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Titambire fi rst encountered Zimbabwe in 1991 as a dusty backpacker travelling southwards through Africa. To be honest, I thought I had arrived in paradise - wildlife was everywhere, the climate was utopian; my preferred contact- lens fl uid was in stock for the fi rst time in Africa; and the greetings were the most warm and unconditional of any I'd experienced. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to revisit the nation after the media restrictions were lifted this year. However, considering the press coverage the country has received over the past decade, I was a little apprehensive about what I would fi nd. Was the economy still in free fall? Was the new unity government working? What is the outlook of everyday Zimbabweans with regard to their future? Are there still animals in the national parks? Is the infrastructure intact? With the knowledge that some of these questions couldn't be answered by simply using a plane to hop between the main tourist sites, I decided to do much of my three- week journey overland - over a thousand kilometres of this was done independently in a hire car. One of the fi rst major changes I noticed was the adoption of the US currency. This decision, along with the relaxation of price controls, has ended the spiralling hyperinfl ation that caused so much social misery. It also made it possible to import once again, which means that shop shelves and petrol stations are no longer empty. There is obviously much debate about the future success of the fl edgling coalition government, but one thing is for certain - ordinary Zimbabweans are engaging in politics. The attitude I sensed among locals during my travels was of guarded optimism towards the new political spectrum. Most noticeable was their relief at the economic improvement - people were now planning for the future instead of simply worrying about their day- to- day survival. In truth, I found absolutely no anti- British sentiment; the welcomes were just as warm as I'd remembered them. Tourism is an essential part of the economy, creating thousands of quality jobs. Considering one industry A new dawn Mark Stratton Contributing Editor TRAVEL ZIMBABWE magazine is published by Travel Africa Ltd. This edition published November 9, 2009. Travel Africa Ltd. 4 Rycote Lane Farm, Milton Common, Oxford OX9 2NZ, United Kingdom Tel: + 44 ( 0) 1844 278883 Fax: + 44 ( 0) 1844 278893 www. travelzimbabwemag. com www. travelafricamag. com service@ travelafricamag. com Publisher Craig Rix Editor Matt Phillips Contribuing editor Mark Stratton Sales Manager Dave Southwood Publications Manager Phil Clisby Customer Services Sherry Rix Designers Lisa Duke, Stefan Tock Accounts Amanda Gaydon Managing Director Iain Wallace Subscriptions subs@ travelafricamag. com Contributors Daniel Mandishona, Mike Unwin Copyright 2009 Travel Africa Ltd. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any form or stored on a retrieval system without the prior permission of the publisher. While every effort is made to ensure that the contents of Travel Africa are accurate at the time of going to press, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors that may appear, or for any consequence of using the information contained herein. December 2009 Travel Zimbabwe 3 Commissioned to give an open and honest account of the what it's like to travel in Zimbabwe today, I went with a curious mind. Before you read my stories from the road, which make up this issue of Travel Zimbabwe magazine, here are my refl ections. worker typically supports over a dozen others, the importance of travellers visiting is greater now than ever. I was thrilled to fi nd that Zimbabwe's wildlife experiences remain among Africa's fi nest and most raw. In Matobo National Park I squatted close enough to rhinos to hear them breathe. In Mana Pools I drifted by crocs in a canoe and listened to hippos at night. The national parks of Hwange, Gonarezhou and Matusadona also failed to disappoint. There are too many stories of poaching to discount its effect, but thankfully there are still plenty of treasures parading in Zimbabwe's wilderness. Almost as great a surprise was Zimbabwe's infrastructure. The extensive surfaced roads are in good shape, and are also blissfully empty, which makes self- drive more enjoyable and accessible here than in other southern African nations, including the much less compact South Africa. Tourist facilities were also in fi ne form - I'm already reminiscing about the 5- star luxury at Pamushana Lodge, and the riverside camp of Ruckomechi, where I sat in comfort watching elephants swimming. Although there are fewer lodges in operation, the reduction of tourist numbers still ensures plenty of choice. One thing I knew that was waiting for me in Zimbabwe was the unmistakable landscape. And what a landscape it is - the thundering magnifi cence of Victoria Falls; the intense spirit permeating the Matobo Hills; the rocky summits of the Eastern Highlands. Life continues to be hard for Zimbabweans, with low wages, water shortages, and unemployment. However, they've told me in droves that they don't want your sympathy or political gestures like boycotting travel. They'd rather have you enjoying the country they are still proud of. Rich or poor, they'll be there to welcome you. Zimbabweans don't want your sympathy or political gestures like boycotting travel. They'd rather have you enjoying the country they are still proud of zimbabwe travel

Travel Zimbabwe December 2009 GIACOMO PIROZZI / PANOS PICTURES