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

Empowerment Project: Educating 67 young minds

There is a proverb that tells us, “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” We have harnessed this philosophy in our corporate social responsibility, a program that we are unwaveringly committed to honouring.

We want to reach young minds in every realm of education, extending beyond tourism and conservation, so that the next generation is equipped with the tools they need to change the course of their future, and that of the country. In 2014, we began an education empowerment project, and paid the school fees of 15 student beneficiaries. This number has grown to 72 children across eight different rural schools in Victoria Falls.

Wild Horizons does not define sustainability as the conservation status of natural resources alone. We are focussed on the custodians of the country, and we believe that children are the guardians of Zimbabwe’s future.

The life-changing impact of education in rural Zimbabwe

Although Zimbabwe is often reported as having the highest literacy rate in Africa this does not necessarily reflect the situation on the ground. For instance:

Zimstat put the literacy rate at 97% but this figure is based on the percentage of people who have attended school up until Grade 3. This does not necessarily prove whether a person can read or write. Source

I recently encountered a remarkable story that illustrates the far-reaching impact education can have in someone’s life. I first met Edward Nkosana whilst visiting Intabayengwe community with Benson Siyawareva. Benson is a relative newcomer to the community having moved therein 2014.

In his short time here he has made a huge difference by establishing Lesedi primary school in June 2014. The school is allowing many children in the community to receive an education who may otherwise have been unable to access one.

Whilst I was with Benson at the school a quiet, elderly gentleman came up to him. The gentleman was clearly emotional, with tears in his eyes as he showed Benson a well-used slip of paper. They hugged and the man was still teary but grinning from ear-to-ear as we left. Intrigued I asked Benson about it. I was stunned to learn that the man had taken adult literacy classes offered at the school and at the age of 65 and with 6 children he had finally passed his grade 7 exams! The slip of paper he showed Benson showed his results.

I was awed and inspired by this story and asked if I would be able to interview Mr Nkosana, and find out more about how he came to recieve an education later in life and what it means to him.

A few weeks later I made my way to Edward’s home. A cleanly swept yard with a single tree and neat thatch huts was evidence of his pride in his home. Edward and his family welcomed me warmly and we sat under the tree to chat.

Edward did not get an education because his father passed away when he was very young. He moved to live with his uncle, and although his cousins attended school, he was left with the task of herding the family cattle. Edward was always determined to learn how to read and write in English, primarily because he wanted to understand the Bible. Throughout his working career he endeavored to attend night school to further his education, but as his job entailed working many night shifts this was difficult to achieve. Assistance eventually arrived in the form of Benson who sponsored Edward’s school fees. I learnt that he had accomplished the incredible feat of learning to read and write in just two years by taking two grades a year for three years. 

He is delighted that today he has achieved his goal. He says that an education has changed him personally; in the past he was prone to drinking and fighting. His wife, who at first did not support his efforts to improve his education, now whole-heartedly supports his achievements. He says an education has allowed him to not only read but to understand. He is determined that his children and his grandchildren get a good education. Despite economic hardships Edward has ensured that all his children have completed Form 4. These days Edward attends school with them and helps with their homework. Edward said

I am currently in form 1. There are 6 of us; 2 girls, 3 boys and now there is 1 man!

Edward’s favourite subject at school is history as it taught him about the lives of his forefathers and the rise of civilization. He is so proud to tell me the history of his tribes movements over the past facts he was originally told by his grandmother that were confirmed to be true when he went to school.

He also now works as a caretaker at the school. Edward’s advice to people of his age in his community would be to try to go to school if at all possible saying:

an education uplifts the community and teaches people to be better people. He stresses that education encourages friendships and promotes healthy communication.

As I left humbled and inspired I looked down. Some of Edward’s grandchildren had played at our feet whilst we spoke and etched in the sand in a poignant summary of Edward’s story one of them had written a single word “Hope”.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Contact Ngoko Safaris for more information on assisting Lesedi primary school.

The Rotary Club of Victoria Falls provides extensive support to many  schools in the Victoria Falls Area and beyond.

Wild Horizons provides school fee payment, equipment and support and is happy to co-ordinate efforts that support our community and donations.

Article and Images by Sarah Kerr with assistance from Libby White

‘The Elephant Camp furthers efforts & aims for Top Sustainable Tourism Award’

The Elephant Camp has recently been invited,  with other leading hospitality establishments in Victoria Falls, to spearhead a new project in Zimbabwe. This is to be part of Green Tourism, the largest and most established sustainable certification programme in the world, with the aim of achieving one of their respected awards.

Green Tourism Award means that a business works responsibly, ethically and sustainably; contributes to their community; reduces their impact on the environment and aims to be accessible and inclusive to all. Businesses that meet the required standard receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold award.

The Elephant Camp has worked tirelessly since its inception, to reduce the impact of the business on the environment and improve links with the local community and now feels the time is right to join the programme. We currently have the following initiatives in place and look forward to expanding upon these:

  • Solar Heating: All of our water heating systems are either solar or currently in the process of being converted to solar.
  • Worm Farm: All plant waste fromThe Elephant Camp, as well as most elephant dung from our resident herd, is fed into our worm farm, creating valuable compost for use in our organic vegetable garden.
  • Organic Garden: In order to supply as much organic produce to our guests as possible The Elephant Camp produces much of its own herbs, spices and vegetables for use in our kitchens.
  • Indigenous Tree Planting Program: To rehabilitate areas that were once denuded of trees by uncontrolled wood collection, we created an indigenous tree nursery. Trees are grown from seed and are transplanted once established, into areas in need of rehabilitation.
  • Biological Monitoring and Erosion Control: The Elephant Camp employs a qualified Environmental Officer to monitor the biology of the reserve and assists with mitigation. Bi-annual biological surveys are conducted, alien vegetation is eradicated and soil erosion is carefully managed in the reserve and on neighbouring communal areas.
  • Community Relations: We make every effort to employ staff from neighbouring areas, and work closely with the community on projects such as transporting thatch from neighbouring areas annually for roofing of homes in neighbouring areas annually for roofing of homes.
  • Education: The Elephant Camp frequently hosts school children on educational trips, teaching them about and allowing them to experience, the beautiful natural environment and the threats that face it today.

The Elephant Camp will be graded on-site by a qualified team of assessors against a rigorous set of criteria, covering a range of areas such as energy/water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity, social involvement and communication.

Craig White, Operations Director said:

Wild Horizons pride ourselves on being driven by a team that is passionate about our environment, and fully committed to sustainable environmental practices. The inclusion in Green Tourism is an exciting development to our business, as The Elephant Camp strives to be a leader in sustainable tourism practices. Whilst we have come a long way on our own initiatives, the inclusion in such a prestigious body gives us a host of new challenges which we are determined to meet in our quest to reach Gold Standard status.

It is also extremely exciting on a National level, to see that Zimbabwean Tourism has evolved to the stage where international bodies such as Green Tourism are keen to establish a foothold in the country. This inevitably encourages  local companies to strive toward sustainable environmental practices. International travellers are seeking out establishments that practise environmentally sustainable  tourism. This naturally encourages operators to look closely at their businesses from an environmental perspective, or risk being left behind as  tourists become more discerning in their holiday choices.

About The Elephant Camp

The Elephant Camp is a luxurious and intimate lodge under canvas within easy reach of Victoria Falls. Situated on a private concession with breathtaking views of the Victoria Falls’ spray, and the spectacular gorges which separate Zimbabwe from Zambia. We also cater to exclusive groups and families at The Elephant Camp West, which has exclusive suite accommodation for 8 guests in 4 luxury tents.

About Green Tourism

Green Tourism awards recognise places to visit that are taking action to support the local area and the environment in general. Green Tourism is the largest sustainable certification programme of its kind, assessing hundreds of fantastic places to stay and visit worldwide, with Zimbabwe being the latest addition to their portfolio.

7 Wonders of Victoria Falls: #5 A Cultural Experience

Zimbabwe’s hospitality & culture are legendary and sadly something many visitors miss experiencing. Adventure activities and wildlife watching are complimented greatly by meeting the country’s people and experiencing their culture.

There are opportunities to give back to those less fortunate in Zimbabwe.  A humbling and eye-opening experience that gives you the opportunity to make a real difference while also encouraging a feeling of appreciation in those of us who have the time and money available to go on holiday. Whether you  pay for an experience such as a village visit, choose to make a donation to a charity or simply spend time in one of Zimbabwe’s craft or food markets ensure you are also taking the time to stop and talk to  Zimbabweans and find out about their lives, you won’t regret it.

  • Cultural tourism in Zimbabwe is generally a very inexpensive option with costs often simply covering the expenses
  • The proceeds from Cultural Tourism have a direct positive effect on the communities visited.
  • These activities are fantastic learning experiences for both young and old making them a great option for families.  During any of these, your children will likely get to meet and interact with local children while learning about their culture.

Some options on offer in Victoria Falls include:

A rural village tour: You get to visit rural homes, watch fields being tended and possibly get the chance to help in some of the day-to-day chores. Guests are able to gain an insight into Zimbabwean rural life and to see how vastly different it is from life in town- most rural Zimbabweans still practise subsistence farming, few have access to electricity or running water and life is at a far slower pace.

A township tour: The majority of people in Victoria Falls live in the Chinotimba township, which has a population of approximately 60 000 people. During this tour, guests will have an opportunity to observe township-life – from the oldest houses to the taverns, the local market and churches. During a visit to the Chinotimba Primary School clients are introduced to the school headmaster – he or someone assigned, will take the guests on a tour of the school.

A home hosted meal: The concept is a simple one; your host cooks and shares a traditional meal with you, at his or her place… I did this and you can read about my experience on a home hosted dinner here. It was a delightful evening and an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting Zimbabwe. The experience is so genuine. You have an interaction that is deceptively simple, yet somehow meaningful; the sharing of a meal.

The Pay it forward Experience’ This is an experience where guests can really give back to the community, and enjoy a fun, challenging exploration of the markets and town of Victoria Falls. You choose an organization you would like to support from a list and are then given a “wish list” from the chosen charity. You then go on a mission to source the items before delivering them to your chosen charity and meeting the people benefitting from your donation.

* On these experiences guests are welcome to bring along second-hand clothing and footwear, stationery such as exercise books, crayons, pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners, erasers etc as a donation should they wish to. These items can be invaluable in rural or disadvantaged schools and communities.

See our previous blog posts on the 7 Wonders of Victoria Falls #1 Seeing the Falls#2 White Water Rafting , #3 A High wire Experience & #4 meet Sylvester the Ambassador Cheetah