Story by Barbara and Manos Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
This trip took place well prior to the COVID travel restrictions.
Anthropologists tell us that thousands of years ago, when homo-sapiens was still a young species, they/we walked out of Africa and populated the Earth. But regardless of how far we have traveled, Africa remains deeply buried in our collective unconscious and just as all species are driven to return to their place of birth, we yearn to return home… to connect again… to go “Back to Africa!”
And that is precisely what we did on this trip. We visited Africa and specifically Zimbabwe.
The Zambezi River is the fourth longest river system in Africa, meandering through 6 countries, with its delta emptying into the Indian Ocean.
The 1,600 mile river forms part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe; it runs through a vast broken-edged plateau, in a spectacular gorge with perpendicular walls of basalt and granite, and forms the famous Victoria Falls where Zimbabwe and Zambia meet at its banks.
During the Victoria Falls segment of our Zimbabwe trip we visited the Gorges Lodge, a spectacular camp located on top of Batoka Gorge with incredible views of the river and the rapids that form one of the most harrowing whitewater narrows, a tremendous challenge to kayakers and rafters that dare to brave this mighty river.
After visiting in the morning the falls that are named “The smoke that thunders” by the local tribes, when the sun is covered by the mist generated by the falls and the sound of the water rushing to the bottom was deafening, we took a sunset boat tour on the Zambezi.
The banks were teaming with wildlife; some were there to drink, others to feed on the lush grass and trees that grow by the river and others were bidding their time to make a meal of the herbivores at the bank. We watched as a young elephant slid down a steep embankment to reach the succulent shoots by the water and there was some concern that once down, it would not be able to climb back up. It was with some relief that, once sated, the calf maneuvered its way back up, to the encouraging cheers of the spectators on board. As the setting sun colored the sky and water a red-orange hue, the palm trees were silhouetted against the horizon and the hippos were surfacing by the riverboats hoping that a careless tourist would drop some food in the water. That scene said one thing to me “Africa”! That was the reason we traveled all the way to Zimbabwe and that was what made it worth every minute of the very long flight.
We overnighted at a legendary property, the 5-star Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel at the Nakavango Estate, a few minutes away from the Victoria Falls Township.
Victorian opulence and 5-star amenities are the hallmark of this exceptional property. When you walk through the public spaces of this hotel you are transported back to the time when Britannia ruled the waves, Queen Victoria reigned in far-away London, and Henry Morton Stanley, Welsh by birth but American by assimilation, was commissioned by George Bennett -- publisher of the New York Herald, to find David Livingstone who was presumed lost in “The Dark Continent” in his search for the source of the River Nile.
The Stanley and Livingstone meeting is depicted in a large canvas over the fireplace of the hotel’s salon and is illustrated with numerous period photographs that dot the walls of the reception, the salon, the dining room and other public spaces.
Our air-conditioned suite was exceptionally spacious with a good-sized living room, bedroom and bathroom. There are telephones on the living room desk and at the bedside with international calling capabilities. Turkish terrycloth bathrobes and slippers are hanging in the wardrobe, and there is a minibar at the bottom of the living room television cabinet. A fruit basket was waiting for us when we arrived and, in concert with very British hospitality, tea cups and a kettle were available, in case we would like some tea in the evening.
The dining room was compact because most guests, as I was told, choose to dine at the sun-deck veranda that surrounds the back of the main building or the Main Bar patio, with views of the grounds and river. But since this was the “late autumn” of Southern Africa and the evenings were quite cold, we decided on indoor dinning. “Kariba Bream” was plentifully available during lunch or dinner during our trip, and it was grilled, poached or fried. It is a tasty fresh-water fish, farmed in the waters of the lake created by the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River. It was mostly served as fillets, with a white sauce and mushroom medley.
In general, Zimbabwean cuisine has not been graced by the culinary achievements of modern cooking and instead is somewhere between early 20th century British cookery and, in the better restaurants, the classics of Escoffier and Carême. It is not bad cooking and, during the colder months, it can be very enjoyable; I just think it would be very heavy during the hotter time of the year.
It seems to us, that cabbage and carrot slaw must be Zimbabwe's national dish– we were offered this salad for lunch and dinner, at every meal during our sojourn!
Another thing to mention is wine availability. Most wines I saw were mid-priced bottles from South Africa, the better ones from Stellenbosch vineyards. I was happy to have a couple bottles during the trip of Zambezi Beer, a very dry Pilsner-style beer, hoppy with a pleasantly bitter aftertaste.
For travel information to Zimbabwe see: www.zimbabwetourism.net
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