Don't Drink and Drive – a 'no brainer'! Or it sure as heck should be
It should be obvious, really – but to so many who love drinking beer, wine, cider and many other alcoholic beverages with their mates – clearly it is not!
Zimpact is a voluntary organisation set up in 2013 to address the massive problem and so often tragic consequences of drinking and driving in this country. Zimpact informs, empowers, helps, supports and educates people about this huge issue, in the hope that they will make better decisions for the future. Its mission is to bring drunk and dangerous driving on our roads to an end, by championing a responsible attitude towards driving and drinking.
Chegutu Touch Bowl Festival 2017The 13th Chegutu Touch Bowl Festival took place on 18 March at Bryden Country School and once again drew over 700 people through its gates to enjoy a wonderful weekend of touch rugby, fun, music and festivity. 25 teams from all over the country participated this year, including the Zimbabwe Under 20 Rugby Team, and three female teams, and 70 organisations provided sponsorship – including Zimtrader, which once again assisted with publicity. All the proceeds from this delightful annual event, very much geared for families, go to the 20 old people’s homes in Kadoma and Chegutu, all of them, badly in need of assistance. Lots of entertainment is laid on for children, camping facilities are provided and most who attend, make a full weekend of it! The party and music go on pretty much all night and food and drink are readily available throughout.
World Wetlands Day Celebrated at Mukuvisi Woodlands
Over 700 school children, teachers, college and university students, lecturers, government and government agency officials and VIPs, Mukuvisi Woodlands Councillors and staff, and many other interested parties, gathered at Mukuvisi Woodlands on 10 February to celebrate World Wetlands Day and raise awareness of the critical, urgent need to conserve these from any further damage in our city. It was a very festive and successful occasion!
The children went on tours in the Woodlands to see the wetlands contained within it – at this time extremely waterlogged and well demonstrating their description. Many of the attending children also recited poems, read essays, sang songs and performed plays, about the importance of conserving our precious wetlands, which provide so many useful services to us, free of charge. Their recitations and performances were both delightful and passionate, as well as very informative, demonstrating their in-depth knowledge of the many reasons why wetland conservation is so vitally important. The best performances were awarded prizes.
Guest of honour was the Minister for Provincial Affairs, Harare, the Honourable Mrs Mirriam Chikukwa, who gave a speech about the extremely urgent need to protect our wetlands citywide, and prevent any further destruction to them, currently being perpetrated by construction, dumping and cultivation. She strongly urged all the relevant Authorities with the power to prevent illegal development on wetlands to ensure that the law in this regard was adhered to, and enforced.
Well-known wetlands expert Professor Chris Magadza also gave a very informative speech, which included some excellent illustrations of their quantifiable financial value to us, the residents of Harare, and how much money they save us all – as long as they are left intact!
What may be defined as a WETLAND?
The description WETLAND encompasses vleis, marshes, estuaries, river catchment areas, flood plains, swamps, dambos and sponges – in fact ANY area which is either permanently or seasonally water-logged. Most wetlands globally are under threat of destruction through human activity.
A quick drive through the suburbs of the city of Harare will soon show you what is going on in our many vlei areas. These open green spaces which are seasonally waterlogged, have been protected from building development, dumping and crop cultivation by law, ever since Harare began to be planned and built, turning gradually into the sprawling city we know today. The value of these green spaces was early recognised. It is and always has been deemed by town and city planners the world over, absolutely essential to leave some green belts in any city un-developed and in their natural state, for the enjoyment of residents, and to break up what is otherwise a ‘concrete jungle’ devoid of attractive plants and trees. Even more importantly, water supply for the residents is a fundamental when planning any town or city. The vital role of Harare’s wetlands that can be found dotted about all over our suburbs, was fully understood by our early town planners. Harare was developed right at the top of the watershed. Some towns and cities rely on run-off from land higher up, into the rivers, dams and reservoirs that in turn supply their residents.
Not so Harare, which was built right by and around the rivers and tributaries supplying its water, and at the highest point in its area and its environs. This fact appears still to be lost on so many people who live in Harare, which is why they do not seem to place value on the vleis throughout our city, and just see real estate – and dollars and cents - when they look at these important green spaces. Because without them – our water will dry up and run out! These are our starting point for our water supply. These vleis - otherwise known as wetlands - store and purify our water for us. They act as sponges, soaking up vast amounts of water in the rains, then releasing it gradually into the rivers which supply our dams and down the line, the water we drink and use. They thus also prevent flooding. In addition, as this water is naturally released from the vlei over time into the water supply, so it is filtered and purified – at no cost at all.
These huge natural sponges can thus be recognised as a vital link in the chain of complex, intricate, highly efficient natural hydration processes and systems upon which all living species, ourselves included, rely. These vleis were once upon a time left well alone by would-be developers, both because the law was enforced and because these areas were recognised as highly unsuitable for construction in any case, given their seasonally water-logged nature. Cultivation and dumping on them was also tightly controlled, because the useful, valuable functions they were serving, as attractive open green areas, vital water reservoirs and filters, and in flood mitigation, was recognised, honoured and gratefully acknowledged.
Not so in more recent decades – and a trend that has alarmingly escalated in the past few years. Houses and buildings are to be seen going up all over the city in these precious areas, while annual mealie and other crops have gobbled up vast swathes of wetlands citywide. This illegal cultivation in wetlands has run rampant, doing irreparable ecological damage. All kinds of horrible rubbish is being dumped in them too, with unsightly, unsanitary and ecologically devastating consequences.
Huge tarred roads are going in on our many of our wetlands too, put there by would-be developers, breaking them up into segments, damaging them, removing the wonderful rich, dark, absorbent vlei soil, and rendering them useless to absorb water in their natural way since time immemorial. If you wonder why our roads are so often flooded and awash in heavy rain – this rampant vlei destruction in its many forms, is the reason! In addition, these wetlands are home to many unusual species of flora and fauna, the continuing existence of all of which are under severe threat from these many human incursions and activities.
All destructive human interferences with our city’s precious wetlands, critical to the survival of our city and of we who live here, if allowed to continue, will cause these wetlands to dry up completely. That day is drawing close - we are not talking decades away any more! And if they do dry up, the implications for Harare as a city, for on-going ecological integrity, and for species survival and biodiversity, are vast. So if you think those crying out for wetland conservation are just a bunch of ‘greenies’ who only care about wildlife - think again! In the final analysis – YOU are affected -personally. You drink water, don’t you? Can you live without it? This is not a problem for someone ‘out there’ to fix. It belongs to all of us! Download More Wetlands Day Celebrations Photos
Turgwe River Lodge – Community Projects a Key Conservation Element
In Issue 165, we featured Turgwe River Lodge. At the time I visited this lovely place, late last year, located on Humani Estate in Save Valley Conservancy, like the entire country, it was dry as a bone. The Turgwe team was actually feeding some of the wildlife to prevent starvation arising from the dreadful drought. Well, just as we in Harare have been absolutely inundated with rather late rain, so too has the area surrounding the lovely Turgwe River Lodge – what a relief!
Quite a number of Zimtrader readers took note of Turgwe’s special pricing for locals and accordingly have already visited, enjoyed, and reported back to us, or it is on the cards for this year! So if you are planning your half term and school holiday getaways for 2017, now would be the time to grab some bookings, taking advantage of their great offer. One big bonus is that even if you decide to take your own food rather than opt for full board, you don’t have to do your own cooking if you don’t feel like it! One of the services Turgwe throws in, is the preparation, cooking and serving of food brought by those who are self-catering. You won’t be incurring hefty drinks sold at bar prices either. You simply bring your own alcohol, fizzy drinks and fruit juices along and they will keep them cold for you.
Turgwe River Lodge, situated on Humani Estate, one of the 22 individual estates which together comprise the Save Valley Conservancy, works hard to sustain good relationships with communities bordering their wildlife area, and assists the people living there in various ways. Building such ties is a fundamental element in the successful management of any game area.
Those living adjacent to wildlife areas generally have very few resources. Many are subsistence farmers. Poaching wildlife to survive is often seen as a solution to hunger, while such people can also frequently view wildlife as a nuisance – which sometimes damages their crops, fences and other infrastructure or kills their livestock to eat. This conflictual situation with wild animals can be addressed through on-going, year round conservation education, as well as practical assistance in protecting crops and livestock from wildlife where this is possible. Generally assisting the community to improve their quality of life also helps a great deal, helping to forge positive, lasting relationships.
Through education, local people, especially when learning about conservation from a very young age, can attain a deeper understanding of environmental issues, and become more committed to conserving the landscapes in which they live, and the animals whose habitats these landscapes represent. When wildlife and habitats are seen as having real value to a community, the people living there become more invested in sustaining it into the future.
Conservation education and community support programmes at Turgwe River Lodge are seen as vital to the survival of the game area and its wildlife inhabitants. School children from six surrounding schools are annually brought into the game park for a wonderful day of adventure in the bush. Guides take them out to explore and game spot and they learn much about wildlife, the environment and the conservation of both. They enjoy a lovely braai out in the bush, and go home with greater knowledge of environmental issues. This knowledge is then shared with family and community. They also receive donated text books, stationery or other educational items, and enjoy themselves very much.
St John’s College in Harare, via its Interact Club, has a strong on-going relationship with Turgwe River Lodge, and three times annually, groups of students travel down to visit, and to do voluntary work at Humani school. They play soccer with the Humani children, go on guided bush walks, learn about anti-poaching, plant trees and enjoy all sorts of bush activities both by day and by night. It is primarily via St John’s Interact Club that the donated books and other items already mentioned, reach local schools near Turgwe. This is definitely a win-win relationship, of much benefit to the education of all the children involved, whether living locally, or visiting from St John’s.
When Chigwete Primary School children came for their visit last year, the headmaster asked that the school be permitted to thank the estate for what they do for local communities, by collecting litter for a day. This excellent idea was carried out, and 350 school children came with their teachers, and collected 130 bags of litter! The estate provided the whole party with a meat and sadza lunch and all were very happy with what was achieved! There are plans for more such Litter Days this year. In November, Turgwe River Lodge’s Anne Whittall was the Guest of Honour at a special prize giving ceremony at Chigwete Primary School. St John’s College donated the prizes and the children who were awarded prizes for reading, read out loud at the ceremony, and demonstrate how far they had come with their reading!
The photos show local school children who live near Turgwe River Lodge on Humani Estate, receiving donations and prizes, and coming for their bush adventures in the game park.
Sky Running – the crazy idea of running up and down mountains for fun - is relatively new as a sport and recreation, dating back to the early 1990s. Launched in Europe, it caught on very quickly in South Africa, where a notoriously difficult yet very beautiful Sky Run has taken place annually since 1993, with a 65km and 100km option. Participants set out into the mountains from Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape, near the Lesotho border. Sky running involves running, hiking, scrambling and climbing up and down mountains at high altitude. The scenery is by definition spectacular, the degree of difficulty and stamina required, as high as the summits along the routes!
What made this event so phenomenally tough, were the exact same characteristics that had enticed me to it in the first place. The extremely mountainous terrain provides incredible pristine natural beauty, vistas and views, gorgeous rock formations, waterfalls, forests, wildflowers, and fantastic scenic variety; that same terrain wreaks untold damage and havoc on your legs! In addition you are carrying a fair weight on your back in water, food and compulsory kit for emergencies. The tremendously steep ups and downs on rough, skiddy surfaces throughout the course, taxed our muscles and our minds far beyond normal limits, while the altitude also had its effect, the reduced oxygen concentration to some extent impairing running efficiency.
However..... did I love the Sky Run? Well of course I did! Serious, serious pain and suffering and upset stomach (from which it turned out all the other finishers had suffered also!) notwithstanding, this was an extraordinary adventure, challenge, experience and privilege. The stunning scenery completely took my breath away from start to finish - a trip to Paradise! To experience such beauty made me so grateful to be healthy and alive and strong and fit enough to take on this amazing feat!
What a country we have the joy to live in, and appreciate! I was in my element, and successfully meeting a challenge this tough is in itself, extraordinarily satisfying. I took up running 12 years ago. For me it has always been about soaking up and enjoying my surroundings, which is why I train primarily in the bush. It washes away my stress, clears my mind, and I am totally absorbed in the moment. I love participating in running events, too, especially huge ones like Two Oceans and Comrades. The atmosphere, camaraderie and public support are wonderful to experience. I don't really enjoy training on tar in the suburbs. I get bored. Training on trails in the bush and hills, takes you through constantly changing scenery. There is wildlife to spot and enjoy and you never run exactly the same route twice. There are the seasonal changes too. It is never dull, repetitive or a chore. It can be tinder dry, with long, gorgeous straw coloured grass that turns golden at sunset, or lush, green, muddy and waterlogged, with marshes, streams and rivers to wade. It takes you back to the simple enjoyments of childhood - going off as a lone, intrepid explorer on an exciting adventure into the unknown. The Sky Run ticked all these boxes and more. It was far and away the toughest event I ever tackled by a long shot! Just three crazy women and 11 crazy men finished it - you have to be a bit crazy to take on this sort of race!
There were many, many sections that simply couldn't be run at all; rocks to climb, engaging all four limbs, streams and rivers to wade, mud to squelch through, stones to trip on, scree to skid down - simply NO flat ground! Either we were scrambling steeply upwards or skidding precipitously downwards.
“Animals are like little angels sent to earth to teach us how to love. They don't get angry or play silly games. They are always there for us.” - Whitney Mandel
At Twala there are several groups of rescued lions, serval cats, African hedgehogs, antelope, primates, reptiles, raptors and many more. There is also a farmyard full of rescued birds and farm animals as well as horses and donkeys.
The Twala Trust runs an interactive volunteer programme, for oversea veterinary students and individuals who wish to experience living and working in an animal sanctuary. Twala also offers a family volunteer programme where up to 6 family members can volunteer together and share the volunteer house. Volunteers are given the chance to assist with all aspects of work at Twala such as feeding animals, cleaning and enriching habitats, rehabilitation of animals and release back into the wild, going on rescues, helping with veterinary procedures and helping with the busy, free community vet service and feeding programme for rural dogs in the area surrounding the Sanctuary.
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." — Anatole France
To visit Twala, which must be pre-booked, contact 0733 436 239, firstname.lastname@example.org. This makes a lovely
“Kindness can transform someone's dark moment with a blaze of light. You'll never know how much your caring matters. Make a difference for another today.”
Another inspirational group of teens is Rudimbwa. Rudimbwa is the brainchild of Chiedza Mashonganyika and Nakisa Dzimwasha. It is an aspiring Trust whose main aim is to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children. It is currently based in Zimbabwe with the hope to expand in the future. Rudimbwa has visited several homes such as, Emerald Hill Children's Home, Harare Children's Home and Rose of Sharon Welfare Organisation.
Whilst most wildlife enthusiasts have heard of the Save Valley Conservancy, surprisingly few of my acquaintance have actually visited this beautiful area. I confess my first visit was not so long ago, either! True, it is a long drive from Harare. However, it is also a scenic one, and for at least the last hour or so of your trip, you will be inside the Conservancy. Actually - make that two hours! Because you really don't want to rush this section! On my drive in, once past the Conservancy boom, I was very soon spotting wildlife – giraffe, elephant, kudu, zebra, impala and more. The landscape is surprisingly varied, too, ranging from areas of granite kopjes and domes, to thick, tall mopani forest, to dry scrub and savanna. Once well inside the Conservancy, and especially once within Humani Estate, my destination, baobab and ilala palm abound and the scenery really is gorgeous as well as diversely varied.
I also spotted two warthog lying in a streambed in the mopani forest, taking a shady siesta, and took a short stroll to photograph them (pic on previous page). Turgwe River Lodge inside Humani Estate, one of the 22 estates which together form the Save Valley Conservancy, is superbly situated with magnificent vistas in both directions, over the Turgwe River. From the Lodge's dining and sitting area, and from your room, you can sit quietly for hours, gaze out over this marvellous view of wild Africa, and spot animals as they come down to drink. I was there for just two days but in that time saw nyala, impala, waterbuck, kudu, bushbuck, eland, and of course, large troupes of baboons, whose antics never fail to entertain me, down in the river bed cautiously drinking, then moving on. There were crocs down there too, and there are plenty of other predators in the area, so their caution was well placed! If I'd sat still for longer, no doubt I'd have seen plenty more – but with this being a rather flying visit, there was not enough time just to chill out, enjoy this spectacular view and scan the river and the sand for game. Next time!
There's great flexibility and variety in terms of what you can spend your time doing at Turgwe once you have arrived and settled. You can self-game-drive and walk, as long as you are accompanied, for your own safety, by one of the Lodge's own armed trackers, for a small charge of $15 per day for your group. Or, you can hire one of their knowledgeable professional guides at $100 per half day, a fee which when split amongst a party is very modest - and be driven in a Lodge vehicle, and guided, or go tracking rhino, lion or wild dog – or any other species you'd like to track in the hopes of seeing it, for that matter. Plan your trip in advance and be sure to book your guide and/or tracker. Night game drives are another popular option, and fishing is also offered at $10 per day per head. Tsikirai Rowayi, the friendly tracker on duty during my visit, was there to meet and escort me over the river to camp in the early afternoon. By 4pm, we were off on our evening game drive. First wildlife spotted, was a sizable leopard tortoise; not often seen in the wild, thus a rare treat! Later, imagine my delight, to spot three retreating black rhino at dusk during this drive – another very rare sight indeed, and a privilege! We were even able to alight from our vehicle and walk quite close to this family group of mum, dad and youngster. There was no breeze to carry our scent to these magnificent beasts and we got remarkably near to them – though by then I was somewhat wary, having once been charged by a black rhino while on a game walk, about 20 years ago in the Matusadona. Though I was not harmed, it was a rather narrow escape and a far too 'up-close-and-personal' lesson in just how huge these animals are, and just how fast they can run, when they feel under threat from humans!
I cannot offer photographic evidence of this rhino sighting at Turgwe, as the light had faded fast - and sometimes, in any case, one just wants to enjoy and soak up a wildlife experience that is this special. Along with a whole host of other species spotted during our evening drive – eland, zebra, kudu, impala, wildebeest, giraffe, duiker, dwarf mongoose, plus the elephant I'd seen on my way in, earlier in the day – this counted as a somewhat astonishing game-spotting experience in an incredibly short period of time. All these species were seen and enjoyed, between 1 and 7pm before I'd even spent a night at Turgwe!
Of course, I hoped we might also see them, though perhaps I was by now getting greedy! The icing on my Turgwe visit cake, though, along with the black rhino seen the previous evening, soon came! Towards the end of our night drive while looking for the elusive lion we'd heard, a stunning male leopard glided elegantly over the road ahead. He very obligingly lay down in clear, full sight by our spotlight, about 150 metres from the vehicle! There he remained, nonchalantly watching us watching him, for a long time, allowing me both to enjoy studying his every detail with my powerful binoculars, and even, to get a few full zoom photos! In fact he only moved off when we restarted the vehicle, whose battery might otherwise have run dry, due to extended spotlight use with engine off. This was a truly wonderful sighting of which I enjoyed every second!
In addition, they can often be in conflict with the wildlife, which, especially in drought conditions, can break fences and raid crops. Conservation education is thus vitally important for people living close to wildlife areas. A fuller understanding of all the issues goes a long way towards ensuring some commitment by local people, in turn, helping to conserve both the landscapes and the animals. Turgwe River Lodge has an excellent programme in its efforts to achieve these important goals and maintain good relationships with local people. Parties of school children from six surrounding schools are brought in using estate transport for a day's adventure trip each year. They are taken out into the park by Turgwe guides and learn much about wildlife and conservation. They receive donated text books and thoroughly enjoy their visits. They love their picnic and braai lunch out in the bush, and go away with greater knowledge of wildlife and conservation, which in turn they share with parents and community.
In addition, Turgwe has a strong relationship with the Interact Club at St John's College in Harare. Three times a year, groups of boys come down for a visit. They go to work at the nearby Humani school and enjoy soccer matches with the children there. They plant trees, go on bush walks, learn about conservation and anti-poaching and enjoy lots of exciting activities, day and night. They donate hundreds of text books and other items to local schools in the area.
The resident staff at Turgwe comprise waitresses who assist in the kitchen, serve food, and look after the rooms, trackers, and cook Leadmore Dengu, who has worked here for 10 years. Tsikirayi Rowayi, the tracker who kept me well entertained with activities, was born and grew up at Humani, his father, a tracker before him, and has worked here since 2000. Lucia Matonzi, the waitress on duty for my visit, has worked on the estate since 1994, as did her parents before her. She has been employed at the Lodge since 2004. From 2013 to 2015, she worked at Miri Miri Lodge in Mozambique. Kenneth Marime, tracker and handyman who was spotter during our night game drive, has worked here since 1982 – his whole adult life. The excellent professional guide Lyman Chitamela, whom I met on my last visit, is called in when pre-booked by guests. So – if you are keen to see lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhino, wild dog and a vast number of other exciting animals and birds, enjoy some beautiful, varied landscapes, and are looking for an inexpensive option, Turgwe River Lodge comes highly recommended; especially if you like to be cooked for while on a bush holiday, without having to spend heaps of money!
2016 Eco Schools Enviro Challenge and Awards
Several hundred school children, students, teachers, VIPs and others descended on Mukuvisi Woodlands on 21 October for the annual Eco Schools Challenge and Awards event, which ran 9am to 3pm. Well organised and well attended, the theme was ‘My Environment, My Future, My Responsibility’, encompassing all natural resources and the environmental projects being implemented by Eco Schools Member Clubs, whose members seek to improve people’s lives, whilst ensuring national environmental sustainability, and caring for the Earth. Guest of Honour was the Honourable Doctor Lazarus Dokora, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education.
The Eco Schools Enviro Challenge was again sponsored by the Delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe and the French Embassy in Zimbabwe generously sponsored various prizes, while UNICEF, Total Zimbabwe and Castrol also provided kind assistance. VIP representatives from the Embassy of France, the European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe, UNICEF and Total Zimbabwe attended the event and several gave speeches. The event included an exhibition of competition entries and stands hosted by organisations relevant to conservation, held outdoors near the Mukuvisi Woodlands Education Centre. Outside organisations exhibited under the following broad themes: Trees and herbs, Wildlife, Water, Waste and Climate Change.
Schools countrywide participate in various categories in the Enviro Challenge competition which is held annually as a tool for evaluating environmental stewardship and awareness among primary and secondary schools involved in the Eco-Schools Programme in Zimbabwe, run by the Mukuvisi Woodlands Environmental Education Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Themes covered by the competition include Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, Waste Management, Water, Soil and Energy Use, Nature and Biodiversity, and Global and Local Issues.
This year’s event was held against the backdrop of the COP 21 Paris agreement, and as a follow up to the Walk-to-Paris Zimbabwe Cop 21 campaign launched last year by the French Embassy in Harare and the EU in collaboration with UNICEF and the Mukuvisi Woodlands Eco-Schools Programme. The 2016 Enviro-Challenge also reflected on the Clean Energy Workshops for School Clubs Leaders which were supported by UNICEF as part of the Eco-Schools capacity-building projects conducted in three provinces of Zimbabwe. The event gave participating schools the opportunity to showcase their talent and their contribution to education for sustainable development in our country through conservation and protection of the environment.
In the Art Category, Primary Schools entered a drawing competition. Through art, the children demonstrated their understanding of: Climate Change, Wetland Life, Forest Life, Waste Management and Threats to Birds of Prey. The Secondary Schools competed in Model Design, to illustrate for exhibit: Climate Change, a CAMPFIRE Village, Land Degradation, Recycling, Renewable and Non-Renewable Energy.
Both Primary and Secondary Schools competed in the other Categories, which were Practical Survival Skills and Treasure Hunt in the Woodlands, Song and Dance plus Drama and Poetry about environmental issues, and the Quiz.
Lunch was provided for participants through the generosity of the sponsors. Afterwards, the VIPS toured the exhibition, and the speeches, prize-giving and performances by some of the prize winners in the song and dance and poetry and drama categories followed.
This was a festive, uplifting event which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who attended. The Eco Schools Programme run by Mukuvisi Woodlands is playing a pivotal role in our country’s important environmental education. As more and more children come right up through our school system from the age of five upwards to when they leave school, so efforts like this programme and the school curricula which focus on environmental issues, are helping to create a future in which all people in Zimbabwe have a fuller understanding of the burning issues of our day which constantly threaten our natural resources.
Children and young people engaging in the Eco Schools Programme clearly demonstrate a deep respect for their natural environment and a good grasp of how to use their natural resources in a more sustainable manner. The knowledge and skills they acquire through this Programme spread through them and their enthusiasm to their wider communities. They help shape a brighter future, with less mismanagement and degradation of the environment, less waste and better waste management, better conservation and care of wetlands, forests, wildlife and the landscape in general, and an awareness that so much of what we do has an adverse effect on the environment and contributes to climate change - now an observable, tangible reality here and all over the globe.
There is no more powerful tool in the constant fight to save the world’s natural environment and wildlife of every kind from continued destruction and extinction, than continuous education about all the issues, from the youngest age possible. Mukuvisi Woodland’s Eco School Programme is a flagship for such education, which is combined with fun, enjoyment and hands-on experience every step of the way, cementing all that is learned in the most memorable way, which the children then carry with them for life.
Inaugurated last year through the efforts of ultra runner Ben Burr, this year’s Umfurudzi Trail Run was expanded to include a 50km ultra marathon. In addition, instead of offering the 25km route as both an individual and relay race, this distance remained, but as an individual challenge, along with a 7.5km and 12.5km trail run. Ben’s goal is to establish trail running as a better-known genre in Zimbabwe. It is all the rage in South Africa and globally, but in its infancy here. I for one am delighted. This is my favourite type of running and I do most of my training on trail in any case! Our country boasts so many scenic areas and so much wildlife that the potential for superb trail running events is vast. The next on the calendar is the 53km Sky Run in Nyanga, organised by Far and Wide, also in its second year and using their Turaco Trail which includes running along the top of Mount Inyangani!
As last year, the primary sponsor of the Umfurudzi event was Unifreight, which went into a joint venture with National Parks here in 2010. Since then an extremely well-equipped rest camp has been built and the game park well re-stocked, following the tragic loss of vast numbers of animals to poaching. Fences have been refurbished and visitor numbers have much increased. The lovely Rest Camp boasts a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. This beautiful game park encompasses 760 square kilometres of pristine bush in undulating landscape which includes mountainous terrain. In addition to the National Parks Rest Camp, Hippo Pools Camp about 12 kilometres away built by conservationist Iain Jarvis 34 years ago continues to this day, with his network of marked hiking trails which combined, incorporate a distance of almost 300km, through some truly gorgeous landscapes. Less than 3 hours’ drive from Harare, Umfurudzi is well worth a visit, whether for a day, a weekend or much longer.
Last year’s event drew a sizeable crowd of runners keen to experience the adventure of the trail, many of them trying out this type of running for the first time. As regularly happens in trail races worldwide, a fair number of those tackling the 25km race went astray, adding extra mileage. It is easy to miss a trail marker when one is very hot and tired, and the temperature, both last year and this, was extreme – reaching 39°C. Accordingly the 25km route was very well marked this year! The four events attracted an even bigger crowd, including most who were at last year’s event, and plenty more besides! It was a great excuse for a weekend away in a beautiful game park.
A small group of runners decided to tackle the 50km ultra marathon, a very challenging distance on road, even more so on trail. Whilst trail running is a bit gentler on joints and muscles in terms of impact, it is much more strenuous and demanding in terms of strength and endurance. In addition this race has the added challenge of extremely high temperature which inevitably makes a race harder. Some of us got together for some training runs prior to the event and had a lot of fun, practising using the compulsory GPS to navigate, and getting some experience of running off road and carrying hydration packs. I enjoyed sharing my regular trails with this group – most of whom train on tar and had not known such scenic places were so close to home!
At the race briefing we were assured the route was very well-marked and the GPS merely a precaution, with all junctions clearly marked by several red ribbons. Most of us took this literally and did not even turn our devices on at race start. This proved to be a tactical blunder! All but two runners – the fastest, who left the rest of us for dust – missed the somewhat obscure single marker for probably the most important junction in the 50 kay race – a sharp right turn into the bush! This left 90% of the field erroneously following the 25km route with its extremely prominently marked sharp left turn about 3 km from there! Convinced this was the correct route, several of us added over 7km to our race at this early point in the proceedings, and by race end, some had increased that to almost 13km! Those who self-corrected earlier added 3. No matter – because really, this race was more about the experience than about winning! Several of us who added a lot of extra distance eventually bailed, succumbing to heat exhaustion. We had a fine time, most of the time, nonetheless, enjoying the camaraderie for which this sport is well known! And the moral if this story is – we will rely 100% on our GPS track next year - forget the markers!
We made a lovely Umfurudzi weekend of it again, staying in one of the superb chalets in the rest camp, and our niece Carly, aged 11, ran the 12.5km route for a second year - what an achievement, especially in such extreme heat. Sarah Nott and Rob Swinton enjoyed the 7.5km run, then pitched in to record the times and prepare the results. Congratulations are due to all runners for tackling these races in extreme heat and to Ben and the rest of the crew for organising this super event.
Over 1000 people gathered at lovely Haka Game Park in Harare on 18 September to fly Kites for Peace and celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace.
The large and diverse crowd of people from across the spectrum of backgrounds and ages came out with their children, picnic baskets and kites to unite for Peace; peace within themselves, within our community and across the globe. They celebrated our beautiful country, its diversity, its beautiful environment and each other, by unifying to fly their kites simultaneously with Peace in mind.
Haka Game Park was the perfect Zimbabwean backdrop for the bright kites that filled the sky above it. Wildlife wandered peacefully close by, as children squealed with delight and adults rediscovered their youth. People's hearts soared as their kites did the same!
25 charities participated in this year's event. Representatives from different causes fund-raised and raised awareness of their respective causes. Selling items such as kites, drinks and ice lollies, each contributed to the day with their lively presence and we all learnt so much about the good that is being done in our communities.
Superb musicians shared their talents and uplifted the crowd and everyone did their bit to share the message of Peace. This was a beautiful, perfect day, which inspired us all to appreciate the best of what our country has to offer: Magical landscapes and peace-loving people.
All who attended of every age embraced the spirit of the day with peace, love and compassion, creating a beautiful atmosphere.
‘He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternity's sunrise,’ said Joshua Warren, who came to enjoy the event. ‘On Sunday I felt that the experience was a physical manifestation of my own dreams too. To rise above the earth with all its lines of separation. There are NO borders in the air! I so needed to fly kites today. As I arrived at Cleveland Dam on the outskirts of Harare and saw the sky teeming with them, my inner child LEAPT out and could barely wait to be on the flying field! To see Zimbabweans of all races, creeds and age-groups mingling in support of community projects and conservation was heart-warming. To run amok on a field in a nature and wildlife park, surrounded by children and families engaging in the sheer thrill of flying kites, is tonic for the soul. I loved it! I really, really LOVED IT! Thank you to everybody involved in ‘Kites for Peace Zimbabwe. Uplifting, magical, fun, inspirational and encouraging.’
There is always entertainment laid on for children, and food and drink on sale, and lots of people bring their braais and make a lovely sunny day's outing of it. The track at Donnybrook has been totally resurfaced this year and looks amazing, and the unspoilt natural surrounds at this raceway are really beautiful, with many large shady indigenous trees and at this time of year, lovely golden grass. Enjoy Zimtrader's photos of the most recent edition!
The grand finale in the Telecel Drag Racing Series takes place Sunday 2 October at Donnybrook. Gates open at 10.30am and the event runs through to 5pm. It's bound to be exciting, and remember that this sport is open to the public to enter, too. There are 13 Classes open to all makes and models of cars and motor cycles, from standard road vehicles to highly modified performance vehicles. Prizes and trophies are awarded to the Top Three in each Class, and driver and rider registration closes at 2.30pm. Admission $5, children under 12 free.
The 'Own Your Rubbish' Project is the ingenious brainchild of photographer and creative director Laurie Macpherson. Working with four community groups, namely The Zee-Bag Project, Shingirirai Trust, Happy Organisation and Hope Group, plus 12 individual local artists, all of whom work with rubbish and found objects, Laurie has set out to make all of us far more aware of all the rubbish we create and then discard. Her project is successfully demonstrating to a wide audience, just how we can put much of our rubbish to much better use.
'Own Your Rubbish' is helping to promote artists and craftspeople who work with this medium, by showcasing their creations, uplifting and increasing their skills, and providing training on new product lines, more visibility and greater economic security. The project is also educating the public about our personal responsibility for all the rubbish we generate, and helping to improve attitudes and behaviour around this important local and global environmental issue.
The exhibition has been and is going up at several venues. Each time it moves, while the core of the show remains the same, new pieces go on display and for sale. Opportunities are offered to additional exhibitors, whether artists, environmental groups or others who wish to feature something they do or have created around the issue of rubbish. They demonstrate how livelihoods can be made from rubbish or highlight relevant environmental and ecological issues which urgently need to be voiced and addressed. The project has received funding from the European Union through the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe and highlights how citizens can and do take responsibility for their own consumerism and hence, their rubbish.
So far the exhibition, which has been designed for easy mobility and transfer between different venues, has been shown at the National Gallery and the Tsoko Gallery. Next stops are the Harare Agricultural Show, 24 to 29 August and the Shoko Festival, 23 to 25 September.
I ran my first Comrades Marathon last year. After crossing the Finish line following a gruelling average 11 to 12 hours pounding the tarmac, through terrain that is anything but flat, runners are often heard to utter in agonised tone, 'Never again!' Some stick to that. They continue running, but take on less extreme distances. For others, the sentiment lasts a few minutes to a few hours, or possibly till the following morning. Whichever it is, their minds rapidly change. The plan to repeat the experience is soon announced to fellow runners, friends and family. Runners who witness this swift mind-changing are never very surprised. Family and friends, more often than not, roll their eyes, shake their heads in disbelief at such madness, and groan out loud!
I finished my first Comrades with 7 minutes to spare before the 12 hour cut-off. It was tight, thus nerve-wracking towards the end - so I was thrilled beyond description to make it in the allotted time – putting me in the good company of the annual average 60% of the entire field of entrants who finish this daunting race in its last hour. We are the plodders, the novices, and the ordinary, average recreational runners, across all adult age groups from our 20s to our 70s, who for thousands of individual reasons, at some stage, for some reason, in some mad moment, or by some spark of sudden inspiration, stop looking at the Comrades as a goal beyond our capability. This year over a third of the field (7000 runners) were novices – a Comrades record. Comrades is increasingly famous, more and more sought after as the pinnacle of achievement towards which runners across the globe aspire. And a fair number of entrants go from literally zero running, to successfully running the Comrades, in the space of just one year. This actually can be done, with the right training, necessary discipline and focus. I started running in 2004 and entering races in 2008 in my late 40s. I loved the whole experience: The training and preparation, excitement of the Start, collective energy and camaraderie amongst runners, support along the route, the satisfaction and joy of successfully finishing a race. For 6 years, as I built up my experience of half marathons (21km), 21 to 25 km Trail Runs, 'Twenty Miler' (32km) road races and ultimately, Marathons (42km), my answer to 'When will you run the Comrades?' remained 'Never. It's just too far, too hard, and would take too much time to train for'. When I discovered Comrades 2015 would be the 90th Anniversary of this iconic 90km race, however, I paused. I went to the website. I cruised around. I opened my mind. Curious as to whether the training load would be entirely impractical as I'd always assumed, I downloaded the novice Finisher's (sub 12 hours) and Bronze (sub 11 hours) Training Programmes prepared by official Comrades coach Lindsey Parry. Studying these, I was pleasantly surprised! Time-based rather than mileage-based programmes, the requisite running hours were not significantly more than my current, much enjoyed, load. I've never found training a chore. I run mostly in the bush. It's an altogether pleasurable experience. The scenery is great, the landscapes constantly changing. It's never dull or repetitive. The runners I'd previously chatted to about Comrades had often described gruelling amounts of necessary mileage, and not 'having a life' beyond working and training! But most were fast runners who finish in 9 hours or less. If you want a Silver medal (sub 7½ hours), or a Bill Rowan medal (sub 9, named after the first Comrades winner in 1921) you really must put in huge mileage and have almost no life, if you are working, not retired or a professional runner. If you are an ordinary runner as I am, and would be thrilled simply to finish by 12 hour cut-off, or with a sub 11 hour Bronze, it appeared not to be so, after all…
I could never have imagined how hard the Comrades was. No one can. You have to do it, to know what determination is involved and how much pain you have to tolerate; yet I was one of those who announced my decision to 'do it again next year' within 20 minutes of finishing Comrades 2015. There is something very special indeed about this race. There is its incredibly long history; its birth in 1921 as a deliberately gruelling race in memory of those who fell in the First World War, that their suffering and sacrifice might never be forgotten; its evolution into the phenomenal event it is today, with around 20 000 entrants annually from all corners of the earth; its reputation as a race with the most amazing level of spectator support and a true sense of bonding and fellowship amongst the runners; there is the moving, emotional start, as excitement, anticipation and not a little fear build up to the climactic starter's canon, with its historical sequence of SA national anthem, Ndebele song Shosholoza ('go forward'!), the stirring Chariots of Fire film theme tune, the iconic recording of Max Trimbourne's famous cockerel crow imitation, then 'boom' the canon fires, and the race has begun; the indescribable elation crossing the Finish, and the immense pride, in knowing just what an achievement that really is, because only by running it can you possibly know how much this race taxes your body and mind. In the end, it is mind power that gets you to the end. Your body has spent at least 40 km sending signals which translate to, 'are you entirely mad?' and, over and over, 'STOP already'! There is the confidence, empowerment and kudos that come with having pushed through all that pain to finish; the enhanced physical strength and endurance that are the legacy of the training and race; the memories to be carried forever of the whole experience as a composite; the hard-earned, cherished medal, badge, shirt, plus other memorabilia acquired at the pre-race Expo, used and worn with so much pride. It's an all-round, 'feel good' for supporters and runners alike, extreme pain and difficulty notwithstanding! All things considered, it's not so surprising, after all, that people keep repeating it! So, to my first Down Run. I set my sights on the 'Back to Back' medal, introduced in 2005, for those who run their first and second Comrades consecutively, and on a Bronze, for finishing in under 11 hours. By late 2015, I'd acquired a few great books by authors who'd been interviewed on the running podcasts I was following to prepare for Comrades. I'd learned a lot more about training smarter, not just accumulating mileage. When the Coach Parry Online Community launched in January this year, I signed up right away. For a small monthly fee this provided privileged access to webinars, Q and A sessions, and to the coach, who answers members’ questions directly, plus a private Facebook group where members, coach, and podcast interviewer interact, compare notes and share information, stories and humour. This all proved very helpful and informative indeed. My confidence that I could achieve a Bronze grew, as I put into practice so many tips and concepts I'd picked up via these resources and my books. I improved my qualifying marathon time, putting myself into G seeding for Comrades, shaved 43 minutes off my Two Oceans ultra, and was fully psyched for Comrades Number 2! I'd been warned by experienced Comrades runners to expect the Down Run to be harder than the Up, which sounds counter-intuitive. So I wasn't sure what to expect. This year, I joined in with the Comrades International Fun Run three days prior to race day, an easy 5 km trot along the beach front in Durban and a chance to meet others from all over the globe. It was fun, social and interesting. From there, it was off to Registration and the Expo and a reminder of just how well-oiled a machine the Comrades Marathon really is. With the volumes of runners from South Africa, around our continent and the rest of the world who enter annually these days - it would have to be! Organising this event is a year-round job for a hard-working team of people and by race day, thousands of volunteers too.
The Expo at huge events like Two Oceans and Comrades is always exciting and fun, with stands offering the latest of everything, from gear to footwear to race food and more, that a runner or outdoor enthusiast could ever want, plus a bunch of other interesting stands besides, less runner-orientated, remembering that most runners are accompanied by their families. As at the Two Oceans Expo, I went in search of Brad Brown, the South Africa radio presenter and online podcast interviewer on the South African podcasts I'd been following, plus Lindsey Parry the Comrades online coach, who'd encouraged members of the Online Community to come and meet them.
We spent the two nights before race day in a lovely self-catering cottage 25 minutes' drive outside Pietermaritzburg near Howick, wishing we had longer to explore this beautiful area. We visited the Race Start by City Hall, and Comrades House, home of the Comrades Museum about which I'd heard on an Old Mutual Live podcast. Registrations were also taking place here, though the vast majority of runners register at the Expo in Durban. The Museum was well worth the visit, with displays taking visitors through the entire history of the race in a 30 to 45 minute visit, in an interesting, accessible way. We drove the half of the race route we had not driven the year previously, finishing at the Comrades Wall of Honour, set in the hillside roughly half way, displaying shields commemorating many famous Comrades winners and runners across the decades. You don't have to be famous to have a shield here however; any runner who completes the race can buy a spot if they wish! At last, Race Day came. Sarah, the Ultimate Supporter of 'The Ultimate Human Race', with the apt tag line, 'It will Humble You' (it assuredly does!) cooked porridge at 3am, while I donned my carefully laid out kit, after what inevitably is a sleepless night! Race jitters take their toll, and the alarming Reality that you have been preparing for, for 6 to 9 months, is upon you! Can you actually run 90km? Only time beating up on your legs, relentlessly pounding tar, and determination, will tell! Thankfully the traffic from that side of Pietermaritzburg was kind, and we were at the Start the recommended hour early. Already the spotlit area was a bustling hive of activity and excited, nervous anticipation, runners streaming into starting pens, from A (elite runners, including potential winners and Gold (top 10), Wally Hayward (sub 6 hours, named for the 7 time medallist with five wins, three of them record breaking, and still the oldest person ever to finish the race) and Silver medalists (sub 7½ hours), to H (recreational runners and novices with marathon qualifying times between 4 hours 40 mins and 4 hours 59 mins 59 secs). Pens B to D and F to G comprise runners with progressively slower specified qualifying times. Pen E comprises the hallowed permanent 'Green Number' holders in recognition of completing ten Comrades Marathons. There are significant numbers of runners with Double and Triple Green Numbers for completing twenty and thirty! And this year, one man got his Quadruple Green Number, completing his fortieth! Pen CC is for those running for an official Comrades Charity. You can actually 'buy' a place here by contributing at least the specified minimum amount to one of these – or by raising it (and more, one hopes!) from donations. Sarah managed to bag herself a place right on the side-line barrier beyond the Start, and could see, hear and enjoy all the drama and excitement, a truly magnificent and emotional experience for runners and spectator alike. It was really cold – way colder than the Durban start – and primary Comrades sponsor Bonitas had donated branded 'body warmers' made of disposable biodegradable material, as bin liners with holes cut for the arms to keep warm at a cold early morning race start were banned this year for safety and environmental reasons (these sometimes trip runners up at the Start of a very big race when discarded). I qualified for G batch this year, so was a bit nearer the Start. I loved the fanfare, music, exciting vibe and atmosphere just as much as last year; and more, as I discovered after the canon fired, that not only did a G seeding mean I started to shuffle sooner, but I had actually begun to jog, upon reaching the Start line, which took 6 minutes, and I was moving faster, sooner, too. Comrades is a 'gun to gun' race so this lost time is never regained. I even spotted and hailed Ultimate Supporter Sarah, who waved me off on this long, challenging journey! When one starts running races, the buzz and excitement often lead to going out too fast and burning out too soon. Pacing correctly is probably never as important in any race as it is in Comrades, so notoriously hard, all run on tar and undulating a great deal throughout. Down Run or not, there were plenty of tough hills to climb up, too! In fact the first half of the Down Run is a lot more Up than Down! By the time the long downhill sections come, one is already extremely tired. The legs have taken a hell of a pounding. The trick is to conserve some energy for that second half. I managed this far better than ever before in my Comrades number two, and enjoyed the race experience a great deal, extreme pain notwithstanding. Pain in the legs is inevitable. It is a matter of remaining determined to keep running and finish and distracting oneself from it, as it increases, with every step, in the second half! Support along the way from tens of thousands of stalwart spectators lining the route is fantastic, and Sarah managed to find me twice. Supporting this race is a huge feat in itself as road closures cause traffic jams and places you can access to try to spot loved ones are few and far between. As a runner, such support lifts ones spirits phenomenally, and can even make the difference between finishing this gruelling race, or not. The kindness of strangers can also be immensely uplifting. In the last third of my race, when I really felt broken and pain was taking a heavy toll on my morale, I was suddenly overcome with extreme thirst. It would be a while before the next water point. I dazedly took in the presence of a family, out for the day to cheer the runners, on my left, and noticed their little girl offering exhausted runners a drink. Manna from heaven! 'Apple for you!' she said chirpily. The first gulp of this ice cold apple juice in a cup filled with ice cubes was the best thing I ever drank! As I crossed each of the six cut-off mats, to be reached by a specified time or be removed from the race, I was thrilled to find myself an hour or more ahead of that time. My confidence grew that I might actually achieve my wish; a Bronze. But the final ten kilometres were torturous, and three kays from the Finish, I grew anxious. Those kays were monumentally painful and difficult and included, after we'd been pounding down so many hills, annihilating our legs, some steep up-hills! However – I'd boldly declared my intent on broadcast radio to get that Bronze! Get it, I must, the pain be damned! At last, I saw the metal race barriers lining the road ahead, signifying we were now really close to the stadium, and heard cheering Durban crowds lining the route. I forgot the pain, put on a fast sprint, and suddenly, was running round the stadium in the finishing chute with its flags and banners and thousands of cheering supporters – a truly wonderful moment that along the way in this race, especially in the last 30 km or so, seems like it will never come! I made my Bronze with 57 seconds to spare, was handed my medal and embroidered Comrades badge (to be proudly sewn onto running gear), then received my Back to Back medal and limped my way to the International Tent.