1.22.2008

(first blog ever from Zimbabwe. hah.)

Yesterday morning I decided to boldly strike out from the safety of the hotel for a run. It was raining pretty steadily but it was that typically warm rain that they have here in Africa, all it does is make you wet, not cold. Its kind of refreshing, if you get out early enough in the morning.

We're a good deal further north here in Zimbabwe than where I've been living in ZA, and as such the sun doesn't make it up quite so early, and with the weather as its been in the mornings, its fairly hard to tell if it's actually up anyway. That is my way of explaining that it was dark. And rainy.

There's not much that passes for a town here. Its probably the 3rd or 4th biggest "city" in the country (Harare being the first), and yet there's almost nothing here. There's about 2 places that would pass as "restaurants," and even they are only open when they actually have something to serve, which isn't a guarantee. There are a few tourist-y shops on the main strip (about a block), but they are sparsely stocked and kind of grim. But not so grim as the shut-down shopping mall across the street - banks collecting dust as they sit in a country where the currency has become devoid of any meaning, food stores closed because there's no supply of food to sell - much less the money to afford what could be found, shops and such with no purpose for being anymore. Little electricity or lighting to speak of within view. Last evening while standing on the street, Paul and I were picking up 1,000 notes of currency off the ground, which, given the current exchange rate, are worth about $0.03 US. There's one petrol station that is sometimes open when they actually have some to sell, and that's about the end of town. Head the other way from the hotel, and you hit the bridge to Zambia.

So off I ran out of town, into the lush Zim countryside. They've been getting way too much rain the past couple of years - the Zambezi river continues to rise above flood stages currently and is now affecting not just Mozambique, but also parts of Zim and ZA. So saying that things are green here is a bit of an understatement. I passed people walking from town (those leaving their overnight jobs, I assumed, for the most part), and even more walking in (to their day jobs), and I must have been a rather strange sight - its doubtful that many tourists venture far past the hotel gates when not in a tour van, and there simply are not any white people living here. And it was raining.

Leaving a quiet town into an even quieter country-side was quite peaceful, and given that I love running in the rain, letting my thoughts sort themselves out, I was in the midst of a rather wonderful introvert's euphoria.

That's when I saw something strange on the grey horizon where the road curved away. I don't wear my glasses when I run, so my nearsightedness kicks in and I have trouble making out certain things at a distance, but it was clear enough to see that there was what I could only guess were people in the road, a few hundred yards ahead of me. A lot of people.

Now, this was strange. In Africa, you see people, simply everywhere, walking along the sides of the roads. You can't drive anywhere without seeing this, its just a very normal fact of life here - having cars is a luxury afforded only to the favored few. So most people are seen walking on the sides of the road - you might sometimes see someone crossing the road, but people walking in the middle of the road, let alone a large group of them, well - something seemed immediately off.

I had read all the warnings of the potential for political rallies, riots, etc. in the area, but it didn't seem to make much sense, in the rain, at quarter to six in the morning. Outside such a dead little town, on the border. Surely not here. I kept running. The dark shapes got closer.

As I got closer I could see more clearly that the dark figures were short. Quite short. Children, perhaps? On the way to school? But then every second or two one of them seemed to grow suddenly taller, and then shrink again. And why would they be in the road?

What the…

Curiosity killed the cat. I kept running. And then I was upon them.

I was running directly through a herd (or whatever the heck you call it) of baboons. Hundreds of them, all walking down the road in the direction of town, like they owned the place. Big baboons, medium baboons, baby baboons, you name it. There was one that looked like he might be about 5 feet tall if he stood upright.

A car coming from the other direction - heading towards town - had to come to a stop, as none of them were turning around to acknowledge it. They paid little mind to me, which I was happy about, as I continued to run and try not to look any of them in the eye, or smell of fear in any way whatsoever. I struggled to not entertain the notion of 20-30 of them turning on me and ripping me to tasty shreds in a puddle on the side of the road. And so I just kept running.

Once I was a hundred yards or so past them, I heard what must have been the herd of baboon happening upon a herd of wart hog coming out of the long grass on the side of the road. I couldn't see anything at that point, but the sound was fairly unmistakable.

I like it here.

1 comment:

Tim said...

The visual of you running through the pack of baboons is both almost unbelievable and pretty funny. And possibly not all that much different than work.