Iâ€™VE been trying to get details of Wild Geese Lodgeâ€™s menus e-mailed or faxed to accompany pictures of the place, but someone “liberated” their phone cables and itâ€™s easier to reach my son in the north of Scotland than Carl Eckhart (ex-St Zitaâ€™s Borrowdale Village), now running the north Harare luxury lodge.
I was at a Wild Geese meeting last week, but Carl was hectically busy planning a weekend of major functions and I was too rushed to eat on deadline day.
Situated on Harareâ€™s outskirts, with stunning views over the picturesquely fertile Mazowe Valley and its goldfield, Wild Geese is always worth a visit for its steakhouse, Le Canard, memorably good Sunday buffet/carvery lunches, tea, coffee or more substantial drinks in the lush sun-dappled garden or well-stocked bar. Itâ€™s also an ideal place to stay for business or pleasure while visiting the capital.
There are many not-too-challenging walks on gentle slopes, itâ€™s a bird-watcherâ€™s paradise and the abutting game park, with easy-to-see plainsgame, is great for photography.
Wild Geese is named after the best selling novel by local estate agent, the late Danny Carney, about a mercenary invasion of an oil-rich West African state. At one stage his widow ran the operation. Written at least two decades before the event, it bares striking similarities to the planned Equatorial Guinea coup led by Simon Mann.
I covered Mannâ€™s Chikurubi Prison trial, being convinced most of his co-accused hadnâ€™t a clue what was afoot; the whole thing was a sting anyway, but that didnâ€™t stop Mann doing four years on sadza sans relish here and God knows what conditions are like in a hellhole such as Equatorial Guinea, formerly one of Spainâ€™s few sub-Saharan colonies, where heâ€™s now serving another 30-odd stretch!
Wild Geese, by the way, was the codename for Irish soldiers-of-fortune offering their swords to the best bidders in various European wars and skirmishes.
I have a couple of poignant memories of Wild Geese. One was sitting by the pool after a great Sunday carvery lunch at the height of the land occupations by so-called warvets, “twitching” soaring eagles through high-powered field glasses and spotting a building ablaze.
Hearing this, a local farmer at the next table asked to borrow the binoculars, turning ashen on realising the property on fire was his family home, at Christon Bank, many kilometres away by road.
My daughter, Adele, desperately wanted to have her wedding reception there, but as, home on leave from the diaspora, she gave three weeksâ€™ notice of the event and there was already a garden wedding booked for the same time, same day (and had been for seven months) she finally learnt “dad” couldnâ€™t fix everything, settling for the “oldâ€™ Seasons (now Gecko Gardens) for post nuptials. Inns of Zimbabwe soon hosts its annual InnSider Expo at Wild Geese, forming a platform for business organisations, cottage industries and hospitality and leisure players to interact with the public.
The expo was launched in July 2006 and warmly welcomed by exhibitors and visitors then, and at its second running in July last year.
Now the eventâ€™s in early summer, held over two days â€“â€“ Friday October 3 and Saturday October 4 â€“â€“ giving an opportunity for visits by business folk and the general public.
“We had a great response to the first two, and are now hosting our third one and already we have more than 40 exhibits booked,” said Gordon Addams, executive chairman IoZ.
IoZ has four boutique country hotels in this country â€“â€“ two in the Nyanga area, one in Lower Vumba, near Mutare and one close to Great Zimbabwe and Lake Mutirikwe outside Masvingo. It also has an associate operation in Louis Trichardt, South Africa.
Several years ago the group launched a benefit card scheme offering discounts for card holders, not only within the IoZ group but also with selected affiliates across Zimbabwe, RSA and Mozambique. Known as the InnSider Card, this has proved highly popular and the expo was initially created to give card holders access to exhibitions about providers of discounted services.
This annual event is now an exhibition for the public at large, with many exhibitors from commerce, industry, hospitality and leisure and other areas of endeavour.
This yearâ€™s expo at Wild Geese (which is an affiliate) runs from 9 to 4 each day. In addition to exhibits, visitors can enjoy catering, entertainment and frequent lucky visitor draws.
“This expo will be of interest to everyone â€“â€“ business people, the travel trade, consumers, students, in fact everyone keen on seeing what we call â€˜the best of Zimbabweâ€™: our theme for 2008,” said Addams.
Among exhibitors lined up are independent organisations ranging from Toyota Zimbabwe to African Distillers, as well as all affiliates of Inns of Zimbabwe â€“â€“ various restaurants, hotels and other businesses offering discounts for using the InnSider card. Our sister paper, The Standard, is official Press partner for the event
By Dusty Miller