Issue 3 | 2018

EDITORIAL - Traveller or Tourist: an Identity Crisis?

The internet is full of articles about the difference between “travellers” and “tourists”. It seems acceptable to call a tourist a traveller, but travellers feel insulted when called tourists. Both terms are actually very similar, as they refer to someone who has gone to visit another country. So why is it more desirable to be considered a traveller?

Experienced travellers describe themselves as people who live in the present, with a whole different outlook on life that enables them to enjoy life to the full. They travel light, avoiding the main tourist attractions by taking routes off the beaten track and living in the place they’ve chosen to visit. They immerse themselves in the local cultures and traditions. Using translation books they converse with local people. They shop in markets and street stalls, bargaining with storekeepers and eating at street restaurants. Travellers spend time getting to know and understand the places they visit.

Tourists do not interact as intensely with local people because they usually stay in hotels and do not get to meet local residents. They share very little about themselves, preferring to speak in their own language. They visit and photograph as many of the main tourist attractions as possible, often as part of a large group of people with a tour guide.

Oddly enough, cameras are not mentioned as a necessary accessory for travellers, yet tourists have been belittled for using expensive, top quality photographic equipment. Surely anyone who travels will pack a camera to capture their memories? Does it matter whether they use the latest digital camera or the one on their cell phone?

Compartmentalising people into specific groups implies a hierarchy about how we travel; if you don’t fit a certain set of “rules” when you travel, you become the dreaded “tourist” – almost a social pariah! Many of the articles are actually polarising both styles of travel, and frankly this is arrogance on the part of the writer. Travellers are no less tourists than tourists are travellers. The common denominator is that we all enjoy travel, albeit in different ways.

Time is the major factor when it comes to being a traveller or a tourist. Travellers have the time to explore their chosen destination at leisure, so their experience is long term with reservations made when necessary. Becoming part of the local culture is important. Tourists have a shorter period in which to take in a country’s major attractions. Reservations are made for everything well in advance. Tourists usually carry more luggage than travellers because they don’t have the time to waste searching local shops for things they might need.

One travel blogger I follow states: “I’ve been both a traveller and a tourist over the years. But I’ve always distinguished between the two thus: a tourist has more money than time and a traveller has more time than money”.

Travelling is about making memories, enriching life through experiences. Travel is also a personal experience; we all have our own reasons for wanting to visit a specific destination. Every single one of us is both traveller and tourist, whether we decide to take a year off to visit the different countries in South America or spend a week with family living in Cape Town. The memories made on both trips will be cherished for a lifetime.

The tourist visiting Victoria Falls is looking for the same experience as the traveller; both want to see one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Does it honestly matter how both choose to travel and spend their time in a wonderful place?

While there is no right way to travel, there is one basic rule we should all observe: respect the local culture of your destination. Your journey is your experience, so do what makes you happy and enjoy yourself.

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Issue 3 | 2018

THE ZAMBEZI VALLEY: The View Through the Tamarind Trees

On our second morning two of our group decided to take a canoe trip from the pumphouse down the river back to Tamarind Tented Camp. Under the expert direction of Titch, who has over twenty years’ experience guiding on the Zambezi, they negotiated submerged tree stumps while maintaining a good distance from the hippos relaxing in the river. After coming in ahead of three other canoes they did admit to stranding themselves on a couple of sandbars, rowing into Titch’s canoe a couple of times and inadvertently making the canoe go backwards through their rather errant paddling!

GEOLOGY: Walking in the Footprints of Dinosaurs

Discovered by Dr Ali Ait-Kaci, it is the first giant Sauropod footprint found in sub-Saharan Africa. From its massive dimensions of 96 centimetres and absence of the crescent-shaped characteristics of the front legs these are believed to be from the rear legs of Brachiosaurus, a plant eating dinosaur that is thought to have weighed around fifty tonnes.

KARIBA: The Zimbabwe Air Rally 2018

The aim is to fly to set points in a certain time. “Easy,” you may think. Well, it is not. Up there the wind can push you around insidiously, creating a drift that leaves you way off line. The maps are based on thirty year old data and waypoints like dams or fence lines may not be detailed. When approaching what you believe should be your turning point the unexpected appearance of a recently built water feature causes panic - suddenly an impoundment appears right in front of you three minutes early! Panic… you cannot be too hasty in changing course as you might miss a set point, thus incurring penalty points.

BEHIND THE LENS: The Ingenuity of Elephants

The elephant pushed his way under the low hanging branches of a mahogany tree, emerging a few metres from me. He paused, looking at me for a moment. Then, like a four tonne ballerina, he pirouetted ninety degrees to face the river. To my surprise and without hesitation he stepped over the edge, his front legs sliding down the cliff face.

There was no hippo chute at this point, which is the normal method elephants use to get down to the river. I could not believe my eyes.

HWANGE: Up Close and Personal

Hwange is renowned for its elephants and rightly so, not only for their sheer numbers but also for their personalities. Yes you heard me right, for their PERSONALITIES. Wild as they may be, they are friendly and amazing creatures, with an intellect second to none. Elephants possess an unbelievable source of intelligence with incredible memories, passed on from female to female, ensuring the knowledge is never lost, something we humans have a hard time doing. So high is their intelligence that the elephant is one of six animal species said to have the ability to recognize their reflections in a mirror. They are capable of empathy as well, known to take care of their sick, chewing food for them and helping to take care of the other herd members.

HISTORY: The Railway Town Built on Gold

The name Gatooma is believed to have originated from a hill named Kaduma, close to Golden Valley. Kaduma is a Sindebele word meaning “which does not thunder or make a noise”. There is also a possibility that Gatooma’s name derives from the Chizezuru word Kudoma, which translates to a word which must not be spoken because it refers to a holy place inhabited by spirits. In all likelihood the hill was once revered as an early shrine, but for some reason became silent, because tribal spirits no longer spoke from its depths.

EASTERN HIGHLANDS: History in Perpetuity

Grand black tie dinner parties were held every week at La Rochelle. Formal dinners were supplemented with displays of orchids, chamber music, party games or lectures. The interior of the house bears all the signs of a much-loved home, filled with fresh flowers, art deco furniture and highlights of the history of the Courtauld family.

The world-renowned “signature panels” bear the autographs of royalty, politicians, artists, writers, academics, famous actors and other personalities. Signatures etched on the glass panels with a diamond tipped stylus include: “Rab” and Molly Butler (conservative British politician and his wife), Sybil Thorndike (English actress), Julian Amery (Lord Amery of Lustleigh and British politician), Julian Huxley (British scientist), Laurens van der Post (South African author, philosopher and conservationist), South African activist Denis Goldberg and Zimbabwean politicians Herbert Chitepo, Leopold Takawira and Ndabaningi Sithole.

FOOTLOOSE: Champions of the Flyway

Shawarmas soon become our “bread and butter” along with equally fantastic tasting falafels, both of which we finished off with healthy doses of humus, the local favourite chickpea spread. The first few days were spent exploring Eilat, birding and taking in this magnificent country whilst admiring the Israelis for their farming abilities in the seemingly desolate landscape. One of these farming areas, Yotvata, was a major attraction, not only for the birdlife which included the Bimaculated, Crested and Greater Short-toed larks, Egyptian nightjars and Pharaoh eagle owls, but also for its café, which serves what is quite possibly the best ice cream I have ever tasted. Very welcome after a long morning stomping around the desert!

MBARE: Harare’s Inner Kingdom

“We’ll meet at the entrance to Pioneer Cemetery,” Nyati Tours’ managing director DJ confirmed. An odd meeting place perhaps, but in hindsight the perfect point to start a tour of a place steeped in history.

The following morning DJ introduced us to Garikayi Makuyah, founder of Harare City Tours. Garikayi has a Bachelor of Social Science, Sociology and Psychology degree, and while working as a project co-ordinator in South Africa, he realised how tourism had unlocked and supported communities living in places like Soweto. He returned home and started Harare City Tours in 2008. Ten years later the company is going strong and provides freelance employment for a number of Mbare’s residents.

BULAWAYO: Walking in The City of Kings

Strategically placed close to the borders of Botswana and South Africa, Bulawayo was the first capital of the fledgling colony of Rhodesia. Empire builder and mining magnate, Cecil John Rhodes was adamant that the new colonial Bulawayo be built on the ashes of Lobengula’s Bulawayo (the Ndebele king had given orders for all the huts to be set on fire when he realised that defeat was inevitable in the Battle of Bembesi) in order to demonstrate complete dominance over the Ndebele. From then on the town went from strength to strength, with Leander Starr Jameson declaring Bulawayo officially open in 1894.