Driving through the winding mountain roads of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands, one could be forgiven for thinking that one has been magically transported from Africa to Scotland, or to Vermont. With their cool climate, lush vegetation, pretty inns and gardens and trout-filled streams, the highlands are a haven for the soul.
But it is the Eastern Highlands’ bigger than life characters who are its real attraction – and testament to Zimbabweans’ resourcefulness.
Jane and Dee, own the Frog and Fern Cottages in Chimanimani, where we spend a couple of days. They have been in business for 21 years and only shut down for a few years after receiving death threats during Zimbabwe’s political crisis in early 2000s. They’re back in action and persevering despite the dearth of tourism in the highlands.
Tony, who has been selling fastidiously made (and preternaturally delicious cakes) from his quaint coffee shop in the Bvumba for 23 years and whose fame precedes him (we had heard about Tony all over Africa, months before arriving in Zimbabwe). Despite the country’s import restrictions, he manages to stock 123 types of tea.
Barry Graham, who runs the White Horse Inn in the Bvumba, makes his own home-made pate, serves the best Wiener Schnitzel in the country and…speaks French! The White Horse Inn’s dining room was empty when we dropped in for lunch and none of their ten rooms was occupied. But Barry made sure that every item on the menu was available.