I started this blog with the words, “The first thing I noticed about Dusty Road..” and then my fingers froze over my keyboard. Because when I stepped through the rusty gate in the Chinotimba township, I was overwhelmed by an eclectic tidal way of colour and craft. There was no one thing to notice- in every corner an eccentrically beautiful feature jostles for your attention.
Spinach bursts from the ground, stretching its green arms towards the sky as though it is trying to escape from its sandy roots. Flowers pour down the wall from tin cans, looking and smelling like a field you want to get lost in. An old pick up truck, painted vivid blue, stands proudly against the wall. The metal goats and chickens on the roof seem to be patiently waiting for the robot lights to turn green. If you look away for a second, it seems as though another quirky creation organically springs from the earth so that no matter how many times you walk through, there is always something new to catch your attention.
Every step down ‘Dusty Road’ feels like a walk down memory lane. A small market stall is tucked beneath a sheet of tarpaulin, and a table laden with hessian sacks spill their contents like jewels from a treasure chest. Oprah, a small lady with a big smile, warmly takes your hands in her as she explains how they source and use the traditional nuts and beans. We sat down at our table, and a platter of starters was brought over.
Indlubu and Indumba bean hummus on toasted Chimhodo bread is Zimbabwe’s superior equivalent to avo toast. The creamy texture of the beans put chickpeas to shame, and I couldn’t believe that it was my first introduction to the dip. It almost makes you want to march into the kitchen and start asking questions, but fortunately, there is a large assortment of spreads and nuts to distract you from any interrogations.
I have to devote some of this review to Dusty Roads glassware because anything that makes me pause with a glass of wine halfway to my lips is worth writing about. Protea wine and Roses Lime Cordial bottles have been repurposed, and cleverly cut into glasses. Dusty Road is a haven for anything and everything that can be redefined and more often than not, it is more beautiful this way that in its original form.
As someone who won’t do anything to an egg other than scrambling it for fear of what may happen, I found talking to Sarah Lilford, owner and chef, utterly enthralling. She crumbles a mongongo nut infused biscuit between her hands and explains how they have to experiment to get the textures and flavour balance right continually. She and her team are pioneers, artfully and passionately redefining the way ingredients are used. Their fusion of flavours celebrate local produce, but their ingenious techniques bring a modern twist to every bite.
The main course is served buffet style. Long before the bell dongs to let you know the food is ready, a deliciously rich and nutty aroma wafts over, embracing you in its warm arms and tugging you towards the grill. Sarah’s sous-chefs confidently pile your plate up, telling you that you will love it because they know without a doubt it is true. And it is. Flames slick up through the grate, licking the pots of peanut butter rice, flame-grilled chicken, kudu stew and crocodile kebabs. Enormous wooden bowls overflow with different salads, from samp coleslaw to minty greens. Lights hang like golden orbs from the tree branches, bathing the tables in a gentle glow and an aura of enchantment settles over diners.
To make some room for dessert, we took a stroll through the garden, before ducking into the curio shop. It was like we had stepped into an incubator for local artistic talent, with everything from chitenge earrings to homemade peanut butter. Dessert was a delicate assortment of chocolate, orange and mongongo nutballs, followed by baobab amasi cream with masawu and a mnyi berry drizzle.
With an endless jar of biscuits, pots of tanganda tea, and quirky things to discover while you unbutton your jeans, it is hard to find a reason to leave.
Zimbabweans will flock here because it feels like home. Tourists will come because Dusty Road epitomises what travelling is all about – experiencing a different culture through great food, people, traditions and décor. I also feel compelled to mention that I spent a lot of the evening fighting the urge to steal the glasses and plates. So book a table at Dusty Road now, before more people find out about this hidden gem and it the waiting list reads like a phone book. And also, don’t steal the plates.
Africa is a nation rich in a diversity of flavour, and as Virginia Woolf so adequately said: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”. The Elephant Camp is committed to providing guests with a delicious cuisine that celebrates our bounty of fresh local produce, ensuring that every meal is an experience to be remembered and revered.
Dean Jones, Wild Horizons’ Executive Chef, based at The Elephant Camp, recognises that food is more than just a meal, but an art in the most delicious form. He believes that “being a chef is an expression of character, passion, creativity and love”. Dean did his culinary training at Silwood School of Cookery in Cape Town, which is highly acclaimed for its three-year Grande Diploma Course. However, it was while watching his mother prepare sweet and savoury snacks for functions as a young boy that his seeds of passion were sown. He soon recognised food as a way of bringing people together and expressing himself through the different flavour profiles in each meal.
During his culinary training, Dean was taught the fundamentals of French Cooking. Throughout his first year, he mastered the techniques that would come to define, and radiate, through his expertly accomplished dishes. During his second year, Dean spent two months in five different kitchen environments, where he gained valuable experience working at several reputable restaurants, including The Conservatory at The Cellars Hohenourt, Myoga Restaurant at the Vineyard Hotel in Claremont, and The Foodbarn in Noordhoek. Dean’s innovative and creative recipe development and food styling skills can be attributed to his time spent with Abigail Donnelly at the Woolworths Taste Magazine.
In the April of 2016, Dean was selected as a semi-finalist out of tens of thousands of chefs from around the world in a global competition called The San Pellergrino Young Chefs Award. Due to this Global competition, at the age of 30, Dean was recognised as one of the worlds ‘up-and-coming’ young chefs.
If food is the body of good living, then wine is the soul. Under the guidance of Chef Margot Janse at Le Quartier Francais’s The Tasting Room in the beautiful Cape Winelands of Franschhoek, Dean gained valuable knowledge about the process of tasting wine, as well as the winemakers themselves. Dean will introduce and execute decadent Wine & Coffee pairings, as well as High Tea & Champagne pairings that are sure to exhilarate our flow of international clientele. Having been motivated by a variety of multi-talented and well-renown chefs, Dean is now striving to be the type of food connoisseur that future diners and chefs are inspired by.
Dean has a passion for pastry that arose while he spent time in his Ouma’s bakery as a young boy. Through his flaky phyllo pastry, tantalising tarts, and buttery crisp croissants, Dean’s freshly baked menu achieves a wow factor in textures, flavours and presentation. American humorist Erma Brombeck was right when she told the world: “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.” It will take a strong-willed person to wave away Dean’s pastry display.
The concept of travelling is infused with the aromas and tastes of each place that we visit, and in order to truly absorb a culture, we need to savour the delicacies that the region has to offer. The meals devised by Dean are well worth travelling for.
Happiness is derived from good food, good music and good wine, all three of which Dean has a well-nurtured passion for. His creativity in the kitchen shapes food artistry that introduces diners to new sensations, cultures and tastes.
“Life is made up of many wonderful, colourful people, and food has a way of bringing cultures, families and friends together. It has the ability to induce nostalgia, calm, healing and peace.” – Dean Jones.
Victoria Falls, a quaint town home to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, was transformed into festival central over the New Year period. The atmosphere hummed with excitement, music from multiple genres filled the air and the streets teamed with brightly dressed party goers. Land Rovers wound across the busy roads, packed with adrenaline seekers as they made their way between the rafting excursions, gorge swings, helicopter rides, and various pool parties dotted around the town.
The 3-day event came to life on the edge of the mighty Zambezi River. Beneath the surface of the glistening ripples live countless fish, crocodile and hippo. Birds dip and dive among the indigenous green trees that proudly overlook this impressive body of water. It is the ideal location to mark the start of the three-day extravaganza. There is no better way to spend an afternoon than lazing by the banks of a slow flowing river, listening to the gentle background music of talented DJ’s, with a refreshing drink at hand. The moon eventually took its place in the sky, and in small groups, people returned to town and pay a visit to the vibey Shoestrings Backpackers Lodge and Mvu bar, where the festivities continued into the early hours of the following morning.
On day two the Jameson Vic Falls Carnival raced on at full steam ahead with the popular party train, which took off on the 30th. Hundreds of people made their way to what can only be described as Grand Celebration Station. Waving their luminous purple wrist bands in the air above their heads, people leapt aboard the ride of a lifetime. Hogwarts Express pales in comparison to the party train, which was equipped with bars, music and hundreds of enthusiastic passengers. The train made its way to Jafuta, where a stage and strobe lights awaited the train. The high-pitched whistle of the train could barely drown the sound of the powerful music pouring from the speakers at the front. The smell of frying burger wafted across the eastern end of the party, while the sound of ice clattering into cooler boxes sounded at the west, where people were served their drinks in the light of the setting sun. Local DJ’s transported the crowd on a musical journey that only ended once the final train was ready to make its final departure home at 1 o’clock in the morning.
It is hard to believe that this was just the warm-up so the main event.
Like children to the Pied Pipers tune, so the carnival troopers danced their way onto the field where the NYE party unfolded. Feet pounded the earth from dusk until dawn as music from Locnville, Sketchy Bongo, GoodLuck and many more artists engulfed the crowd. The various food stalls also got a fair amount of attention as the night wore on and the munchies kicked in. People were lured off the dance floor by the delicious aroma of frying burger patties, and returned revitalised and ready to party on. The lights emanating from the stage gave the carnival an almost surreal feel. The vibrant colours washed over the dancefloor and swirled across the stage, reaching high into the navy blue sky towards the millions of stars that watched the carnival below. During the countdown into the new year, a soft mist drifted down, refreshing the party so that they could carry on dancing into the eagerly anticipated new year.
The Jameson Vic Falls Carnival is as unique and special as the town in which it takes place. The earth’s natural beauty flourishes here and can be seen everywhere, whether you are strolling through the rainforest, hurtling through the rapids or plunging into African air at the edge of a bungee cord. There is a marriage between cultural diversity and musical talent that leaves listeners with new found musical taste. Everyone you meet at the carnival is excited, friendly and ready for an adventure. The elation doesn’t end from the moment you step into Victoria Falls, to the moment you say your wistful goodbyes to her. Wild Horizons are proud to be Co-sponsors of the Jameson Vic Falls Carnival.
Victoria Falls is a town where elephants stop by for a drink (out of the swimming pool), buffalo jay-walk across the road, and the rainforest is just a stone’s throw away from your local café. Zimbabwe born chef Callie-Anne Gavazzi shared her passion for cooking with an international audience when she appeared on South Africa’s MasterChef. On a recent trip to Victoria Falls we gave her a taste of the wild, and she generously returned the favour with a succulent Seared Steak Salad recipe for the Lookout Café menu. This tantalising dish marries contemporary cooking to indigenous ingredients, and the bright, fresh colours make it almost (repeat, almost) too attractive to eat.
With the lip of the Batoka gorge as her kitchen, the Zambezi river roaring below her and the African sun blazing above her, Gavazzi showed us how she made it into the top 25 MasterChef’s of South Africa. You would be doing your taste buds a great disservice if you did not treat them to her salad on your next trip to the Lookout Café.
For most people, spending an hour on the edge of a one-hundred-meter gorge would be daring enough. However, Gavazzi decided that the adventure wasn’t going to stop there. Forgoing the apron for a harness, she tackled the gorge swing cool as a cucumber (excuse the pun). This ability to take bold leaps into unknown territory is what lends this young chef’s reality cooking show such a keen sense of excitement. In an interview with The Citizen, Gavazzi described herself as a “slave to the ingredients”, and her appreciation of local produce has inspired the inception of unique dishes including pizzas made with crocodile eggs.
Anyone that has visited Africa will know that she is so much more than a destination. Once your feet have walked across her hot savannas, your lungs have filled with her clean breeze, and your skin has soaked up her gentle rays of light, these feelings remain with you forever. This part of the world is bursting with diverse flavours and Gavazzi transforms these rich ingredients into truly satisfying soul food.
Q & A with Callie
Wild Horizons: What was the most exciting part of your trip to Victoria Falls?
Gavazzi: Oh, gosh this is a hard one. Each part of the Vic Falls was just magical in its very own way. I would have to say the gorge swing! It’s out if this world …. throwing yourself off a cliff and it was an incredible feeling.
I also LOVED the Boma. Proudly Zimbabwean food that is authentic and delicious. One cannot visit Victoria falls without eating there it’s just delicious.
WH: What item on the Lookout Café menu would you recommend to future diners?
G: Mine of course!! (Haha just kidding!) I love the crocodile skewers; they were very tasty and very creative. I am all for trying new things in beautiful destinations. Oh, and don’t forget to have an ice-cold Zambezi beer to wash it all down!
WH: Did you try Mopani worms during your dinner at the Boma?
G: Yes, I did! Yikes!!! it’s one of those things you just have to do at the Boma. They actually have this peanut butter-ish flavor! I actually used to munch them as a little girl…so it wasn’t too bad! Haha
WH: What would be the first thing on your To Do list for future trips to Victoria Falls?
G: I think between Whitewater rafting and the Zambezi express train! Those activities are at the top of my list. Adrenaline win has to be the water rafting- it’s insane! I loved it so much.
I also just think the train is so old school and beautiful. It gives you a sense of what it was like back in the day. Not to mention the view of the falls from the train is breath-taking.
WH: When can we look forward to seeing you adventure here on Callie-Anne Cooks: Into the Wild?
G: I am so thrilled about this season. I still have season 2 to look forward to. But season 3 will air sometime in 2017. I will be sure to keep everyone in the loop of exact details.
Written by Jess White
Anyone who has visited Victoria Falls, intends to visit Victoria Falls or has an interest in visiting this seventh wonder of the world will by now probably have heard of the increasingly popular Lookout Café. It is well known and popular for a number of reasons ….. its delicious food, its stunning location above the Batoka Gorge and its friendly staff to name but a few. Diners at the Lookout Café can observe adrenaline junkies flinging themselves off the gorge on one of the many Wild Horizons High Wire activities, watch the Zambezi River surging below or take in the magnificent spectacle of the Batoka Gorge. What many people don’t realize is that there is also a wonderful opportunity to see Verreaux’s Eagle (also known as the Black Eagle in Southern Africa). This is a great treat for anyone with even the slightest interest in ornithology. This very large eagle (the 6th longest in the world) can often be seen swooping and gliding over the craggy rocks of the gorge in search of hapless hyraxes.
To those who are not too familiar with this magnificent bird of prey, Verreaux’s Eagle is one of the most specialized species of raptors. These birds typically live in hilly and mountainous regions of Southern and Eastern Africa, including our very own Batoka Gorge. The distribution and life history of these birds revolve solely around its favorite food, rock hyraxes, or ‘dassies’ as they are known as locally. When hyrax populations decline Verraux’s Eagles have been known to survive with mixed results on on other species, but considering their highly specialized tastes they have survived the test of time exceptionally well in terms of keeping up their numbers! Their successful survival rate can also be attributed to the fact that they prefer to live in rugged and remote areas. Fortunately it is difficult for humans to destroy rocks and mountains and these areas are generally not favorable to humans so the areas in which these Eagles live have stayed relatively unchanged!
Unlike other eagles with their haunting cries, Verreaux’s Eagles are largely silent, giving no clue to their prey about their whereabouts. The first indication of the presence of one of these incredible Eagles is a flash of black or an ominous shadow cruising past in your peripheral vision. These birds will often hunt in low level flight and catch the rock hyraxes in a fast, twisting dive a few seconds after ‘surprising’ the hyrax. Interestingly, cooperative hunting has also been seen with one eagle in a pair flying past and distracting the prey while the other strikes from behind. ‘Dassies’ are so well camouflaged in their natural environment that we often all we see of them is a brief flash or fur but these Eagles can fly out and return with a kill in just a few minutes.
So the next time you are sitting and relaxing over a delicious meal at the Lookout Café bear in mind that you are in the heart of Verreaux Eagle country. Keep watch amongst the craggy rocks and in the lower levels of the gorge for this large black eagle with its trademark white ‘V’ mark on its back and listen for the silent whoosh of its enormous wings as it too seeks out its own specialized lunch! Written by Libby White
Canopy Tour – Spectacular views make for great photo opportunities.
Over the course of our lives, human beings are taught a series of lessons aimed at keeping us safe and out of harm’s way. Don’t run with scissors, don’t talk to strangers, and most certainly do not throw yourself off a wooden platform perched on the edge of a cavernous gorge. It seems like useful enough advice. However, every year thousands of Adrenalin junkies break free from the chains of reason and allow their bodies to be swallowed whole by masses of African air as they plummet towards the rapids of the mighty Zambezi. The expert guides at Wild Horizons facilitate an experience of exhilaration with a level of professionalism and enthusiasm that has jumpers bouncing back for more.
Wild Horizon’s high wire activities are nestled between the jaws of the Batoka gorge. The open, natural design of the Lookout Café allows it to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding environment, and offers a unique 360 degree view of the excitement and beauty that unfolds there everyday. With the flying fox and canopy tour to the right, the zip line and gorge swing to the left and the luminous rafts plunging through the rapids below, even those sitting and sipping a cocktail in the café feel included in the adventure. The sheer extravagance of this natural wonder can be overwhelming even to those who have seen it one hundred times before. To help you navigate this landscape and decide which activity best suits you, we have put together a High Wire Hand Book.
The Canopy Tour
The canopy tour consists of a series of short zip lines that zig zag between the vegetation spilling from the rock face. This is an ideal activity for anyone who will appreciate the time to drink in an exclusive view of the scenery. Accompanied by a trained guide and occasionally a curious baboon, it is impossible not to have a smile stretched across your face as you whiz from one platform to the next.
Canopy Tour – Each slide gives you more confidence…
The Flying Fox
It is not often in life that we can transform fantasy into reality, and anyone with the slightest sense of adventure has fantasized about flying. Strap on your GoPro, fasten that harness, kick off your shoes and you are just a short run away from flying with this next activity. The harness is designed to attach to your back, so that the moment your feet lose contact with the wooden platform, you are tilted and lifted into superman position (but with a view far more exquisite than he would have had). Stretch your arms out, with nothing to grasp but the cool wisps of wind as you sweep across the sky.
The Flying Fox
The Zip Line
Anyone out there with a need for speed, this is the activity for you. Our zipline is the longest in the world, extending 425 meters across the gorge, suspended 120 meters over the rushing rapids and travelling around 106 kilometres per hour. There is the option of taking/dragging a friend along for the ride, or sailing solo. Ignoring the frantic voice in your head, you will sit on the edge of the platform and get your first full look at the adventure that awaits you. Slowly, you will inch off the ledge until you are dangling above this incredible spectacle. Point your toes, make sure your eyes are open and feel your body shoot forward into the beautiful abyss.
The Tandem ZipLine
The Gorge Swing
The most important thing to know about the gorge swing, is that the scariest moments are the ones leading up to the jump- when you hook a trembling arm through the harness, take those tentative steps to the edge of the platform and peer down the steep drop below. This is the part your brain kicks into high alert. Tremors will shoot down your spine and every cell in your body will tingle in anticipation. However, the second you step into the African atmosphere the wind whips all the fear and doubt right off you. When there is nothing pulling you down but the force of gravity, your heart is in your throat and the only sounds your own screams of thrill, you will finally understand why so many people are addicted to this feeling. The drop may only last three seconds, but the memory lasts a lifetime. Perhaps it is the perceived danger of the jump, or the incomprehensibility of what you have accomplished, but during the swing at the bottom, you will feel more alive than on the day you were born.
The Gorge Swing
Of course, there is an opportunity for creativity with this activity. For increased incredulity, some people prefer to do the jump backwards. For the extremely daring, there is a hand stand option. The choice is yours, and our experienced guides will be with you every step of the way to ensure that no matter which way you jump, you are 100% safe.
This section of Victoria Falls is where Africa really shows off, and whether you choose to do an activity or not, this is a corner of the world worth seeing. Written by Jess White