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(Most) things are great at Great Zimbabwe

Dusty Miller

GREAT Zimbabwe’s a great place to break the journey to or from a “sanity break” in South Africa: now almost a necessity to replace consumables and com

estibles vanished from our supermarkets.

We drove from Mutare on what is supposed to be “a”, if not “the” major road of this country. I was dizzy from dodging gaping pot-holes and crumbling cambers in a lunar landscape dotted with odd spots of tarmac.

Dead donkeys, calves, full grown cows and other road-kill graphically demonstrated what has happened to our agriculture: fences torn down by so-called warvets apparently merely occupying once flourishing commercial farms.

I saw one van completely overturned, adrift from its chassis after hitting a cow. At another spot, a calf was locked in death in the jaws of a jackal which had been eating its more tender morsels, when it was slain by a speedster, the black parody completed when a pied crow, feeding on the dead jackal, was also zapped.

At Inn on Great Zimbabwe, there was no Zesa, but that didn’t stop the needle spot hot shower working and after weeks of “Portuguese” bucket-baths in an Eastlea almost as dry as the Gobi, it was blessed relief to soak away stress (and probably ingrained muck!) soaped, shampooed from top-to-toe.

Making my way from suite to dining room across a cobbled yard was problematical and put a 15th item on my personal RSA shopping list: small, powerful torch. Light from a cellphone isn’t much use on a cloudy, drippy, drizzly night and not for the first time this year I wondered if the firm’s insurance covered me if I tripped and broke something

The hotel was full, mainly with fishermen competing in a major bass competition at Lake Mutirikwi. Whether due to avid anglers, or general shortages, I was briefly dismayed to find myself, again, at a “pub with no beer”. Well a hotel with no hooch, really, as IoGZ has never had a bar.

They had cokes and a brace of those with a belt of brandy was a welcome pre-prandial relaxant.

For my sins, I didn’t jot down the name on the expensive bottle of Cape red wine we treated ourselves to accompany a delightfully spicy tomato soup with Melba toast, really meaty lamb chops and mouth-watering mint sauce, the most flavour-filled whole boiled potatoes I’ve tasted for ages and good al dente seasonal vegetables.

Swiss roll and raspberry coulis wasn’t a hit; I was glad to return to my still pitch black suite to end dinner with a crisp green apple from the “welcome” basket.

Arriving late, we saw only a mist-shrouded expanse of battleship grey water, reflecting an odd pinprick of starlight. Around the night of a cloudless full moon, you see a vast expanse of man-made blue velvet water, bathed in pure silver, as the throaty, rasping, spine-tingling roar of ferocious felines reverberate from the lion-breeding station across the bay and you’re in a bit of heaven called Africa.

In daylight it’s better than many Zimbabwean lakes. Apart from its magnificent setting, framed by a backdrop of rugged mountains, lush, virtually unspoilt, flora and fauna, fantastic fishing: bass, bream and tiger, you are struck by the absence of noisy, raucous powerboats and jet-skis usually powered — certainly on Kariba or the Guinness-black, malodorous, health-hazard, Chivero, by noisy, raucous youths.

After a cholesterol-filled “traditional English” breakfast, the sort the average Pom never sees in a lifetime, I watched birds and boats on the lake from the stoep of the inn, formerly Norma-Jean’s Lodge (named not after Marilyn Monroe, but Norma-Jean Sparrow of the Lowveld family who own the property leased to IoZ).

This was the retirement home of Murray McDougall, a dour Scot who, alone, recognised the fabulous potential agricultural wealth of the steaming, then almost uninhabited, fever-ridden, Lowveld. After building the region’s irrigation system, he pioneered sugar and citrus, introduced disease- and heat-resistant cattle and began serious game farming on his verdant ranch: Triangle.

McDougall spent the autumn of his days in well-earned rest at his rambling beautifully proportioned home high in rolling, steep, landscaped gardens, mainly comprising thick msasa woodland, dotted with palms and other exotica, edged in flower beds, alive with hugely varied birdlife.

Managers, ex-journalist Rob, and Carey Waters, who previously ran river lodges in the Save Conservancy and abutting Gonarezhou National Park were on time-off in Mutare with schoolboy son, David. They now operate from relative civilisation, 32km the far side of Masvingo from Harare: say a three-hour drive.

Furniture is priceless antiques, many classical Cape, with pictures, china and ceramics, ornaments, carpets, rugs, books, curtains and decorative firearms to match. A rack of venerable fishing rods, possibly used on extremely fledgling Lake Kyle by a grizzled McDougall, is a major talking point with aficionados.

Meals are in an elegantly charming, character-filled dining room with welcoming ambience.

At IoZ inns there is no TV, radio or e-mails, if there any papers around, they’re a month old; my mobile had no signal. No excuse for not enjoying one self, totally, relaxing and sleeping like a log!

Accommodation $4 695 000 (double); $2 815 000 single. Dinner $1,5 million; breakfast $1,2 million. Self-catering rooms available. Child-friendly; limited disabled-friendly facilities. No smoking in dining room. Conferencing for up to 44.

* Inn at Great Zimbabwe, Box 196, Masvingo. iogz@innsofzimbabwe.co.zw. Tel Masvingo (039) 761766 011 410 633/ 011 218 440


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