Monday, January 10, 2011
It used to be that when you went to Victoria Falls you stayed in Zimbabwe but that was before Robert Mugumbe destroyed the economy. The month we arrived in the area the inflation was more than two hundred million percent for the month. A few weeks later the government cut eight zeros off the currency then later the summer they took off ten more zeros before abandoning there currency altogether. A few years earlier, before Mugabe's "land reform", Zimbabwe was Africa's biggest exporter of food and now it had to rely on food aid from other countries to feed it's people.
A few of us still wanted to go to Zimbabwe to visit the Lion Encounter, a project set up to breed Lions to return to the wild to replace the dwindling population. To raise money for the project they have a Lion walk, This is where you can pay to have an up close experience with Lions in the wild. These are Lions up to the age of eighteen months as they get too dangerous as they got older. Our camp in Zambia arranged the trip and we went by van to the Zambia border. After clearing the border another van took us across the bridge to the Zimbabwe border then handed us off to a van with guards that took us into Zimbabwe. You could tell that at one time the the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe was the tourist center for the Falls but now with the political situation Livingston, where we stayed in Zambia, was the new center for tourism. Victoria Falls had large hotels with big lawns and many upscale shops but now looked like a ghost town. I wanted to buy a hat so our driver stopped in town on the way back to the border and sent two guards with me to a shop. As we walked past what were once upscale shops you could see they were mostly empty. When we got back to the van, it was surrounded by people trying to sell carvings and baskets, maybe their only chance to get any money that had value.