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Photo: Zimbabwan dancers put on special show for us featuring native stories told in dance

They say there are two subjects a wise host or hostess avoids talking about at dinner parties: Politics and religion. When it comes to travel, certainly the consideration of a country’s politics can be a touchy subject. This is especially so when one considers travel to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has a self-proclaimed president, Robert Mugabe, who has, perhaps irreparably, mis-managed his country’s resources. Civil liberties and rights are wholly unprotected, and his populace suffers accordingly.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations on charges of human rights abuses and of election tampering in 2002. The seizure of the white-owned commercial farms has led to starvation on a wide scale, and if that is not enough, the UN has recently estimated that 34% of the population has HIV/AIDS, probably the highest in the world, compared to about 0.65% average in the world.

So why go there?

The answer is two words: Victoria Falls.

Photo: Victoria Gorge with bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe in far background (just over potted plant on right).

Everyone enjoys gazing on a waterfall. There is just something magical about each of these- the mist, the sound, the spectrum of color in the rainbows. And it does not matter whether you are in Hawaii, outside Montreal, or wherever. There are a few waterfalls, however, that are iconic in travel literature: Niagra Falls between the United States and Canada; Iguassa Falls between Brazil and Argentina; and, Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls was first reported out to the world in the 1860's, and one of the things that makes it so appealing is that it has suffered little commercialization or development from that time to the present. This gives you the opportunity to see this World Heritage Site, without the tackiness that has all but consumed Niagra Falls. You can stand on the crest of the cliffs and no graffiti, burger joint or pizza parlor will spoil your view.

The native people call this "Mosi-oa-Tunya" - the smoke that thunders. They are referring to the towering spray of water from the falls, and the noise it makes as water flows over the top and crashes down into the gorge. It is awesome.

It is also inspiring. As you stand at the brink of the falls, you think to yourself, “G_D certainly did a fine piece of work here”, and you depart, humbled by the sheer size and scope of the place.

It is also inspiring. As you stand at the brink of the falls, you think to yourself, “G_D certainly did a fine piece of work here”, and you depart, humbled by the sheer size and scope of the place.

Would you not go because of the political situation? I suppose that is something we’re better off not discussing...

SPECIAL ADDENDUM- ABOUT CRUISING (to be expanded into its own section)

It's fun to travel, and disabled travelers are tempted to fill their dreams of going to far away places and seeing exotic things by ship. Cruise lines have discovered that people who travel disabled spend the same kind of money as those who are not physically challenged. As a fortunate result, there are far more ships sailing with disabled passengers in handicapped accessible cabins than ever before.

Yes, a cruise can fulfill your travel dreams, but all cruises are not the same. And paying more money is not necessarily a guaranteed solution to the problem of traveling disabled.

A few years ago we came aboard a six star rated ship and discovered the cruise company had messed up our reservation. "Nobody told us you were in a wheelchair", they said. As if that was going to solve our problem.

Since no handicapped cabin was available. They offered us one of their top level suites at no increase in cost. It was gorgeous, spacious, came with valet service- the works. But the doorways were too small for us to get into the cabin or the bathroom; there was no way to get the wheelchair under the sink so Nancy could brush her teeth. It would have been a miserable experience. It was a close call, but we found a solution and were able to sail.

You must be extra careful and pay attention to details.

For our Fiftieth Anniversary, we took an eight day cruise on the only ship with an elevator that sails the Amazon River. We had corresponded back and forth with the cruise company about handicap accessibility aboard, specifically the width of the elevator and cabin/bathroom doors, and were assured our wheelchair would fit. Sometime after we had made all arrangements for hotels pre- and post sailing, air reservations, etc., we were advised the ship would not permit us through most doors or passageways. It was only because the General Manager and his crew were so helpful that what promised to be a disaster turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, memorable experiences we have had in more than 23 years of traveling disabled.

The point is you need to know a number of things before you book a cruise. Cruising is not automatically problem free, and the confines of the ship can be very unforgiving to the disabled traveler.

Cruise ships by name, including classification by # of stars; # of passengers; # of handicapped accessible cabins;

Cruise ships that have special shore excursions featuring handicapped accessibility.

Cruise lines that have well informed personnel to answer questions, make special arrangements for disabled travelers both before booking and while on cruise.

Discussion of impediments such as docking vs. tendering. (See discussion RE: Santorini Greek Islands

Sacrifices the disabled traveler should be prepared to make.

Attitude and willingness of crews to assist disabled travelers (See discussion in Disabled Travelers Guide- Stairways to Heaven; notes about Seabourne, Radisson, Hanseatic, Holland America, Iberostar, et.al.

Special equipment bought by cruise lines/ships to assist disabled travelers. (See stair climber for Princess- Stairways to Heaven.

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Have you checked the most important parts of our website? We urge you to go to the Chapter on Essential Plans. Then, whether they apply to you or not, read the Chapters Airlines, Cruises, Hotels, Taxis, Tours. Finally, be sure you read the Chapter Items to Take. The information in these chapters will make all the difference in the success of your trip.