Dusty Road Victoria Falls

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.

Autentic Zimbabwean Restaurant

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.

Autentic Zimbabwean Restaurant in Victoria Falls

Carol Makuwire: ‘I am a pioneer’

“I am not just a boat captain responsible for my passengers. I am a pioneer, responsible for inspiring other women to break into the profession.” Her voice may be soft, but the message is clear and delivered without a tremor of nerves. Twenty-two-year-old Carol Makuwire is a valued ambassador for Wild Horizons, navigating unchartered waters as she strives to become the first female boat captain working on the Zambezi in Victoria Falls.

Carol joined the Wild Horizons team in 2017 as a trainee chef at the Lookout Café. To allow trainees to experience different sectors of the organisation, chefs will often work in the Café as well as on the cruise boats. Before her first sunset cruise was over, Carol had decided to step away from the kitchen and join the crew. Inspired by her profound appreciation of and connection to the natural world, Carol started studying for her guides license and Skippers license with the Inland Waters Ministry of Transport.

Understanding that boat captains charismatic personalities shape the guests experience , Carol began shadowing the Wild Horizons boat captains during her free time. The crew took Carol under their wing, and to help her grow in confidence, they encouraged Carol to perform part of the briefing on the cruises. “I was nervous at first”, she admits with an easy smile, “but I love working in nature and I love people, so with the support of the others I started looking forward to the talks”. Having achieved one milestone, Carol was ready for the next challenge. She sat her Skippers exam and became licensed.

Having chosen a challenging, male-dominated career path, Carol has not been immune to the glass ceiling, but she dismisses the occasional negativity. “People will sometimes tell me I am too small to be in charge of a big boat, and that I was better-suited training to be a chef”. Without a shred of bitterness, she shrugs off the comments and says with a knowing smile , “I am here, I am doing this, and if you are not going to be supportive, then I am not going to listen”.

While Carol works alongside her mentors, she continues her studies for her Professional Guides Licence with a sense of determination that reflects the joy she derives from following her heart. In celebrating strong women like Carol Makuwire, we not only validate her hard work but also hope to inspire other women to pursue their own dreams.

At Wild Horizons, a spirit of empowerment, passion and positivity emanates from within. The women in our company shape our vision to make a difference, and their fierce sense of strength and leadership weaves a golden thread throughout the organisation.

Keep an eye on our website for more blog posts about the many Wild Horizons Wonder Women.

Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe – Update

Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe – Update (24 April 2019)

When flames engulfed and devastated the Wild Horizons Lookout Café, it was a searing loss for the town of Victoria Falls. While we have been working tirelessly on the reconstruction of this iconic restaurant, due to circumstances beyond our control, the process has encountered numerous hindrances along the way. For this reason, we have regretfully had to postpone the opening date to 1 December 2019.

 

Herewith please find a brief description of the new café as well as important quick facts:-
Perched on the rim of the Batoka Gorge, Wild Horizons Lookout Café is a fusion of spectacular views and exquisite food. The African Contemporary styled restaurant is designed to emphasise its unique panoramic view of the Victoria Falls Bridge and Batoka Gorges, which form part of the spectacular backdrop. Recycled and eco friendly material has been used throughout the rebuild of The Lookout ensuring it is infused with the Wild Horizons conservation ethos. With a mouthwatering menu, a lively selection of cocktails, and the best view in Victoria Falls, the dining experience promises to be a sensory overload.

AMBIENCE: Casual, Child-Friendly, Classic, Meal with a View
CUISINE: African / Local, Contemporary, International
FACILITIES: We only accept Visa and Mastercard, Bar, Licensed, Parking, Vegetarian, Wheelchair Access
WIFI: Free
SEATING: Outside terrace x 60; Indoor x 140; Lower deck (cocktail and canapé area) x 60
OPENING HOURS: Open daily from 08h00 to 22h00 (freshly baked muffins available daily from 08h00).
BREAKFAST: No breakfast during the week unless prebooked.
Saturday & Sunday 08h00 – 10h00
LUNCH: 10h00 to 16h00
SNACK MENU: 16h00 – 18h30
DINNER: 18h30 – 22h00 (last food orders at 21h00)

Aerial view of the rebuilt Lookout Cafe

Being whisked away by Dean Jones

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.

Home Hosted Dinner

Last night – the 4th of June – I had the pleasure of experiencing the Home-Hosted Dinners that are available in Victoria Falls for tourists and locals alike. There is a small handful of families and hosts/hostesses that open their homes up to visitors who are looking for an authentic and personal traditional dining experience in one of the two high-density suburbs in Victoria Falls – Chinotimba or Mkhosana.

These families then prepare a traditional spread and treat their visitors to a warm welcoming home cooked meal of sadza (a traditional maize meal similar to polenta), chicken or beef stew, kail (a variety of spinach), carrots, green beans, kapenta (whitebait fish), and last but not least, a traditional favourite dried Mopani worms – known as macimbi in the local Ndebele language. 


There are a handful of these dinners that occur every Wednesday evening across the two townships, and what I found most interesting is the conversation that was shared between the visitors (who are just absolutely fascinated by the traditional cuisine) and the hosts/hostesses – who gladly share, teach and explain the traditional township customs to the visitors – who on this occasion all happened to be from the USA. 

One of the comments which I could not help but giggle at was one that went along the lines of “Goodness! – I can’t believe how well behaved your kids are!” 

Some of the families hosting the dinners have up to around 8 children and grandchildren living with them and indeed their behaviour was something to behold when compared to Western-world standards! It was an evening full of questions, answers, laughter and chit-chat, all of the guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy their traditional meals, and some of them were even brave enough to try out a dried Mopani worm or two!


Some may express concern about the safety aspect of having Westerners wonder through these parts of town – to them I simply say “try it and see!”. All of the visitors who I spoke to were taken hugely by surprise at how relaxed, welcoming and happy the vibe is, unlike other parts of the world. Crime is very minimal in Victoria Falls, probably because of the nature of the people, who seem to have a really laid-back, loving, humorous and friendly approach to life.

A Home-Hosted Dinner (or lunch, they also do lunches) is truly a must-do activity if you are keen to really immerse yourself into local customs, cuisine and culture. The vibe of these suburbs in the early evening really is a unique experience – the sights, sounds and smells of fires, evening church bands, urban chatter and of course the beautiful night-views over Livingstone which can be glimpsed at certain high points in the townships really do make for a fulfilling cultural experience. A huge thanks go out to the welcoming host families for opening up their homes in the name of cross-cultural education, experience, fun and food!