We returned to Harare and stayed with our Zimbabwean friends, Bruce and Nicola. It was fascinating to hear about how people coped during the desperate days of hyperinflation, when the enormously devalued Zimbabwean dollar was not even worth the paper that it was printed on. Thankfully, it was replaced by the US dollar in 2009 but before then Nicola would regularly sign cheques for trillions of Zimbabwean dollars and any money earned was spent as quickly as possible because it would be worth less later that very day. Being a guilt free shopping trillionaire does not sound too bad but as the economy collapsed, all basic necessitates became so scarce that queues at petrol stations, shops and banks rivalled those for rides at Disney Land during school holidays. Many Zimbabweans were forced to hire professional queuers in order to survive. Bank queues were particularly grim as you were only allowed to withdraw 500,000 Zimbabwean dollars per bank per day which was the equivalent of about 25 US cents and worth less than a loaf of bread. We spoke to people who had as many as eight bank accounts to try and get around this limit.
Supermarket shelves were practically bare and what little produce they did have could quadruple in price by the time you reached the checkout. Many people resorted to travelling all the way to Johannesburg in South Africa to buy groceries. This is why so many highjackings have taken place on the road from the Beitbridge border crossing (we were warned that we must not, under any circumstances, stop for anything or anyone); highjackers know that vehicles coming from or going to South Africa will most likely either carry expensive supplies or lots of hard cash.
Other Zimbabweans, like Bruce and Nicola, became totally self sufficient. They now have cows, sheep, ducks, chickens, fruit trees and the best veggie patch that we have ever seen. Just about every ingredient used in the amazing meals that we enjoyed with them came straight out of their garden.