South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, England, Scotland, Wales, Dubai, Egypt and Jordan fall into that category, but we’ve also been to Reunion, Mauritius and the Seychelles (where we were attacked by Somali pirates) by cruise ship en route to Italy, via Suez; cruised the Mozambique Channel, Persian Gulf and Caribbean from Florida to Mexico via Belize.
We went to Kenya, after the post-election violence in 2007; Tunisia and the far south of Egypt just before their respective revolutions. Along with 1 500 other passengers, I was barred entry to Bahrain, where political trouble brewed.
I was in the Dominican Republic as a mighty earthquake smashed neighbouring Haiti. A quarter-of-a-million died, three million were homeles. I was blown off a bar-stool 150km away in Hemingway’s Grill! (Never spilled a drop!)
This week we travelled again: but just 20 minutes or so north of Chisipite to Mahobohobo, in the rolling picturesque arty-crafty-horsey settlement of Umwinsidale.
Reason was a lovely wedding uniting two prominent Zimbabwean and Zambian families, when blooming, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Kendal Ballantyne married Alister Norton, professional hunter and former chairman of the Zambian Hunters’ Association.
The couple met when Kendal –– who dreamed of being a pro pilot after watching news of a SAAF helicopter rescuing Mozambicans stuck up spindly trees as another cyclone-fuelled flood swept that country –– uplifted Alister and a misogynist Mexican client from a particularly hairy landing strip in the Benguela Swamps.
She flew a gyrocopter (“a tin-can with a lawnmower engine”) …and they’ve been going around together ever since!
Some 220 invited guests witnessed the couple exchange vows in –– to say the least –– an unusual outdoor ceremony in Mahobohobo’s Bush Chapel. Rites of the Quakers (Society of Friends) and Buddhist ritual were used. Eyebrows raised, I whispered to my partner “Is this legal in Zim?”
We needn’t have worried; the pair had an orthodox civil marriage conducted by a District Commissioner in Zambia on April 4. The beautiful al fresco Umwinsidale ceremony at Mahobohobo, (a commercially run wedding and special events venue and home of the bride’s family) was a full blown affair with family and friends from across the globe.
The blushing bride, who was at Peterhouse and Chisi, looked gorgeous in a classically styled one-shoulder wedding dress, gleaming almost painfully white in full sun as her dad, Dave Ballantyne, escorted her to the Bush Altar to the skirl of St John’s College Pipe Band.
Kendal’s attendants, two bridesmaids and matron-of-honour, included her sister, Jaime, who stole the show as she’d fallen through a newly opened-by-builders hole in the mezzanine floor at a hen party two nights earlier. Lucky to be alive, she sported a “space boot” splint which –– coincidentally –– matched her shimmering silver-grey gown.
Bridegroom and groomsmen wore gypsy-style silver waistcoats and loose cravats over grey trousers. They were all farmer or hunters from “Up North”, but all seemed to have been at Lomagundi College, Chinhoyi.
Alister was brought up in a professional hunting family. He now has his own safari business and has represented Zambia at hunting and conservation conferences and expos worldwide.
Guests were welcomed by the lilting sound of St John’s College marimba band playing in an elevated position overlooking a spectacular backdrop of the rolling, lush Umwinsi Valley with its magnificent indigenous trees and soaring granite kopjes.
The bride’s brother, Luke, a St John’s former pupil sang solo during the service and later at the splendid reception, where he also sang duets with Dean Jones.
Luke and brother, Jordan, formed a very witty pair of MCs and the usual speeches were among the most humorous I’ve ever heard.
No confetti was thrown at the wedding. In the interests of the environment, guests were given bubble-blowing tubes and a powerful bubble making machine was in full blast at the end of the ceremony and during the reception, when the family’s four Jack Russells joined in the fun, going almost berserk, snapping at thousand of bubbles, floating under a myriad fairy lights in a huge marquee.
Probably the largest tent Rooney’s hire, it was bedecked with a million fragrant blooms (flowers by three dispossessed farmers’ wives), illuminated by a central chandelier of epic proportions.
Chairs were padded heavy iron but comfortable: far better than those flimsy moulded plastic jobs, which tend to break perilously at weddings.
My friend’s 11-year-old-daughter, Michaela, had eyes as big as side plates from us arriving just before 2:30pm to leaving after 11.
I’m sure the bride’s mom, blonde, Juno-esque Judy Ballantyne, mother-henned the scene, but credit goes to Lauren Pyle, of La Serenata, who was overall convener and ran highly efficient bars. (Big tick for getting in a healthy stock of Zambian Mosi Lager for the Zambians…and me!).
Caroline Meiring of Hot Dish Catering excelled. Immediately after the service, Limoncello and sangria were served round the pool while trays of spiced roast nuts, marinated olives and feta circulated. Then came crostini with goats’ cheese and onion marmalade; spanokopita (Greek phylo pastry cheese and spinach pies); grissini sticks wrapped in Parma ham and spiced potato wedges with tomato and mustard seed chutney.
In the reception there was a huge platter of antipasti in front of us: foccacia breads, grissini sticks and dips; Parma ham, coppa, salami with Parmesan shavings, grilled chorizo sausage; marinated peppers and artichoke hearts with capers; roast tomatoes with garlic and marjoram; dressed rocket leaves.
Main course was a grand buffet (well, two, to avoid any queuing!): lemon garlic butter prawns; pan-fried calamari with dill and lemon; Moroccan lamb tagine with toasted almonds; chicken with pancetta, preserved lemons and fresh herbs; eggplant parmigiana; couscous salad with cranberries, mint and parsley; green beans with toasted sesame seeds; mixed green salad with orange and pickled red onions; buttered new potatoes.
Pudding on the menu were: chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa; chocolate brownies, baklava, tiny tiramisus, coffee and biscotti, port; cheese board with preserved figs and crackers.
There was a “midnight” (must have been served much later) snack of roast beef rolls with mustard, sliced tomato and lettuce.
That was the wedding of the year (correction about five years) as far as I am concerned.