D. Thompson's Run the World Challenge - 18. Zimbabwe

This is the blog entry for GSN founding partner Dan Thompson’s 18th Run The World Challenge run, in Zimbabwe.
A South African colleague of mine once described Zimbabwe as “God’s own country” – which seemed spot on to me at the time.
I was recalling this, and the great times I’d had in Zimbabwe in the past, as I walked across the bridge from Zambia.
I remember one evening in particular. We were high up on an escarpment in Hwange National Park with a barbecue going and a few beers. Hundreds of feet below us was a watering hole and, as the sun set, we watched one elephant and then another make their way across the plain to the watering hole. Eventually there was a whole herd at the water drinking and messing around. Magic.
At the time Zimbabwe had just got rid of white rule and there was a lot of hope for the future. But the country feels very different this time round.
As I approach from Zambia, hawkers offer to sell me fifty billion (sic) Zimbabwean dollar notes. At the border I have to pay a $55 visa fee – apparently there is a special (high) price for Brits and Canadians. (Not sure what the Canadians did to join us Brits as Mugabe’s public enemy no. 1). Despite the generous payment the customs officials couldn’t manage a smile – or even to move forward to take the paperwork. You had to lean forward through the slot in the window to hand everything over.
Once I was over the border I was met by lots of people asking for money and/or my trainers, an empty-feeling town and a ‘national park’ charging $30 to access the previously free Falls viewing area.
Obviously you can’t judge a country on one brief visit – and I’ve undoubtedly been influenced by everything I’ve read about Zimbabwe’s political, human rights and economic woes of the last few years. However, I think my love affair with Zimbabwe is over – or at least on hold.
And the run? Unfortunately for me, the sun broke through shortly before I started so it was hot. Unlike Swaziland, I was prepared this time. I wore a dubious sun hat and glasses combination – pic above – and covered myself in sun block. Apart, for some reason, from my left calf that got badly burnt.
I didn’t venture into the national park but did go down to the Zambezi a couple of times. And quickly gave that up when I saw the warning sign about crocodiles. I then looped round past ‘Old Tree’ to town and back to the border before finishing my run on the Zimbabwean side of the bridge.
There’s a pretty good view of the Falls from the bridge so I took a couple of pics and then returned to Livingstone. Where they didn’t seem any more positive about Zimbabwe than I was.  Pithily summed up, I felt, by one person’s comment that Mugabe is a “dog”.
Date : 9th March, 2014
Time :  58’04” (Hot, 5 minutes slower than the previous day’s evening run)
Total Distance Run to date : 180 km
 You can read about D. Thompson’s other Run the World Challenge runs at http://www.greatestsportingnation.com/blog and on his Gold Challenge blog.