The Chinhoyi Caves

Prompt: Safety First
Share the story of a time you felt unsafe.

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The Chinhoyi Caves

Zimbabwe, before, Mugabe lost his marbles and ruined the country, was an incredible place. Full of resources, hard-working, well-educated people, both black and white, beautiful wildlife preserves, a healthy and progressive economy.

Well, that is all gone now. But before the big collapse, my partner and I visited an old friend of his, who had a large tobacco and cattle estate just outside the capital city, Harare.

Yes, the friend and his wife were white, and had house servants and a cook, and hundreds of Black employees who lived in their own compound on the property, and had only recently had a school built there (as directed by the government at the time, which was led by the same President Mugabe). Yes, the white colonists were wealthy and privileged. No argument from me there.

The situation in Zimbabwe at the time was just starting to become tense again, for the first time since the white rulers were tossed out and “Rhodesia” was renamed “Zimbabwe”. The farmers communicated by short wave radio, daily. Our host, we found out later, slept with a pistol under his pillow. He purchased all the necessary tickets for our trip and paid for the travel arrangements in Zim dollars, and we repaid him in US currency when we arrived. He stashed the US dollars away for the day, which did come, when he and his family had to flee the country.

Only once did I feel ill at ease because of the political situation. That was when we visited the Chinhoyi Caves, which is a series of stunning caverns that lead to underground lagoons. It was very isolated, and only staffed by one man, who sold us tickets and pointed to the entrance to the caves. Unlike most of the people we met of any skin colour, he did not smile. He glared at us intensely, brows deeply furrowed. I actually felt a shiver, and every alarm bell in my system started chiming.

But we toured the caves, all four of us. At the end of it, he waited, and watched us as we climbed into the car and drove away, safely and unharmed. My alarms didn’t wind down until we were back at the farm. I don’t know what would have happened, or what could have happened, but I know what that man wanted to happen. I get a chill just thinking of it now.

OK, the funny thing is, I was going to write about the time in Zimbabwe that crocodiles stalked us as we canoed in Lake Kariba, or the insects— lord, the insects had me in constant panic. But once I started writing about the times I felt unsafe in Zimbabwe, the only thing I could think of were the eyes of the cave man.

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