Tuesday, 16 November 2010


It was Coco Chanel who made us understand the necessity of luxury in our lives. Asked what the opposite of luxury was she quipped; “vulgarity”. In today’s world there is no shortage of vulgarism – if in doubt hop on a plane and land somewhere between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, better yet Las Vegas. Turn on the TV and watch MTV cribs. If you manage to not vomit in disgust, then perhaps your stomach is sterner than mine! Standing at the edifice of the Vumba mountains I could not help but reflect on Coco Chanel’s insight- tucked away in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe at the border with Mozambique the spectre of Coco’s Luxury descended.

Yet it is not Chanel who impresses a philosophy in these parts. Rather it is the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the last of the classical era who having lived 400 years after the classical glory in Athens went about to recreate and model everything Athenian. Recreating the ebb and flow, the art and triumphs of a by-gone time as a musing to the Roman generation of his time. In essence he captured the very best Kodak moment of Athens and its satellites.

Vumba, spanning a 24 km road of sharp curves around misty mountains and steep descents, captures the very best of the Victorian England and its satellite the Scottish highlands. It is important to step into this mist of Luxury with history in mind.  The British colonial settlers at the time believed in Vumba they had found a little England,  and so went about to pick their favourite grand pieces in Victorian times, recreating the cobble stone roads, architecture , castles, gardens and lakes in the most picturesque mountains and valleys.

The best in Luxury of the Vumba culminates at Leopard Rock, named after the Leopards abundant in the mountains. Perhaps it is important the reader understands why I write about the Vumba and Leopard rock in particular. Zimbabwe, after the lost decade has some of the most appalling and overpriced hotels in Africa. Most with the exception of a few tell epic stories of former glory and the hospitality is disparate and poorly.  Leopard rock, recently refurbished is munificent with grandeur of the highest notch and gives one reason to still believe in the Zimbabwean hospitality.

It was refreshing, being welcomed by dapper members of staff in navy blue blazers, white shirts, striped ties and chino trousers that were quite adept in handling the trivial and peculiar requests of a gentleman at leisure. I was suitably impressed with the home-made vanilla ice cream that comes in generous proportions and served on the terrace overlooking the wondrous garden. Every detail in the hotel has been done by a deliberate hand and an eye with a penchant for timeless splendour.

Horse riding in the game reserve, betrays visions of the English gentleman hunting hounds in Winchester- with the backdrop of whispering spring waters racing down a gorge. The gardens defeat in meticulousness all that is beautiful in Bath and rival Chateau Versailles. Decadence of mind and body is best served at the spa, after which a leisurely walk in the gardens inspires romantic prose even in a brute.

On occasion, I sampled the best of Vumba. Driving leisurely I meandered the sharp bends, reminiscent of the South of France, up the mountain right up to Mountain Heights- at the apex the breath taking view was an awesome reminder of the creative hand that moulded earth. A walk in the botanical gardens is like stepping in into the very best of Hardy’s distinct prose. Everything dressed in perfection.

 Further down my inquisitive pursuits landed me at Eden Lodge. It is at Eden Lodge, I found the staff very helpful and again bending backwards in entertaining my little nuisances. Upon discovering a quaint spot in the gardens overlooking the gorge, I was obliged with a table and chairs and devoured my generous portion of  t-bone steak with rice. Priced at $10, this was a dead giveaway, considering the calf whose fine cut of tender steak I made my lunch, was slaughtered on the Estate that very day. I was tempted to simply take a nap after such a meal right there in the garden, without further hesitation I made a pillow out of my jacket and snored the afternoon away.  Early evening saw me peddling a canoe at the Eden dam, a pleasant way of sipping sun downers.

Again another show stopper, is the Inn on the Vumba that serves a five course dinner. The Inn is not in the best of conditions, a little TLC would help, but the dining room is such a warm and cosy hideout and the food divine. Serving  aLá carte menu, I chose the five course menu starting with chicken livers with bread fingers, and the appetiser homemade maestro soup. Trout, captured that afternoon, was my main course served with jacket potato and delicious vegetables. I skipped desert and settled for cheese and biscuits served with tea.

For Afternoon High tea then Tony’s coffee shop is the idyllic rendezvous. Its confectionary, I was to be made aware of is world renowned. I consider myself a connoisseur of confectionary of sort and I have numerous tooth fillings  to show for it- and this has to be the BEST cake and coffee shop  in the whole wide world. Total decadence, scouts honour! This is the sort of place that needs no Homer myth to populate its sweetness. Only your test buds will attest.

I realise I could go on, and tell of every tale of the Vumba, but the locals will attest zviri nani kuzvionera pamhuno sefodya- its better you see it for yourself.  

Apologies for this post not appearing earlier.