A DREAM expedition to Zimbabwe after winning a Travel Award from Oxford University in the United Kingdom turned into a nightmare for 20-year-old British tourist who nearly became a victim of Nyanga Mountain's mystery happenings recently.
Thomas Gaisford, a second-year Human Science student, chose to come to Zimbabwe after winning the award – Wallace Watson Award Lectures – which encourages and assists undergraduate and graduate members of the college to undertake expeditions or travels of a challenging nature, in a mountainous or remote area.
In an interview on Monday, he chronicled his crunching experience at the apex of the sacred Nyanga Mountain after he had gone hiking alone.
Gaisford had climbed to the summit of the mountain as part of the award's objective to "gain a greater ability and self-confidence in handling physical and mental adversity and a better appreciation of other cultures and ways of life".
He said heavy fog engulfed him from around 3pm. He subsequently lost his way down the mountain and so pitched up a tent. He slept in fear, confusion and anxiety under heavy rains. He met several snakes and nocturnal animals that he never dared disturb.
"I had heard lots of strange stories about the mountain, but I never believed them. I climbed to the summit of the mountain. It was very difficult, but I endured up to the top. I was caught in a mist as soon as I reached there. I started getting uncomfortable and scared after heavy rains started falling. The fog engulfed the whole place I was and surprisingly it was in the afternoon, around 3pm. I could not see anything. I was confused. I lost my way down and pitched tent. I prayed and slept there for 10 hours," said Gaisford.
"Several scary snakes approached me. I never disturbed them. They came in numbers, but I stood still. Various animals frequented the place and I could see shining red eyes of several animals staring at me. My character was tested. I remained steadfast. I woke up the following morning after the fog had cleared. I climbed down before I proceeded to Leopard Rock on foot," he said.
Gaisford said before he climbed up the mountain, villagers in surrounding areas in Nyanga had warned him against the idea since an Indian (Zayd Dada) had disappeared after embarking on a similar task.
Concerned villagers had also advised him about other strange and unusual things that took place in the past.
"I tried to put that (past mysteries) at the back of my mind. I never consulted traditional leaders before I embarked on the expedition, but I later realised that I should have done that. I am happy to be alive. There is more to experience. I have learnt a lot about Zimbabwe and about myself," said Gaisford.
The tourist who said he had lost a lot of weight proceeded to Leopard Rock on foot before he went to Chimanimani.
"It was an exciting, but difficult expedition. I walked extensively and saw areas like Penhalonga, Cashel Valley, Burma Valley and Outward Bound in Chimanimani. I got the chance to attend Chimanimani Arts Festival and I was delighted to witness Oliver Mtukudzi's performance. I was excited because Oliver is very popular in the UK," he said.
He described Zimbabwe as a peaceful country with hospitable people, which is being discoloured by international press.