Tuesday 12 January 2010

The (B)Vumba

FIRST of all: thank you to Jenny for providing more information about the Courtauld's Lemur - see comments from yesterday's post on La Rochelle.

SECOND: they weren't dahlias, they were - I remembered just as I was falling asleep last night - zinneas.

From La Rochelle, we went on to Mutare. If we had stopped and asked a passer by what year it was (no, I don’t know why we would either) I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if he or she had said ‘1985’. It felt like 1985. The clothes in the shop windows (in all five of the shops in town) … the cars … the ads … the signs. Not unpleasant, or ugly – just very dated.

From Mutare, we went up to the (B)Vumba. (The silent 'B' is a colonial 'B', apparently.) This reminded me a bit of the Lake District or maybe of Betys-y-Coed in Wales: a slightly faded mountain resort attractive to romantic and artistic types. But it is spectacularly beautiful and has its own very distinctive charm. (Incidentally, yesterday I mentioned Kenya’s Happy Valley; the Vumba is, it seems, Zimbabwe’s Gay Mountain).

(By the way, it's worth clicking on the photo above to read the signs more clearly....)

We stopped to see this place – once the site of a school (that Robbie’s father Scot attended), then a convent.

During the civil war, the people living here were massacred. Someone put a plaque up in their memory that was subsequently removed and then later put in place again:

We also had a look at Leopard’s Rock, a bright pink hotel that the Queen of England (and her mother) once stayed in – in the 1950s, I think. It was pretty hideous and I didn’t take any photos, though now, of course, I regret this fact as I would like to have shared the horror with you.

Unfortunately, because of problems with power cuts and missed emails, the place we thought we were staying didn’t have a room for us, so we had to search for somewhere else. We tried four hotels, each more dated than the one before. The first was fairly 1990s in style and back in time we went till we arrived at Inn on the Vumba. Have you ever seen a woman of a certain age who clings to the style of her 'peak' decade? On the same principle, Inn on the Vumba looks as though it peaked in the mid 1960s.

It was the full colonial experience: waiters in bow ties, funny printed menus (but only two for the whole restaurant), morning tea (at 6.30 – early rising in Africa), melba toast and pork chops in thick sauce. It was fantastic. Oh, and no power because of load shedding so we dined by the light of half a dozen candles and a couple of emergency back up lights.

Sitting on the terrace, I had my first Malawian shandy (Mazoe orange squash, bitters and lemonade), swiftly followed by gin and a chaser of seven mosquitoes I swallowed because my jaw had dropped open and stayed in that position.

The sheets were clean, it cost $40 per night, and I felt two pink gins away from an affair with a Great White Hunter. What more could you ask for? A view?

Will this do?


I will try to post tomorrow ... otherwise (snow and South African Airways permitting) my next post will be on Thursday from Dublin!

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