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Tony Wheeler’s Perspective on Zimbabwe

Buzz Poole
04/12/2011 - 12:10

<p style="text-align: justify;">Last week, <a href="http://blog.adventurecenter.com/?p=398">Paul Theroux explained</a> the virtues of visiting countries that have earned dubious reputations through myriad political and cultural factors. This week, another icon of travel, <a href="http://www.lonelyplanet.com/tonywheeler/travel_blogs/returning_to_zimbabwe/">Lonely Planet’s co-founder Tony Wheeler</a>, furthers Theroux’s point by walking us through a recent two-week trip to <a href="http://www.adventurecenter.com/country/Zimbabwe">Zimbabwe</a>.</p>

<p style="text-align: justify;">“You can trash a reputation in a flash, it takes a long time to rebuild it,” Wheeler writes. “Robert Mugabe pretty much managed to destroy Zimbabwe’s economy and in the process chased away most of the country’s tourists. He did such a comprehensive job of wrecking things nobody has noticed that in the last couple of years things have turned around.”

<p style="text-align: justify;">To wit, the scene outside the airport was orderly, and tourism has really taken root around the country’s many natural wonders, the most well known being Victoria Falls, which roar over the borders of Zambia and Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe. When first seen by explorer David Livingstone, he explained the awe-inspiring view thusly: “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

<p style="text-align: justify;">But there is more than Victoria Falls, as Wheeler reminds us: “Want the most impressive African ruins south of the Sahara? Then head for . . . the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe [which] gave its name to the country. They’re the best known, but the country has other ruins worth searching out like the Khami Ruins just outside Bulawayo.”

<p style="text-align: justify;">Wheeler concedes that things today aren’t perfect in Zimbabwe but, like Theroux, he finds the real lure and excitement of travel awaiting in these places that have been overlooked by many travelers: “Of course everything wasn’t bright and wonderful in 2011 Zimbabwe, there were places I’d been to on previous visits in 1989 and 1997 which had been taken over and, as a result, were closed, others just hanging on with very few visitors and often the good places still going were the survivors when many other safari camps and lodges had laid off their employees and closed down the tent flaps. There are still very few visitors, but perhaps it’s the time to start going back. I had a great time.”

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