By Dusty Miller
MY word, it’s good to be back in Ha-ha-ha-rare, Africa’s fun capital! after over seven weeks away on a working holiday.
Say what you like, we still have absolutely the world’s finest climate and some of the globe’s nicest people. I stress “some”; strong reservations about others!
One unappealing oddity about Zimbabweans: fairly casual acquaintances, sometimes, even, almost total strangers is an annoying habit of demanding: “What did you bring me/us back?” when the traveller returns.
After nearly four decades here I should have grown used to it.
I’ve been away travelling for the last four festive seasons, but still grimace at the thought of people virtually unknown to me baldly asking for “Christmas Box?” as if it’s their God-given right to relieve me of some holiday loot and my middle name must be Grinch if I refuse to be pan-handled.
Up to now I’ve been asked for chocolates, books, shirts, ties, fragrances, booze, footwear, overseas newspapers, English money, my “old” camera and laptop ditto by scores of folk, most of whom I couldn’t put a surname to; many whose first names I’m not over sure about.
Do they really think I have unlimited capital with which to purchase these goodies and a special luggage allowance and customs concession with which to bring them back here, I wonder.
There was snow on the hills outside Edinburgh when I got there on Tuesday November 23; it remained there, still frozen solid, when I sadly said goodbye to the Scottish capital on January 2. Days there are dreadfully short and mainly miserably, depressingly, grey at this time of the year, but you can tee-off for nine-holes of golf at 9pm in summer
(And, to be fair, there’s little more pleasant than a brisk walk in the Highlands, or the English Cotswold Hills, where my daughter lives, on a bright, sunny, winter’s day with snow lying in deep pristine lambs-wool drifts and the air like champagne…well, chardonnay?)
Egypt was desert-dry warm, with the Red Sea, (paradoxically usually somewhere between indigo- and turquoise-hued) at blood temperature, tempting anyone who can swim to slip in and witness the wonders of its multi-coloured marine life: fish and unspoiled coral often living symbiotically on and amid the thousands of wrecks dating from biblical times to those of the Suez Crisis, and even the Gulf Wars, waiting to be explored by scuba-divers, some, even, by tenderfoot green snorkellers.
I left my son’s student-style flat on the fourth floor of a roughly 250-year-old tenement building with stunning views across fairly well-heeled suburbs to challenging surrounding mountains,with my family rather expectant something may yet go wrong!
On my last major jolly I was in the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, when a disastrous earthquake hit the adjoining territory of Haiti, not quite a year ago. Three-hundred thousand folk perished, two-million were made homeless and I was blown off a bar-stool in Hemingway’s Pub and Grill!
On a previous major trip, heavily armed Somali pirates attacked the MV Melody, cruising between Durban and Genoa through the Suez Canal, when we were steaming just north of The Seychelles.
Soon before that, I slipped off the back of a state-of-the-art safari vehicle in Nyamandhlovu, after sniping guinea fowl and francolin for the pot. Clutching a scoped 0,22 rim-fire rifle, camera and field glasses, I landed, thankfully, in soft Kalahari sand/decomposed granite, head missing large sharp rocks by a few centimetres.
I’d also fallen off a top-deck bunk on a Kariba houseboat while fast asleep, but during a vivid dream, hitting steel decking with a noise which could be distinctly heard five boats away, I was told by Tiger Tournament competitors.
My kids wonder if I’m not getting a wee bit mdala for this travelling lark?
Nonsense: I’ve just done about 42 000km in seven weeks: by cruise ship, airplane, coach, bus, taxi, car, camel-back, tube and on foot on three continents and I’m looking forward very much to being off again in a month, cruising in the Persian Gulf from Dubai.
We land at the glittering, fully air-conditioned throughout, duty-free airport at Dubai at 0300am, after flying from Harare, via Lusaka, Zambia and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I always seem to go in or out of Dubai at preposterous hours. I have to suppress a giggle at facial expressions and body language of yuppie international jet-setters arriving there for the first time, using the gents and finding squat pans!
Brand-new state-of-the-art British ceramics, plumbing hot water and ventilation, certainly, but nevertheless squat pans: as per most Zimbabwean domestic quarters and something never seen, let alone used, by gents with Blackberries, Savile Row tailoring and Trickers’ hand-made shoes, hoping to find a bargain Tissot, Brietling, Rolex or Omega watch twixt changing planes at what is rapidly becoming a major world hub.
ABOVE: Thousands of tourists from every corner of the globe each day visit the ruins at the Temple of Karnac at Luxor on the river Nile, which used to be the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. All pictures by Dusty Miller.