The Eastern Highlands around Chimanimani
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
We immediately drive around to Chimanimani, the famous mountainous region in the far East of Zimbabwe. In fact we’re so close to the border of Moz it’s easy to hike there and back in a day.
Town itself is small and dilapidated, and so we set about learning how money works in this country and getting some small supplies. Not long ago Zimbabwe had it’s own currency and was famous for the world’s highest inflation. Things got so out of hand they issued a one hundred trillion zim dollar note before it all fell apart. The country then used the US Dollar for a while, until Former Present Mugabe and his men stole it all and took it out of the country. Zimbabwe now uses what they call “bank notes” which look like money, and are supposed to be worth the same as the USD (more on that later). Unfortunately they are very hard to come by, and almost nobody has actual cash. We see people lining up for many hours at the bank to get a single $20 bill – their allocation for the day.
To get around all of this a Zimbabwean invented a digital currency called EcoCash, which essentially everyone in the entire country has on their phone, and can be used to buy absolutely everything from plane tickets to gas and groceries. Even on the side of the road it’s possible to buy fifty cents worth of Apples buy texting some codes on a phone. I’m amazed to see even elderly people pull out an old dumb phone and text away to buy staple supplies.
Because both EcoCash and Bond Notes are worthless outside the country, everyone still wants genuine USD bills. We have some with us, and so we’re able to trade them for bond notes at 125% of face value. So I hand over a $100 USD bill and get back $125 in $2 Bond Notes, which can be used to buy absolutely everything in the country. The country is expensive, though this 25% discount sure helps!
We explore the area, stopping at Bridal Veil Falls, hiking up Pigs Peak and I even take a dip at the extremely cold Tess’ Pool with a beautiful waterfall and swing rope that is great fun. Our plans of a big hike are dashed in the morning when we wake to drizzle and low cloud, and seriously, seriously low temperatures. Wearing all my thermals and a down jacket from Canada I’m still cold!
I feel like I’m on another planet to sweltering Mozambique, way down at sea level!
At night we head into town for a beer, and wander into what is clearly a local hangout. A few very drunk men are playing pool while blaring music, and before I can even pull up a stool one walks over to shake hands and welcome us, repeatedly assuring us we’re welcome in this bar. Soon we’re playing pool and chatting away, and everyone is mighty impressed when I beat the local pool champion. When he easily beats me twice in a row I figure out he was just being kind to the newcomer.
Again I’m blown away by the friendliness and welcoming nature of people here. We’re in a tiny isolated town, and we wander into what is clearly a very local bar. We don’t have the same skin color, and don’t speak the local language. Even so people quickly welcome us and make us feel right at home.
I can’t help but wonder how often that kind of thing happens back in ‘the world’..
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