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Day 98 – The Very Wet Great Zimbabwe Ruins

29th December 2011

storm 24 °C

Sheets of water were cascading down the windscreen as we drove slowly to our camp site spot at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, 24 kilometres outside of Masvingo. The lightning had knocked out the water pump and since we had only fifteen litres of drinking water remaining, Somers decided to collect water for washing and cooking. Using cups, pans and bowls she successfully collected fifteen litres in twenty minutes such was the downpour. The ‘Bear Grylls’ effect had become evident once more.

That afternoon we hired a guide by the name of Helene to take us around the ruins. She was actually in her third year of a degree course in history with international relations at the Midlands Campus of the University of Zimbabwe. The ruins date back to between the 12th and 16th centuries were Arabs and Swahili middlemen sought to trade their fabrics, copper and iron, with the king, for gold and salt. The granite stone walls were built almost seamlessly into the huge boulders of the escarpment. As the passage led higher it became narrower so that only men in single file could approach. At one point the track passes between two huge boulders barely shoulder width apart. It is believed a warrior stood at the top of this gap next to a huge boulder balanced precariously on the edge. Should a ne’er-do-well approach, the boulder was tipped and an Indiana Jones style rolling-boulder-squishy-death would ensue. Even better, the king had up to 200 wives whom he could summon from the top of the Hill Complex by sitting in a cave whose acoustics amplified his voice down into the valley below.”Number one-five-seven get your glad rags on, it’s your lucky day. Oh, and twenty three, start washing, you’re next. Seventy eight, put that skin on I like and don’t eat too much, me, you and my sister are having steak for dinner.” It was believed that birds were the crucial link between man and God and so the Fish Eagle was revered and its statue has since become the national emblem of Zimbabwe. The plot thickens further as not only is it said he ‘serviced’ all 200 of his wives to satisfaction he was also partial to a spot of Royal incest on top of a crocodile skin with his sister as it was believed it somehow imparted strength and power upon his being. When he was made king, he had to go and kill a crocodile and eat the stones he found in its belly. These would give him the strength of the crocodile and keep him in power over his people. There were eight kings, but only the last was documented as only he existed during the period in which the literate Portuguese arrived. It was fascinating stuff and told of a great civilisation in Africa which had previously been unknown and of a type that had been unheard of during that period and that far south in Africa. We’d taken a shine to the bird sculpture and had decided we’d quite like one. The guy at the village only had small ones but he said he could have a bigger one by morning if we came back. We agreed, telling him we’d be visiting the craft stall first to see if they had what we wanted.

The rain had eased but was still coming down as we got back to the camp from our tour. We’d parked near to a boma that we could use as shelter and inside we had hung all our wet clothes. They were drying slightly in the damp air but at least they weren’t mulching into a mildewy mess. We found comfort in the fact that our tent would be cosy, I had put it up earlier and left it sealed on purpose thinking of how soft and cosy everything would be come nesting time.

Braai’d beef shoulder, sadza and baked beans was the dish of the day. (Sadza being the powdered maize meal also known as mealie meal, pap or papas.) We read our books by torch light until bedtime and climbing the ladder in the drizzle I opened the tent. The musty clinging smell of damp enveloped me.

I climbed in and where I knelt, my trousers became saturated, everything was wet, soaked through, the sleeping bags, the mattress, the sheets, the blankets, the feather pillows and their cases, the mosquito net smelt the worst. “Feck, feck, feck.” I shouted. Somers came to see what was going on, this was horrible news. This was dangerous news, we couldn’t sleep in damp things; we’d catch a cold. But how had it gotten so wet? The mattress told the story, the rain had come from the front and bottom of the tent, the rain cover hadn’t been replaced properly towards the front of the car and the torrential rain over the last seven hundred kilometres had been ploughing straight into our tent. The small holes in the cover had only made matters worse.

We bundled out stale, smelly, damp bedding, piece by sodden piece. We slung them over makeshift lines in the damp air of the boma. We stripped the mattress, the foam was like a sponge; this was an unmitigated disaster. We had to hope there was a dry cleaner or Laundromat in Masvingo. Our morale was rock bottom. As for that evening, we had to revert to old-school practices; out came the now priceless inflatable mats that we’d acquired from the Frenchies in Windhoek, we slept fully dressed in the sleeping bag liners we’d taken out of the tent when we went canoeing, using jumpers for pillows. The one blanket that had been protecting Joseph Junior became a duvet, until about two o’clock in the morning, when it became Lauras’ private blanket and my pillow became another layer.

Posted by ibeamish 02:51 Archived in Zimbabwe

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