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Just Returned from Zimbabwe

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We just returned from our trip to Zimbabwe thus week and found the country's economy to be in total meltdown. Store shelves are empty and fuel is unavailable. To buy anything, you need foreign currency and either have to purchase it on the black market, or go across the border and pay duty to bring it back in. Obviously you need a source of foreign currency, either working in the tourism industry, and getting tips in foreign exchange, or selling handcrafts to tourists. Banks have long lines and restrict the money that you can obtain to a couple of dollars a day. Most businesses will not accept Zimbabwean dollars a day. We flew from Victoria Falls to a camp in Hwange on small planes, but 3 days later, when it was time to return, we had to travel 3 hours by safari vehicle and and another 3 hours by minibus, because there was no fuel available for the planes.

In Victoria Falls, when on the streets or a bus, you are accosted by people aggressively selling handcrafts and Zimbabwean dollars as curiosities, as well as begging for the clothes that you are wearing. Friends stayed at the Kingdom hotel for one night and had to pay $300US cash in advance for 1 night. When they went to the restaurant, nothing that they ordered from the menu was available, and they had to go to the nearby Ilala Lodge for dinner. The Kingdom is a magnificent hotel with a casino, but other friends went into the casino and found it totally empty, as they pay off in Zimbabwean dollars, which are worth less than monopoly money.

Prostitution is out of control, as is HIV/AIDS, out of a need to survive.

That being said, we did not regret going to Zimbabwe. The game in Hwange was superior to other countries, and the people were wonderful, despite their fiscal condition. Crime against foreigners is low to non-existent, both because of the nature of the people and strict government enforcement, as the tourism dollar is very important to the country. We did not like our money going to benefit the government, but the money that went directly to the people is so important to their survival.

Hopefully the hell that they are going through will end soon. The people are kind and intelligent and deserve much better.

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