Would have loved to say “Greetings from Zimbabwe but by now you all know I am back in the wet and gloomy, but oh well, at least I can bring you some sunshine with my Zim diaries.
As we shuttle our way down the country lanes of Zimbabwe, I am feeling more and more astounded by the sights I see. Day 4 kicked off with a mountain climb. Yup, you read right – a mountain climb. Now those who know me know I am not the most outdoorsy person in the world, but hey, I am in Zimbabwe, the ‘world of wonders’ (And if you hadn’t noticed it yet, that spells ‘wow’), our tour leader the lovely Felicia (or as nicknamed Delicia by our fab sensual photographer Pascale Baetens, the crazy Belgian, 48 going on 12 with a burst of energy that puts us all to shame) offers us a mountain climb, you have got to say yes, ‘cause let’s be honest, when next will you see me climb a mountain? Hmmm, yup, you got that right – never again!
The day started off with a 6am wake up call for the brave few – David, our previously mentioned designated photographer, Henry, our previously mentioned Zimbabwean homeboy, our previously mentioned crazy-sexy-cool queen in residence Tani, Kwame (our proudly Jamaican cameraman), Doug, a 64-year-old (just – as he celebrated his 64th birthday on the summit) travel writer from Cleveland, Ohio, who boasts 7 kids, 13 grandkids, a world of travel experience and the kind of get-up-and-go attitude that could get a man in his sixties wake up at the crack of dawn and go mountain climbing and strive way ahead of people half his age (namely David and yours truly!) And of course our guide Colin who has a spectacular view of the Rupurara landscape named after him (Well, you’d hope he would considering the man has climbed the darned hill 905 times and counting…)
Now, whoever tells you mountain-climbing is easy is lying. Well, not when it is a 1834 ft high mountain you’re climbing… And there were most certainly times – within the first ten minutes at that – hyperventilating like an elephant on a treadmill, I did consider quitting but was too proud to be the first one to throw in the towel. But hey, another 1800 odd feet (just thought I’d repeat that number for good measure) and I felt on top of the world – well, at least on top of the Rupurara Rock – until of course it was time to come back down, slipping, sliding and risking sprained ankles and broken limbs with each step. But thanks to my ‘third leg’ (Move out of the gutter, people, I mean my hiking stick) and Puma for Ferrari trainers, I made it to the bottom in one piece and conquered my biggest fear: walking down a steep decline.
On the way back to the lodge, we were treated to an up close and personal encounter with some four-legged friends who were kind enough to pose for a picture – or thirty – before looking away, bored by our mere humanness.
After a hearty English breakfast and a super-fast shower to make the 10am check out, we were once again on the road, this time heading towards the Musangano Lodge. It was on the short journey there our tour leader Felicia got the joyful tidings that Zimbabwe had won their joint bid with Zambia to co-host the 2013 United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly at Victoria Falls, beating bids submitted by powerhouses like Russia, Turkey (Dang!), Jordan and Qatar. Cue a victory dance from Felicia and Tani and of course an open invitation for us all for 2013. The day seemed to be getting better and better!
It was with such excitement we had witnessed only minute ago we got to Musangano Lodge, tucked away on the lower slopes of a tree-covered hillside in the Eastern Highlands, a half hour drive away from the border town of Mutare. A German investment and still run by German managers, Musangano Lodge has been operational since 1996 and to date continues to provide spacious and tastefully decorated lodgings for up to 32 guests across its five chalets and four lodges – all named after the indigenous trees of the region – and a range of activities from bird watching, game viewing, biking to walking expeditions. I was particularly impressed by the Globe-esque architecture of the main building with its round open air structure, white-washed walls and thatched roof and the pristine swimming pool (One of very few clean ones we had the opportunity to jump into!).
In the afternoon we were shuttled down to Hartzwell School where we had the opportunity to crash a home economics class and hang out with some bright, young kids with big smiles, big personalities and even bigger dreams. And guess what? There were quite a few posers amongst them all ready to flash their pearly whites for our cameras. What was fascinating was that their notebooks and classroom displays were just as impeccable, their uniforms neat and ‘uniform’, their attitude playful yet positive. Worlds away from the oft spoiled and discontent brats of the so-called ‘civilised’ world. It was clear they took pride in their education.
This became even more evident when we met the proud and well spoken members of the media club who produce the annual school magazine. From the chief editor to the treasurer, with quite a few considering a future career in journalism (They are only primary school students, by the way!) it was obvious each member of the team took their duties seriously. After a spectacular presentation of the work they do in putting together their magazine which also featured a cartoon drawing of Sean Paul who had visited the school earlier this year, it was time to head to the nearby Fairfield Children’s Home sponsored by the US-based Fairfield Outreach and Sponsors Association.
With 76 children between the ages of 0-19, we had our fair share of cute little posers who were more than willing models while the more shy and quietly observed the curious encounters between a bunch of foreign journalists wielding cameras and a bunch of over-enthusiastic children who wanted to see their pictures immediately after they were taken. Once inside we also got to meet two little babies Kudakwashe, a little girl whose name means ‘praiseworthy’ and a little boy named Tafadzwa (meaning happiness, but don’t quote me on that as the sister in charge wasn’t too sure of the accuracy of her translation).
Late afternoon we made our way back to Musangano and finally checked in to our rooms. Us ladies shared a three-bedroom lodge amongst the six of us; there were no late night pyjama party fun and frolics, but let me tell you, with a large open-plan lounge and dining area, fireplace, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, there was indeed plenty of room to go around.
Around sunset, forsaking the promise of spectacular landscape images of sunset skies, I opted for my bikini instead of my camera and made my way dwon – a good 5 minute slope down from our lodge – to the swimming pool for a sunset dip under the Zimbabwean sky – and hey, what a spectacular sky it was, dipped in orange, streaked with purple – a batik masterpiece of twilight hues.
Despite the fantastic news of earlier in the day, dinner, a braii by the poolside began as a quiet affair until, of course, Doug was presented with his birthday cake and designated DJ Henry kicked off the party mood with a selection of Zimbabwean tunes, Naija jams and Congo flavour. Before long even those hardest to please were on the dance floor, winding and grinding – so to speak (Well, let’s just say some of us had more left feet than others!)
Even a quick late night dip couldn’t wash away the weariness of the day and by midnight, we were all making our excuses to head to our comfy beds, for the next day would kick off our journey onwards towards the border town of Mutare, mere miles away from Mozambique – and beyond.