First there were zebra’s in the mist and now we have runners in the mist! The Vumba Run, hosted by Leopard Rock Golf Resort and Casino was held on the 15 October 2011, and was to be the first of its kind for the area. It is hoped that the Vumba Run will become an annual event bringing attention to the Eastern Highlands and awareness to the people and wildlife who call the Vumba their home!
Although not quite a “comrades” marathon, the prospect of running in the winding Vumba roads, exquisite scenery and of course the intoxicating mountain air appealed to quite a number of people. At the end of registration, nearly 200 runners had signed up, though this is not a guarantee that everyone will run the race. However, as is the case with first time events, there is always an element that cannot be anticipated.
The day of the race dawned with the ever-present morning mist and of course a light drizzle which feel gently upon the awaiting runners. The Vumba race comprised of three distances, all starting at different points but having one grand finish line. Nervous energy was amplified by thoughts of running the event in the rain, making sure all the runners were at their correct starting points and hoping that they could find their way! They say that running is a lonely sport but this could not have been further from the truth with the camaraderie and enthusiasm of the runners as they awaited the start. The very essence of the Vumba seemed to participate, as the mist gently lifted to reveal the picturesque montane forest and its enigmatic wildlife. Speaking of which, a rather special participant needs to be mentioned here; the Vumba zebra stallion. The 21 km race started near a Vumba landmark – Tony’s coffee shop and as the starter’s gun fired and the runners surged forth, so did the Vumba’s very own Zebra stallion. Compelled by his herd instinct, the four-legged runner led the pack for the first 300 meters of the race, wondering I am sure what everyone was running from! Perhaps his sense of curiosity took the better of him when he decided to stop and gracefully let all the other runners past – surveying the troops as they carried on. Who really knows what was going through his equine mind and maybe it was his way of making the Vumba more memorable because one thing is for sure, those runners will be talking about it for quite a while.
In addition to the race being unprecidently started by a non-human, there was also a spirit of “going for green” in that some of the runners were painted green! A statement of solidarity, green represented the mountains, wildlife and of course an overall sense of empathy for the environment. Amongst the green faced warriors were several members of the WEPU scouts, some Zimbabwe Parks personnel and the new Warden of the Botanical Gardens Dominic Mubvanyika. Also with a great display of dedication, a special mention must go to Martin Stiemer of Animal Lifeline who is responsible for training the WEPU scouts, who ran the 10km race in borrowed shorts, a green face and loafers! Allegiance to a good cause knows no bounds when you truly believe in it.
In addition to this race bringing business and interest to the Vumba, it also provided sponsorship to our WEPU team (Wildlife and Environment Protection Unit). This unit has operated in the Vumba for a year now and the evidence of their hard work and commitment is very apparent. Perhaps the best form of gratitude for this dedication is shown by the wildlife, who in turn are showing themselves more and more, with sightings of leopard and cubs, samango monkeys and the rare blue duiker becoming more frequent. Not to mention a singular charismatic zebra. In September 2011, Martin Stiemer of Animal Lifeline, went to the Vumba to under take our first refresher course with the WEPU scouts as well as the rangers from National Parks. We do feel that these refresher course, are vital to keep the scouts performance on track as well as to iron out any issues which might have been discovered over the past year. So a very big thank you goes to Martin for not only his expertise but for believing in our WEPU Vumba project and his continued support.
Some statistics on the WEPU operations and results during the past twelve months:
Day patrols: 214 days
Night patrols: 21 days
Snares, whip traps, gin traps and other illegal traps recovered: 948
Total arrests: 32
We need to commend these very dedicated people, 8 scouts in total, for this phenomenal result. In addition we would like to mention that this work would also not be possible without the guidance, co-operation and leadership of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority staff of the Vumba and surrounds.
This event has marked the re-discovery of one of Zimbabwe’s hidden jewels, the Eastern highlands. For those of us having the privilege of working and or living in the Vumba we would like to offer profuse thanks to the hosts Leopard Rock Hotel and Casino for holding this event and also to the race organisers and participants for raising some sponsorship for WEPU.
We now encourage you the public to visit the Vumba if you haven’t before or if you have already, go back and repeat the wonderful experience of the magical mystical mountains. Oh and next time, bring your running shoes……