a cheery smile and said "Sorry mate..not today..bit busy OK?"

We stayed at the Cresta Churchill Hotel in Bulawayo. It was half-timbered, oak panelled and was festooned with Olde Englande hunting and stagecoach prints. I half expected to find Miss Marple sipping a dry sherry in the saloon bar, or Bertie Wooster recounting a round of golf with Gussie Finknottle.

In the 1950's it must have been achingly trendy, and as a refuge for homesick Brits its two bars were carbon copies of the sort you'd find in a small home counties guesthouse or club.

We were, I am almost certain, the only paying guests. Again the staff were perfect models of courtesy, charm and attention. You could almost hear the dust beginning to settle once again as we left.

Simon Pope

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow that is really scary