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Zebra crossing.

YOU have never seen more honest road signs than you see in Zimbabwe.

Over there, if you spot a warning that there's a zebra crossing ahead, expect to see the actual animal lumbering across your path.

It's like that. And just as the native animals can be rough and ready, so too are some of the roads.

Whatever you do, hire a four-wheel drive car.

Do not hire an old banger of a saloon car which has been hammered into the ground on long, dusty, pot- holed African roads.

Sure, Jeeps are dearer, but not half as expensive as it is to roll your battered saloon over into a ditch in the middle of a vast national park the size of a small European country.

But more of that later ...

I travelled to Zimbabwe with my partner David for a fortnight of rest, wildlife- watching and adventure.

There was little rest, but we had wildlife-watching and adventure aplenty.

In fact, less than two hours after landing at Harare, we'd spotted our first zebra at the Mbizi Game Park, a hotel- cum-wildlife sanctuary just 7km from the airport.

No trip to the zoo can prepare you for the thrill of seeing animals in the wild.

We gasped at trains of elephants and gawped at a tigress shielding her two cubs in a copse.

Zimbabwe is a big country to get around and the heat is searing - even at the beginning of the dry season in May, which was when we travelled there.

Our itinerary, which we made up as we went along with the help of our trusty Lonely Planet guide to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, took us first to the north east of the country.

The Mana Pools National Park is the most remote and magnificent wilderness in Africa, said the guide book

We only got as far as being 15km into its magnificent borders before turning our jalopy over and being left to the mercy of the wild beasts of the bush.

Once we'd recovered from shock and been given a replacement vehicle, we drove like tourists possessed to Bulawayo - a 12-hour drive away in the south west of the country.

Later, we went to Matobo National Park, where we stayed in our own dinky hut (price approximately pounds 1 per night) cooked sausages to a cinder on our own barbecue and fended off greedy monkeys after our food.

We also called at Whange, the most touristy of all the parks and THE place to see a zebra crossing, and the awesome Victoria Falls.

Our British Airways flight cost pounds 483 return and our Holiday Autos car was pounds 555.

CONTACTS: Zimbawe Tourist Board - 0171-836 7755. British Airways - 0845 7222111. Hol Autos - 0870- 530400. Mbizi Game Park - 00263-572 886.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Patience, Jan
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 9, 2000
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