Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Brief Encounter with Zimbabwe

Formerly known as Rhodesia, Zimbabwe is a less-than-developed country in southern Africa. Although it is home to the fantastic Victoria Falls, it is probably best known on the international scene for its tyrannical nut-case dictator Robert Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe - Reason enough not to travel to Zimbabwe
There are more news stories available about Robert Mugabe and his ludicrous policies, especially related to the killing of white farmers in his country, than I care to even think about let alone discuss. This little piece will give you some indication of what a worthless human being Mugabe is.

During my recent trip to southern Africa I wanted to visit Zimbabwe just for a day so I could get it stamped in my passport and so I could say that I had been "in" Zimbabwe. However when I checked with the Zimbabwe Embassy in Washington DC I learned that a single-entry visa would cost me $100 US. It simply wasn't worth it to me to shell out that kind of money to support the regime of a fanatic nutcase so I decided instead to not travel there.

Still when I was really close to the border it gnawed at me that a new country was so close and I couldn't add it to my life list of countries. Something had to give somewhere.

On my first full day in Kruger National Park I drove north to a place known as "Crook's Corner" aptly named for the nefarious characters who have passed through this area where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique all meet.

Crooks Corner - South Africa is to the south and west of the yellow line and the Limpopo River. Zimbabwe is inside the yellow lines to the north. Mozambique is to the east of South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The parking lot at Crook's Corner is one of the few places outside of the Rest Camps in Kruger National Park where you are allowed to exit your vehicle and when I arrived there I exited. The first sound I heard outside my car here was the haunting voice of Africa Fish-Eagle. Go to this link, click on MP3 Download and listen to the voice of this fantastic bird of prey.

As I listened to the Fish-Eagle it occurred to me that Zimbabwe was just on the other side of the Limpopo River that flowed just feet from me. This being the end of the dry season there was hardly any water in the river channel. In fact the river channel looked like the Platte River in Nebraska is supposed to look - wide, shallow, and without any trees. Several species of birds were milling around on the extensive sand flats including a Hammerkop and at least 2 Water Thick-Knees. There was only one very small narrow channel of water flowing directly below the parking area at Crook's Corner.

The rules for the areas where you can exit a vehicle in Kruger National Park state that you are allowed to move freely in the area. Nowhere does it say that you cannot cross the river and go to Zimbabwe if the urge strikes. So, not seeing anyone who might want to give me a citation for doing something wrong, I slid down the bank of the river to the narrow channel and hoofed it across. The channel was maybe 15 feet wide and the water only up to mid-calf. I trudged on through this water and then moved swiftly over the exposed sand to the north bank of the Limpopo River. Reaching it I stepped out of the channel and into Zimbabwe. I then turned around and headed back to my car in South Africa.

I had, technically, been "in" Zimbabwe. As the former chimp-like "president" of the United States once said so famously "Mission accomplished."

There was only one problem.

On my return to South Africa I turned around to look at the river one more time and it was then that I noticed these guys lining the channel that I had just sprinted through.

Nile Crocodile in the channel of the Limpopo River

There were a bunch of them. How and why I didn't see them on the trip over (there would have been NO trip over had I seen them before my stream crossing) is a mystery. They seemed to all be an equal distance apart downstream from where I crossed the channel. I guess they were each waiting for some unsuspecting fish (or foolish biologist) to stumble onto the wrong part of the channel at the right time for them.

This video of what started as a Lion attack on an African buffalo that turned into a Nile crocodile attack on the buffalo and the lion is proof enough of how absolutely stupid I was to have walked in that river channel to "get" Zimbabwe and save $100 on a visa!

At least now I never have to go back.