Wedged firmly between the meandering, lazy Limpopo River and the turbulent, often frightening, Zambezi River -- amidst massive granite outcrops, giant baobab trees and some of the most spectacular game-rich wilderness on the planet -- lies the southern central African nation of Zimbabwe. Based from the capital city of Harare, for the past ten days I have taken in a bit of all this California-sized, one time British colony (formerly Rhodesia) has to offer.
I've climbed into caves to photograph the remarkable San (Bushman) paintings, many of which date back to the days of Jesus Christ. I've made it to Victoria Falls to watch the water rage over what is called Devil's Cataract and to feel the ground rumble from the force of the crash below. I've travelled through much of Hwange National Park to observe elephant, kudu, giraffe and the majestic fish eagle.
But it's been for the past six hours that I've enjoyed myself most. Thanks to the hospitality of a man they call "Saint", I have been treated to darts Zimbabwe-style. Believe me, it's as good as it gets anywhere in the world.
Saint is actually St. Ledger Hunt, currently the chief organizer of the National Darts Association of Zimbabwe (NDAZ) but formerly one of the top twenty or so touring professionals in the world. John Lowe will remember Saint as the guy whose double top game shot fell from the board in the 1989 Embassy Group Finals, allowing Lowe to advance to the stage instead.
Saint's travelled the world and collected hundreds upon hundreds of awards with his skills, many of which he now proudly displays in his home. Over the years Saint's wife, Dot, has maintained a scrapbook of his accomplishments. His respectable finishes against some of the world's best in the Canadian and Scottish Opens. His achievement of the first perfect 301 on Zimbabwe soil and his handful of near perfect ten dart 501's. For charity in 1982, Saint and some of the other members of the Zimbabwe National Team took aim at the 1,000,001 world mark. Fifty-five hours and 13 minutes later, and after 43,076 tosses at the board (including more than 3,500 ton-plusses and 84 maximums) they finished just shy of success.
Saint took me to his private club, the Greendale, on the edge of Harare. Darts in Zimbabwe tend not to be found in the bars, which are generally a little rougher than those one might find in a place like, say, Dayton, Ohio. First Saint introduced me to a couple of the local beers, Zambezi and Wood Pecker -- both worth a try, I suppose, but neither a future competitor for Budweiser. Next, he filled me in on the organization of the NDAZ, a league of some 3,500 shooters spread across the country from Harare to Bulawayo, near the Botswana border.
Finally, and most completely, Saint tore me up at the line. On a Flite Master board, covered with pies to match the red, green, white and black colors of the Zimbabwean flag, Saint trampled me as thoroughly as a rogue elephant might in the bush. For a 59-year old guy who hasn't thrown seriously in years St. Ledger Hunt is every bit the professional he once was. Either that or I just plain suck!
From the Field,