Everybody must get stoned

Out of my gourd in Zimbabwe, I had the distinct feeling baboons were trailing me. And then the pelting began.

Published May 18, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

On a travel junket to Zimbabwe a few years ago I was the only Irish journalist in a party of eight English female journalists. Things were fine until, oh, about the time we took off and I spent the next 11 days sulking and cursing my luck that they don't sell batteries for compact disc players in the bush. By the time we got to Victoria Falls I was moody, petulant and in desperate need of a joint.

Priding myself on my ability to score anywhere, I left the others clicking their fingers at the waiters in the hotel and went to the nearby shantytown to find some weed. Soon I had a Marlboro box stuffed with Zimbabwean green, but as I turned a corner, I was grabbed by two local cops. The pair took great delight in informing me that I was going to be deported unless I made a contribution to their retirement fund. I handed over 100 quid sterling (now about $143) and left myself completely broke, and they actually insisted that I keep the pot because, as they pointed out, between giggling at the sun-burned Irish guy in the football jersey, I had just bought the most expensive weed in history.

Retiring to the spectacular Victoria Falls for a gawk and a smoke, I spent a couple of hours gazing in awe at the majesty of the vista in front of me while trying to remember my name and wondering why I had smoked that second joint. On leaving the falls I took what I assumed to be the pathway leading out. Instead I was trekking further into the bush, my brain still too jarred from the incident with the cops to pay attention to such piffling details as walking the wrong direction into the bush in 95-degree heat.

After an hour or so I began to get the Fear. The pot really kicked in and the run-in with the local plod replayed itself in my head, each time with a more gruesome ending. And then there was a more immediate paranoia. I felt like I was being followed by baboons. Which made perfect sense, because when I turned around there were four or five of them stalking me alongside the dirt track.

This was not good. They kill a couple of people each year and they can smell your fear. Or was that dogs? I wasn't sure but I was sure they could smell something. Growing bored with freaking out the Irish guy, they decided to have even more fun. As I walked in the middle of the pathway, keeping my head down and hoping they wouldn't notice me -- a 5-foot-10 white guy with a green top and a shaky stagger in the Zim bush -- the first stone zipped past my feet. Oh God, I thought, I'm going to die here, pummeled to death by a bunch of hooligan baboons. The stones flew closer, close enough, in fact, for me to realize that they weren't stones, but fresh lumps of their shit. Jesus, I wasn't even worth rocks -- they were going to crap me to death.

I did a stupid thing and broke into a run. This new part of the game seemed to excite the baboons. They enthusiastically followed suit, shouting, screaming and stopping occasionally to shit in their hands and throw the lumps at me. Finally, a ranger drove along and discovered me, hysterical, shouting at the baboons and waving a stick, telling them to come and have a go if they thought they were hard enough. After I explained to the ranger that it was their fault, not mine, he drove me back to the hotel and deposited me with the others. I was ranting, nearly hallucinating and completely dehydrated; my mumblings about corrupt Zimbabwean bastard cops and shit-throwing baboons soon meant already strained relations were stretched beyond limits. Still, it was a good trip, even though I spent six months in a suicidal depression from the fucking anti-malaria drugs I was on. Larium -- just say no, kids.

By Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty writes for the Evening Herald in Dublin, Ireland.

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