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32 Travel Zimbabwe December 2009 Switchback roads had led me into misty valleys beneath towering, rounded peaks of dolomite

Eastern Highlands on a roll December 2009 Travel Zimbabwe 33 whose slopes were partially clad in pine forests knew the threat the moment it materialised. When Thomas placed the coconut- orange cake smothered in molten chocolate alongside my hot cocoa, with its ice cream and crumbled meringue float, I had little hope of emerging from the cafe with my belt buckle intact. In all honesty, an overload of sugary treats at Tony's Coffee Shoppe was the biggest hazard I faced during my self- drive adventures in Zimbabwe. The country has long been a popular destination for either self- driving South Africans or fly- drive tourists from Europe, due to its well- maintained roads, vehicle- friendly national parks and diversity of accommodation. Now with fuel back in the petrol stations, I road tested the situation by hiring a vehicle for a region tailor- made for motoring, the Eastern Highlands. However, I soon hit my first roadblock. The friendly policeman quickly got me on my way though, with an " Enjoy your journey, and I hope to see you again. Travel safe." The only money I handed over to roadside officials was an occasional road maintenance toll of US$ 1. Despite some potholes, the roads were generally in reasonable condition. And they were invariably empty - instant stress relief for anybody who commutes daily in rush hour traffic. I'd travelled to the 300km- long Eastern Highlands which border Mozambique before, spending several days hiking in the fabulous rugged scenery of the Chimanimani range. This time I decided to sample the With towering peaks, pockets of pine forest and twisting roads, the Eastern Highlands is ripe for a self- drive adventure. With oodles of calorie- burning trekking options, it turns out it's also the place to indulge your sweet tooth. ERIC GAUSS