Zimbabwe has a terrible reputation - infamous for being dangerous, for hyperinflation, for its corruption, and for its warlords, there is a definite ethical conundrum with visiting this country. From the steep $75 visa fee, to the $30 entrance fee to Victoria Falls, to the $4 beer at the park's cafe, even day trippers like us spend a significant amount of money here. Imagine how much one can spend while staying a week at one of the country's top-end game lodges, that easily run hundreds of dollars per night for a couple? Imagine how much of that actually makes it into the hands of the people, or at least, is put towards projects that benefit the people? Sadly, probably very little.
For the most part, a trip here does support the corrupt regime, further lining the coffers of those who don't deserve or don't need it. But some would argue that there is still some benefit to travel here, as some tourist dollars go directly to the people, when they take a taxi, shop at a mom-and-pop store, dine at a local restaurant, or stay at a small hotel or guest house. It may only be a fraction of the tourism dollars spent in Zimbabwe, but some will eventually make it to the deserving, and in a country where the majority of its citizens have so little, every dollar counts, even if it's only a small percentage of what one spends here.
The entire visa process seems to be a bit of a sham, paying $75 USD, cash only, for the customs agent to spend two minutes to review your passport and paste a sticker inside of it. At the end of the day, some corrupt government official probably walks out of the office with a giant sack, with a big dollar sign written on its exterior. Or even worse, perhaps some of the money even ends up in the hands of a Zimbabwean Warlord.
Today, we had a terrifying encounter with the most notorious Warlord, Sunni, corruption and perversion oozing from his pores, he made the most bone-chilling proposition imaginable. We were offered one hundred trillion Zimbabwean dollars for one hour with ... me! I refused repeatedly, until I tasted the back of Benita's hand, as she ordered "I'm yo pimp you stupid ho, so shut up and take da money!!! He be puttin' da shizzle in yo nizzle, and you be puttin' da bling in my Prada!"
I've never before felt so cheap and used in my life ... though those feelings subsided once Warlord Sunni graciously offered to take us for a day trip around Zimbabwe and Zambia with his private chauffeur/chef/bodyguard Peter, and his Warlordess, Adilina. Hey, what can I say? Give a Chinese man a freebie, and he'll forgive anything!
We had originally debated whether or not to even visit Victoria Falls, as this is the end of the dry season, meaning that the flow of the Zambezi river is reduced significantly, resulting in a less spectacular sight. Well, that debate faded into our memories after walking along the falls - they say that the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls is the best experience, and though we have yet to experience the Zambian side, we would have to agree, as it was simply spectacular.
If this is the dry season, I can't imagine what the rainy season would be like - the amount of spray in certain areas left us completely soaked in a beautifully cool shower, which washed away not only the heat and fatigue, but also the feeling of filth left behind after my encounter with Warlord Sunni. During the rainy season, I would imagine that parts of the falls are barely visible, with the extra spray generated by the higher flow of the Zambezi.
Completely soaked, we made our way back to the Zambian side and quickly dried in the blistering Zimbabwean sun. In need of refreshment, we headed over to the Zambian side for a spot of high tea at the Royal Livingstone, perhaps the poshest resort in the area, which is no small feat given the luxury prevalent here. Warlord Sunni joyfully proclaimed that the cost of high tea here was exceedingly cheap, at only 150,000 Zambian Kwacha per person - but unfortunately his conversion rate was off, thinking it was only a few dollars.
The true exchange rate is about 5,000 Kwacha to $1 CAD, so high tea was about $30 CAD, which Warlord Sunni subsequently proclaimed as being extremely expensive. You'd think $30 would be a pittance for a Warlord of his stature, but times are tough in Zimbabwe these days after the economic collapse a few years ago. But I didn't want to be the one questioning the size of his bank account, possibly infuriating him and subjecting myself to another sullying at his hands ...
But our day with the Warlords Yeow rapidly drew to a close, as American commandos burst onto the scene, hoping to capture and drag both of them to the Hague, to be put on trial for crimes against humanity. But fortunately for them, and unfortunately for the rest of the World, the pair managed to escape on their private jet.
Prior to hyperinflation leading to the rapid implosion of the Zimbabwean dollar, the Warlording business was much better, and Sunni had the most luxurious private jet this side of Dubai. Carpeted with the fur of extinct animals, gold-plated like his teeth, and complete with a stripper pole and an aquarium housing Megan Fox in a mermaid outfit, it was the envy of Warlords everywhere.
But times are now tough, and Sunni had to sell that jet to pay for the Cristal that spews from his Olympic pool-sized jacuzzi's jets, and the 1869 Chateau Lafite that fills his moat. So like working-class America he has downsized to a microlight aircraft, on which they flew off into the sunset, taking an aerial tour through the gorgeous Victoria falls, one last time. Oh, how the mighty have fallen ...