Hwange (ZW)

Two minutes into driving I was already loving the new truck. We have so much more space regardless of how few people we are. Everyone sits down and stays seated, nobody lies in the aisle and nobody needs to go to the coolerbox every minute or do “emergency charging” of their electronics via the truck battery at all times. There is no trash lying around and we don’t stop at gas stations to go to bathrooms (we use nature, this also means there is less opportunity to buy high calorie snacks every two hours). A huge difference to the last Gap tour!

An hour into driving we got stopped by the police for a random check. They were trying to find something to fine us for and they claimed it was the fact that we didn’t have a white reflector stripe at the front of the truck or something silly like that. Our two guides/drivers are determined not to fall for bullshit claims or bribe their way out of them so they took the names of the policemen down and had them show their IDs. One policeman didn’t have ID and was not so keen on our guides to have himself checked out at the police station all of a sudden but we drove there anyway and after much discussion the fine disappeared and we were free to carry on.

We did a quick visit at the Spotted Dogs sanctuary. It was raining heavily when we arrived so we didn’t walk around to look for any live dogs but we checked out the informational center and it was pretty interesting. The Spotted Dogs have huge ears and cool patterns and a fascinating social behavior but they are endangered, mostly because of traps that are set for bigger animals.

A bit further on at Hwange National Park we embarked once again on a game drive with a local ranger; a white burly guy from Zimbabwe named Andy. He said he used to be a hunter and he explained the reasoning and methods behind hunting and how the current politics affect the country and him specifically.

The game parks like Hwange actually depend on rich American or Russian guys to pay their minimum fee of $25,000 to shoot an elephant, plus a minimum stay of 21 days with a nightly lodge charge of $2,500 per person. It’s not the safari tourists like us that keep the parks in business. Luckily the hunters need to accompany the pompous asses who need to shoot an animal in order to feel like a man so they will select animals that are older and that would have had to be shot anyway to maintain a good balance in the park. Also, if the rich guy misses with his first shot the hunter will put the animal out of his misery. Every part of the animal will be used. The ivory goes to the rich guy (who needs a license in advance), the skin often does as well, the meat goes to the locals.

However elephants or other animals that die of natural causes in game parks will not be touched, only the ivory will be removed so that poachers can’t grab it. We passed a massive elephant skeleton on the way and even got out of the jeep to touch the bones.

Aside from my usual game drive animals I saw a cheetah for the first time today. They are the world’s fastest animals at 110km/h, however they often eat last as they completely exhaust themselves on a kill which then leaves enough time for other animals to help themselves first. Cheetahs even become prey to other cats sometimes.

Our 28 year old cook from Kenya is completely into country music and Celine Dion. Not even any of the middle aged people in the group can relate to that. It’s rather bizarre to listen to this crap while eating kudu stew with pap or another traditional dish…

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