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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Zimbabwe Tribal Experience

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

On a trip to Zimbabwe I had more on my mind than just visiting Victoria Falls (which I’ll cover on another report), but my primary purpose was to understand the people and culture. I did this in part by doing a visit to a neighboring tribe.

At the time of my visit the country was experiencing incredible inflation. The currency was devalued so much, to stabilize it they changed their currency to be US dollar dominant. In fact I am actually a billionaire as I bought several billion dollars of their former currency (really just souvenirs today). Today their money system is complex but still pegged to the USD.

I visited the town of Victoria Falls where the main industry is tourism due to the falls. The town is small and my hotel was about a mile outside of town. But each day I walked to town for the exercise and experience.

While in town I was always converged on by the locals selling their goods. Often they would walk with me on the streets being rather aggressive, but polite, in their sales. Most people I encountered spoke some English, which is the official language of the country.

One one occasion I was encountered by a man standing by his car. In many under developed countries there are not many official cabbies, but just a guy who owns a car and tries to make money in anyway he can, including offering strangers rides.

I engaged with the man. I asked if he knew of any local tribes that I could visit. He said he did and we negotiated a price of about $40 and we set out for a one hour ride to the tribal area.

He drove me to the home of the chief of one of the Shona tribes which represents about 80% of the tribal people in Zimbabwe. After introducing me to the chief he remained with me as he didn’t want to expend gas to drive back to town and then come back to get me.

The tribal chief was very happy to have a foreign man visit his tribe. Now this was no small tribe as he was chief of over a thousand people. But he was kind enough to dedicate hours to educate me of his was of life.

The chief

The chief loved to joke and have fun. But what really struck me was his perfect teeth. I never expected to see that! No dentist in the tribe but he said he just takes good care of them. And he was 72 years old and in great shape. They live healthy in that tribe,

Me with the chief. My driver in the back.

The chief was gracious with his time as he proudly took me through his village to show me their way of life.

They cook inside their hut homes on an open fire. No carbon monoxide detectors here! An opening in the roof allows the smoke and toxic gasses to escape. But it was surprisingly cool in these huts by air flow design. They know what they're doing!

They are a self sufficient people as they grow their own food (vegetables and cows/chickens) and harvest their own medicine. The #1 medicine they use is Devil's Claw, a local root. They take it as a cure for many things, including as a primary antibiotic when injured. It seems to work for the chief. In fact, I asked if I could buya large jar from him which he accommodated. It still sits in my pantry.

The children were happy to have me in their homes and were very engaging.

One of the odd things that struck me on the visit was there was another westerner there during my visit. A young white woman:

Curious as to who she was I questioned the chief. He said she was a visitor to the area who fell in love with the area and stayed. She was living with the tribe. I spoke with her some later. She was a very intelligent woman from France who basically walked away from western life because she was not fulfilled. This alternative lifestyle appealed to her. Now she was dating (or married, I can't remember)) to one of the tribesmen.

As interesting as it was to visit, I couldn't understand wanting to live there. Being spoiled by air conditioning and easy transportation has given me a different point of view. As they say: Nice place to visit but wouldn't want to live there!

The huts they live in are small but functional.

This talented tribesman painted with his feet. He took the pictures to town to sell to tourists.

Al though I saw Victoria Falls on this visit, this tribe visit was a far better experience than that. As much as I'm impressed by nature, people fascinate me more than nature.

This was not the only experience I had with the local people there. I had even a more interesting experience I'll post at another time.

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Roger Wells
Roger Wells
14 jul. 2023
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Very interesting.

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